Are We Bowing Down to the god of Growth?


Ten years ago the conversation changed from getting people saved to getting churches to grow. One could argue that getting churches to grow depends upon getting people saved and there is no doubt that many growing churches are seeing numerous conversions and water baptisms. However, I believe it is the exception to what’s happening in churches across the nation.

For most church leaders it seems that getting people saved has become secondary to seeing their churches grow. We are talking more about how many are being seated in our churches than how many are being saved and sent by our churches. In fact we have created a culture within church world that only celebrates, elevates and platforms leaders that have thousands of followers. Take a moment to recall the last time you went to a church leadership conference and heard from someone who wasn’t an author, a regular conference speaker, a successful church planter, or someone that hasn’t done some great exploit in the last 18 months. Bottom line is you haven’t.

Just yesterday I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts that advertised “The Double Conference.” It was specifically for Pastors that want to see their church double in size over the next year. I’m not criticizing the concept of the conference because I know the leader hosting the conference understands that when leaders grow their organizations grow. What I’m concerned about is that the pursuit of “double” has overtaken the pursuit of the Divine. 

Today leaders are generally more concerned about producing growth than they are about presenting the Gospel. Think about some of your own conversations lately. When is the last time you critiqued your presentation of the Gospel? 

If we are not careful our pursuit of God’s Divine Presence will be exchanged for Growth Driven Principles! Please hear me when I say that like Pastor Benny Perez addressed in his book, I believe it’s a “Both And” not an either or.

Pastor Benny talks about the tension of a “Both And” culture in our churches:

Should we be missional or attractional? Do we need to pray more or do we need new strategies? Is it Good Deeds or Good news? Does the Bible teach prosperity or generosity? Changing lives isn’t about easy answers. 

I’m all about growing but is it worth the price pastors and leaders are paying. We are sacrificing our families, our health, our sanity, even our churches in this principled pursuit.  I was impacted by a comment that Francis Chan, a former mega church pastor,  made at a pastors gathering I attended last year. He said he really didn’t know if God had designed leaders to handle and live under the pressures that the mega church brings.

His statement went against the grain of the current leadership mindset in the church, but I would have to agree. I don’t believe God created us to live under the constant, day in and day out pressure that exponential growth can bring if it’s only principle driven.  God doesn’t want living under unhealthy pressure, He wants us living and leading from His presence. 

So, are we bowing down to the god of Growth? Are we more consumed and caught up with numeric barriers than the spiritual barriers that are keeping people from experiencing salvation? Are we seeking His presence first or are we quick to pick up the hottest book that has the principles we so think we need?

I’m thinking out loud this morning, but would like to gather your thoughts as well. Please leave a comment, LIKE the Backseat Leader Facebook Page. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.




  1. says

    Well said, Dean. I agree. I do think it’s a ‘both and’ thing as well. In my observation, there has been a consistently small group of thought leaders in the American church who have probably influenced 90% of what we would call ‘leadership’ in the church. Most of their leadership style and focus comes from a necessary course correction that had been needed for a long time. Churches needed stronger visionary leadership, greater engagement with culture, more relevant experiences, and to better leverage the use of technology to communicate the gospel. It worked. It drew people and still does and God is definitely moving and transforming lives in those contexts.

    I’d also say that the challenge, in my opinion, is that we’ve gotten so good at marketing, production, and the science of communication, that we’ve become mass merchandisers of religious goods and services. I think the symptoms are when we hear things like, ‘I love ______ (my church).’ More than hearing about ones love for Christ. ‘____________ is such a great communicator.’ ‘______________ is speaking this weekend, it’s gonna be awesome.’ ‘I love our worship at our church. It’s phenomenal. ________________ is such a great worship leader.’ ‘_________ church has so much stuff for the kids. The church that has the coolest stuff for the kids will grow the fastest in their community.’ Etc.

    I think it’s possible we’ve done such a good job at engaging people’s senses and entertaining folks in church that some of us wouldn’t know the difference between a movement of God and an exciting, highly produced experience delivered by some well-meaning, hard working people.

    I believe the definition of success for our churches is as diverse as the creative attributes of our God. I don’t believe success is always bigger. I don’t think the idea of ‘healthy things grow’ is as biblical as we think it is. I’m pretty healthy and I stopped growing at about 18 years old. Many growing companies find themselves becoming less agile and less profitable as they try to keep up with the demands of ‘feeding the machine’. I’d suggest a more balanced and biblical definition would be ‘healthy things bear fruit’. If our churches are bearing the fruit of surrendered lives to Christ and all that that entails, bring it on – big or small.

    • says

      “I don’t believe success is always bigger. I don’t think the idea of ‘healthy things grow’ is as biblical as we think it is. I’m pretty healthy and I stopped growing at about 18 years old.”
      So good! That’s so true. I was thinking about this the other day. We have a plant that pretty much stays the same size…when it’s well watered and gets the appropriate light. Lot’s of good thoughts here Scott. By the way you sparked this post the last time we had coffee!

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