"One of the key reasons most churches do not move beyond 350 in average worship attendance is they do not have sufficient leadership and structures in place."
One of the typical hallmarks of the purpose driven movement is an over-infatuation with secular leadership principles. The premier leadership conference is held at Willow Creek Church every year and is seen all around the world. It is a monument however to carnal principles, not Christian values. Consider that at the 2014 Leadership Summit only four of the fourteen speakers were actually part of the church itself. The other ten were secular including Tyler Perry who has made 400 million dollars as a cross-dressing comedy star. Is the Bible silent on matters such as leadership that we are left to the devices of this world? Absolutely not.
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. - 1Corinthians 11: 1 (NIV)
Jesus Christ embodied Christian leadership. He led a rag tag band of misfit fishermen and outcasts and turned the world upside down. The effects of His ministry, which lasted only three years, have been felt throughout all ages and through all cultures. Yet we abandon him to hear what Carly Fiorina or Jeffrey Immelt has to say? Seriously? Rainer finally tries to at least try and tie the Bible in to his theories:
Moses was an unintended victim of organizational complexity. He was trying the Lone Ranger approach to the leadership of Israel. The nation would implode and he would lose his leadership authority if he kept doing what he was doing.
Talk about a stretch. Yes Moses did take the sage advice of his father in law. Yes the burdens of being the leader were becoming too great. To translate that into 21st century corporate gobbledygook about organizational complexity is silly. He was not being a lone ranger. He was trying to do what God commanded him. Furthermore, there is nothing in the text to indicate that the nation would have imploded and certainly nothing about the dangers of Moses losing his "leadership authority." This is just trying to cram God's Holy Word into the pre-packaged leadership box Rainer is marketing. What Rainer is selling is the notion that every church could be a mega church if it just was willing to adapt its leadership style, or potentially get a new leader altogether. This is hogwash for two main reasons.
First of all, it assumes God is not sovereign and in control of the horizontal growth of the church even though the verses in Acts assures us He is. Really consider this for a moment. The underlying assumption is that there is something wrong with the church that is under 350 in attendance. That it is a "problem" that can be resolved through some paradigm of leadership change. I know pastors who bring the uncompromised Word of God every week to their flock and their numbers stay constant and under 350. They are not failures. The issue is the vertical growth of the 350. If the vast majority get to heaven then that pastor will hear, well done my good and faithful servant. Yet if you have a mega church of 50,000 people and the vast majority end up in hell because you withheld the true counsel of God you will answer for their blood.
Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. - Acts 20: 26-27 (ESV)
This is Paul speaking to the elders at Ephesus and he makes it very clear. If you as a pastor are more concerned with numbers than the truth, you will end up with blood on your hands which you will be held to account for. The second reason this line of thinking is hogwash is it reinforces a mindset that is not of God at all. I find it interesting that Rainer prefaces his article by saying bigger may not always be better but then proceeds to write an article that makes just that argument. It is a given in the article that bigger is better. That the small church should desire to be a big church. That mega is the way. Except once again, that is not what the Bible teaches us. Let us turn to the key verses for today. Two different verses that should destroy the mega church mindset by remembering how precious salvation truly is. The verse from Matthew reminds us that there are only two roads beloved. There is no third choice. You are either on the path to heaven or you are on the road that leads to hell. The way to hell is an easy way. It is the way of compromise. It is the way of human wisdom and secular reasoning. It is a broad way because there are so many people on it beloved. There are mega church amounts of people on it. They are all holding hands, singing Kumbaya, and skipping merrily down the broad path that leads to destruction. The key to these verses however is the amount of people who find the narrow way. Is it a lot of people? Sadly, no it is not. It is not mega church amounts of people who find the narrow way. The Bible here says that few find it. Few beloved.
The second key verse today comes from the Gospel of Luke and it should be a powerful and sobering reminder to us of the value of a single transformed life. All of heaven rejoices when one sinner repents. Just one. Why? Because there are few who walk the narrow path to begin with. I see the mega churches bragging every week about how many people "gave their lives to Christ"; the previous week. Is that what really happened? Or did scores of people come up for an emotionally manipulated altar call that never dealt with their sin or their need for a Savior? I just heard a pastor today claim over a thousand salvations last week yet the Bible tells me few find it. I know who I am going to believe.
I am sure Mr. Rainer meant well. He is a part of the system his article seeks to prop up. He believes in his heart that bigger must be better. He is mistaken. I am not saying that. The Bible is. I am saddened as well at the great disservice done to hard working, Gospel preaching pastors out there who labor in a vineyard of under 350 people. I close with a word of encouragement for them. God sees your labor and sees your faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Keep preaching, never compromise, and remember that you will be held to account for the vertical growth of your sheep. Let God handle the horizontal growth. When the unsaved come to your church let them hear about Jesus. The real Jesus. The one who is our true leader. The only one that can save them. Amen.
Reverend Anthony Wade - April 8, 2015