Jesus tells us in the scripture, in no uncertain terms, who is responsible for building the church.
And I have determined that it is certainly not me.
In a previous article, we mentioned the verse in Matthew 16 when Jesus told the Apostle Peter, "Upon this rock (Jesus Christ) I will build my church. . ." Jesus founded the church, He died for the church, His life permeates the church, He is sanctifying the church, and one day He is coming for the church. And He certainly doesn't need my help or expertise. He certainly doesn't need for me to strive to bring the world's brand of success into the church.
But in these latter days of the 2,000-plus year history of the church, some of us have felt the need to help Him out. And I'll be the first to regrettably admit that about 30 years ago I jumped on the "church growth" bandwagon. I couldn't see anything wrong with utilizing corporate America's success-driven solutions and slick leadership skills to grow the church.
We launched into strategies to help grow the church. Surveys and statistics revealed that growth was guaranteed if the church building had the most elaborate women's restrooms in town. Building a gigantic atrium/foyer for the Baby Boomers (this was the premiere society 30 years ago) was key in relationship building.
We would grow the church by making sure music was exactly what they listened to on the rock stations - only with Christian words. We would make the worship services more lively, with the flair of a Garth Brooks concert. We would tone down sermons, leaving off mostly all the unpleasant things in scripture, including sin, hell, and God's judgment on a lost world -- messages that would drive boomers away. Sermons started taking on a Dr. Phil or Dr. Joyce Brothers sort of pop-psychology. Feel-good sermons, which would guarantee soaring attendance.
We would give them Starbucks-style bistro tables in the atrium with lattes and all flavors of coffee. We would provide state of the art exercise equipment, basketball leagues, upper-level jogging tracks and all amenities that would guarantee to draw boomers to the house of the Lord.
In short, we would design the church to duplicate what the world had to offer. But being a mega-church does not make it a spiritual, soul winning, Bible-believing church. While this may not be true of all mega-churches, many believe run to them in order to hide out. They are looking for an environment to help them escape getting intimately involved in the ministry of the church. But to utter such a statement is to guarantee such comments as "Well nobody can get lost in your church -- you only have bout 75 or 80 in attendance."
My only answer to such a retort is to quote what Jesus said in Luke 12:32; Fear not little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Yes, God gives credence to the smaller church.
I don't believe all the fluff and gimmickry of the church growth movement is what the Savior had in mind when He said He would build the church. The church Jesus built is a spirit led-spirit filled the church. She adheres to the total gospel, and she seeks to conduct herself accordingly.
Some of the components of the growth of the early church involved persecution and hardship. The church at Smyrna (Revelation 2:9) was a successful church, but she was not large - and she was persecuted. "I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich). . .". That doesn't sound like the profile of a giant, downtown church, with a full orchestra, 100 voice choir, and worldwide telecasts of the services. But like it or not, that is the scriptural profile of a church that is alive and has found favor with Christ.
People who dare to question these 21st Century "church growth methods" are faced with the question, "So, how large is your church?"
I think the question should be considered, "What is the percentage of the "membership" of your church that is going to heaven?" That is the preeminent question. At the White Throne Judgement of God, when He issues the tragic verdict, "Depart from me, I never knew you," it won't matter to Him how big your self-made church was. The lost will cry and shriek back to Him, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? Did we not cast out devils in your name?"
I imagine there will be those that will ask, "Did we not build a giant health spa, and install gold-plated faucets in the ladies' restrooms? Did we not entertain the crowds with the best praise teams, and did we not send people away from the church feeling good about themselves, and life? Did we not provide professional counseling to help Dads become better Dads and Moms become better Moms?"
No - the only issue that matters is, "Were you ever brought to a godly sorrow over your sin? Did you ever confess Christ as Lord and turn from sin? Did you ask Him into your heart?"
Please do not read into this that churches that have thousands in attendance are not spiritual churches. Many of them are -- but not necessarily because they adhered to the gimmicks of pop culture.