Most people who go to church say they want their church to grow. However, they usually have an unstated assumption: they want the new people to be just like them. Although understandable, this is also wrong.
Unfortunately, the only place to find more people like them is at another church. In essence, they want to grow their church at the expense of another. This is a zero-sum game, where the overall church doesn’t get bigger but merely shuffles people between locations.
To truly grow our churches we need to find people who are not like us. But are we truly ready for what that entails? Consider what these folks might look like:
- A homeless man staggers in. He hasn’t bathed in days. The odor is so intense no one can stand near him; his clothes are so dirty you don’t even want him to sit down. All his possessions are stuffed into an even dirtier backpack. And when he gets a whiff of the communion wine, he starts acting squirrely.
- A young single mom marches in with four children in tow. They don’t look alike, and you learn each child has a different last name. The kids are okay, but none of them wear the “proper clothes” or know the “right way to behave” in church. Overall, they are a disruption.
- Two guys saunter in. They’re holding hands and wearing wedding bands; they refer to each other as “my husband.”
How would your church react? Would you welcome these folks, extend the love of Jesus, and refuse to judge? Would your church see these visitors as an answer to prayer or a problem to deal with?
If your church did embrace them, you could grow by eight people. And once they knew your church was a safe place, they’d tell their friends, and you could grow even more.
Over time, your church would look less like you and more like them. Jesus would be thrilled, but what about you?
If this is what real church growth looks like, do you really want your church to grow?
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.