Church growth?

This past Sunday night, we cut our gathering somewhat short to have a conversation with a good friend of mine, a forum (you can download the audio here; I will also be editing some video from it soon). We knew that we would essentially be mixing our people with a lot of Colby’s friends (he’s from here but now lives in Nashville). So, of course, in my jacked up head I start going through so many things that I try to avoid thinking about.

Fusion is still a relatively small community. The few of us who are steadfastly devoted to the mission of God through our community, I think, are pretty confused as to why that is. When Scott, Gary, and Nate planted Fusion over two years ago, they refused to follow their own understanding of how to get people in the door and get them to stick around. They wanted Fusion to be a community of social connectedness, not disconnected individuals. Honestly, now, thinking about this, I think God has been moving us in such a way as to live that ideal out. And, it’s truly beautiful.

But, it’s still hard for me to ignore all the plaguing questions about not just growth but health. Are we a healthy community? I think Scripture paints the picture that if we are not, then our plug may eventually get pulled. That’s a scary picture, but it’s reality. I do truly fear becoming stagnant numerically, but then I fear the harsher reality, a much larger group of disconnected people, people who don’t feel open, vulnerable, authentic, people who aren’t living out the Missio Dei in their everyday lives, people who are finding a true disconnect between their church lives and their normal lives. And, that is truly scary. I think I would fit quite well in that kind of community. I have become good at hiding reality, faking who I truly am in order to keep up an image. So, honestly, I am still left with questions.

I listened to Eugene Peterson talk about being a pastor a few weeks ago. He had some great things to say, some things that really messed with my assumptions. Coming to respect and admire guys like Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, John Piper, Darrin Patrick, Rick McKiney, etc., it’s hard for me to imagine a church staying as small as we are forever. But, Peterson basically said the whole idea of a pastor is relational. If the pastor isn’t interacting with the people then he is not a pastor. He may be a great teacher/preacher, but he is no a pastor. For me, that creates a whole new understanding about what a pastor actually is. I think the Church as a whole sees the pastor’s primary role as teaching.

I guess my point is that during the conversation Sunday night, I could not escape my natural inclination to start weighing people’s reactions, to start making these people projects. How will we get them to come to a Fusion gathering? How can we take them to coffee to “win em over” to our church? It makes me sick to be honest about this.

I am coming to realize on a daily basis that I am not a very good Calvinist. I have to control people. Jesus says, “I will build my Church.” I say, “No, Jesus, I can do it.”

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1 Comment

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One response to “Church growth?

  1. About a month ago I went to a seminar on church growth, in one session I just got up and left. Everything was so organized and mapped out, and it didn’t seem to touch base with reality as I know it. It wasn’t messy at all, it didn’t value the human experience, the good and the bad. It didn’t account for people who come one week then don’t come for a few weeks because they are either too scared or hurt to encounter community or they are so mired in sin that they don’t want to bear the shame they will feel during the service.

    Moreover, it didn’t account for that “social connectededness” you spoke of, and that seems more real to me than exponential growth. Where do our usual church growth techniques leave room for discipleship? What does it have to say about how we relate to people individually? These are the questions I think are vital.

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