Thursday, April 23, 2009

Must we get smaller to grow?

Mark Galli at Christianity Today observes that "Evangelicals have become the unmatched experts in church growth, but often end up with a truncated gospel. If we are to live into the full counsel of God in the years to come, I believe we'll need a few experts in church shrink." Many of the biggest churches are big because they are undemanding:
.... As a former minister, I know how often a pastor has to weigh what needs to be said with what can be received. In a culture saturated with the therapeutic, fewer and fewer attenders can hear something challenging without "feeling unloved" or "having issues" with the church. ....

This is the dilemma we evangelicals find ourselves in at the beginning of the 21st century — how to present the gospel in an emotionally and spiritually shallow culture. It is a commonplace that in this effort evangelicals have succumbed to the culture. So it may be time to move the conversation forward and suggest a practical solution: church shrink conferences. I'm not kidding.

Many pastors and lay leaders recognize that they are in a superficially successful church, and that it's time to introduce the harder edges of the gospel. But how? How do we get comfortable people to listen to a gospel that includes a lot of discomfort? How do you deepen discipleship without introducing despair? How do you insist firmly on faithfulness without becoming legalistic?

Most important, how do you manage the loss in membership? That will happen. The more strictly you adhere to the teachings of Jesus, the smaller the church will "grow." [more]
How to Shrink a Church | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

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