The myopic arrogance of people like Nieuwhof staggers me. The thought that maybe his way is not right never even crosses his mind. To him if someone criticizes a large church then they must be haters who are just jealous. What garbage. A truly secure leader understands God grows the church. The resentment is in all of the people being led down the broad path to destruction skipping and singing hallelujah. The anger is righteous out of a compassion for the lost within the walls of a "growing church." I once counseled a local pastor who was feeling down about the "lack of growth" in his 200 member church. My message is simple. If 170 of the 200 are truly saved and get into heaven you will hear well done my good and faithful servant. If you led a church of 50,000 and 45,000 end up in hell, I think you will hear depart from me.
"But in the midst of it all is a polarized and often unhealthy conversation about church growth.
So here's my bias: when you see baptism after baptism and hear life-change story after life-change story, it's hard to be against church growth. Why would you stand against the expanding mission of the local church?" -- Carey Nieuwhof
Glad you asked Carey. First of all because God has not instructed us to expand the mission He has laid out. Nowhere in the Bible does it even vaguely imply that the pastor is responsible for devising schemes to bring in the unsaved. Instead it clearly says that he will be held to account for the sheep -- not the goats. His responsibility is in provision for the sheep. Protection for the sheep from wolves, and direction through this dangerous world. You know, like a shepherd is supposed to do. You never see a shepherd secretly eyeing other groups of animals wishing he could lead them as well. Never. I served in the baptism ministry at my old church and it was the most rewarding ministry but to pretend it did not reveal the flaws of the purpose driven church is to not only be myopic but blind. First you always had a slew of children, who could not possibly understand sin and repentance. They were relentlessly coached by their Kidz Church teacher to say how they loved Jesus. The sad thing was they had better testimonies than the adults. This is the end result of the altar call theology that demands a seven word prayer to be saved. Do not gloss over this beloved. Watch a Joel Osteen program. After a 20 minute sermonette where there was zero Gospel presentation and relatively no mention of Jesus Christ he looks into the camera and tries to lead people in a sinner's prayer! After three sentences he pronounces that he believes if they said that prayer they were born again! It does not work that way! So Carey, I am not against seeing lives transformed. I am against seeing false conversions. I am against contributing to the line of people who will stand before Christ and say, "Lord Lord." Let us now review the five hard truths about healthy church growth from the Purpose Driven Industrial Complex.
"1. Healthy Churches Grow. But Not All Growing Churches Are Healthy Churches. You've heard the line before "Healthy things grow." Fundamentally, I believe that's true. But even as someone who wants to see every local church thrive, I would agree that not all growing churches are healthy churches. Yes, healthy churches do grow. But not all growing churches are healthy." -- Carey Nieuwhof
It is crucial that we examine the underlying disconnect that Nieuwhof displays because it is so prevalent in the church today. While I am glad he can recognize that not all growth is healthy he fails to see that not all growth need be numeric in nature. His assertion is that he wishes to see every church thrive but he only has one definition of the word thrive -- more fannies in the seats. Not more genuine salvations. Not more enrolled in ministry courses. Not more mature saints in the congregation. These are the things that I would consider a thriving church. If it leads to more numbers great but that is God's portion not mine. If the Gospel is being proclaimed, people are getting saved and sheep are maturing in Christ then that is a thriving church. If the sheep start doing the work of a Berean, stop following TV icon false teachers, and have a genuine zeal for the uncompromised Gospel -- then that is a thriving church! Not for Carey Nieuwhof and the purpose driven crowd! Success is only measured in carnal increments. How many people attended? How many in membership? How many for altar call? How many for baptism? How much was tithed? Ted Haggard pastored a church of 14,000 when he fell from grace. Rob Bell had the same when he decided there was no such thing as hell. Bob Coy, Mark Driscoll and the names just go on and on. The size of their churches had zero impact on their ungodly behavior and was not indicative of any real "thriving." Ask someone who survived Driscoll in Seattle and they will tell you about a devastated community where thousands of sheep still wander the purpose driven landscape; sheep without a shepherd. Spiritual success is not measured carnally.
"2. Healthy Small Churches Usually Don't Stay Small Forever. There's also a thread of this discussion that suggests churches should stay small. The challenge is it's hard to stay small when you're reaching people." -- Carey Nieuwhof
This is an outright fallacy. I know many small churches that are healthier than the cult of personality mega churches but never seem to grow beyond the space God has allocated for them. People leave churches all the time and not always for negative reasons. People move. They pass away. Maybe you spike up one year a hundred and then lose fifty the following. To Carey Nieuwhof the year with 100 up is a sign of a thriving church but the fifty down means you are doing something wrong. Nonsense. The preacher has one consideration from the pulpit and that is to preach the Gospel. He has one consideration outside the pulpit and that is to shepherd the sheep. If he is doing these two things faithfully he need not worry about how God will or will not grow his individual church building.