12 June, 2012

The Dirty Truth About "Church Growth"

I've written and spoken about a trend that plagues the church world all the time, that of stealing sheep from other churches rather than going out and winning the lost to build a church. The truth is, the vast majority of our larger churches have won few, if any souls to Christ, but have instead stolen from smaller churches. My statement, which I have claimed for years is validated in a book that has come out which I will mention and post a review of later in this blog. I have to say, it sickens me, and I personally believe it sickens God himself when people expend their energies trying to woo people to leave smaller churches to get them to come to the newest dog and pony show in town. Sorry, but that's what most of them are. There is far more time, energy and money invested in entertaining folks than there is in winning the lost to Christ. This is why they go for the "ready made family" by stealing from other churches. I've coined that phrase "ready made family" because you can equate what these churches do to that of a man who wants a family, but he does not want to invest the time, effort and money into courting a woman, building a relationship and having children of their own; so he spies out a family he would like to have and steals that wife and kids from that man while he is out working. That is EXACTLY what these pastors are doing who target and steal sheep from smaller churches. And the people who attend those churches and then try to draw others from the church where they left from are nothing short of thieves. The Bible calls them wolves. Many times the pastor does not "directly" get involved, but he knows what his people are doing, yet does nothing to stop it. That would equate to a father knowing that his kids are shoplifting and bringing the goods home to the family, but him declaring he is innocent because he did nothing wrong himself. 
If someone has truly found a church that excites them and is ministering to their family, that is absolutely great. But if the church is so great, then go out and tell some of the lost around you and win them to Christ rather than trying to pull others from places where they worship! This is sheep stealing! There are thousands... tens of thousands of lost people all around you... but you have to target those in your old church? That shows a deep wickedness that is at the root of your heart. The intent is not for the well being of the family you are trying to woo away... it is to destroy the church you are trying to pull them from. And the same thing for these guys who decided to start a new church, so they begin inviting people who are in other churches to attend their Bible study, knowing full well that they will try to pull these people away to start their "new" church. That is sheep stealing... and if you plant a church by stealing from others... watch and see what harvest you grow. I've watched literally dozens of churches begun this way, they thrive, even explode with "growth" (it's not growth because souls have not been added to the Kingdom) only to die within a couple of years as the church implodes. It is pretty well guaranteed when you start one by becoming a thief! Do it right. Win the lost... and keep your eyes and hands off the other shepherds flock!
The following was written by Tim Challies as he reviewed a book written by William Chadwick entitled, "Stealing Sheep".  The bold letters are my own emphasis.
Chadwick writes about the dark side of church growth. Having done extensive research and having examined the fruits of his own early ministry, the author came to the startling revelation that the church growth movement has succeeded far better in pulling believers from other, smaller churches than in reaching the lost. “Great effort is being expended, but few are actually turning to Christ for the first time. Instead, the faithful are mostly just changing churches” (from the back cover).
The statistics are startling. It has long since become common knowledge that while there are many more megachurches in the United States than in days past, there are no more Christians. Obviously the only way to account for this is to realize that people are moving from small churches into these megachurches. And why wouldn’t they? Megachurches offer excitement, quality of music and programming depth that small churches can only dream about. The large churches have a great advantage in our consumeristic culture where we demand that our needs be met. Just as WalMart has put far too many mom and pop shops out of business, so megachurches have closed the doors of many small, faithful churches. The author’s research found that over 90 percent of the members at some of the largest churches in America have arrived from other churches. When we consider that some of these churches have 8,000 members and that the average church in America has only 100, we can see how this transfer growth has decimated other bodies.
The real blame for allowing this quantity of transfer growth has to be assigned to the pastors who allow it to happen and who sometimes actively seek it. Chadwick shares some shocking stories about pastors who seem only too content to pad their own church’s membership with people drawn from other churches.
Case closed!


Terry Reed said...

As pastor of several small churches over the years, I can honestly say that I have never had the pastors of the larger churches "go after" my folks. It is true that some of their friends who have joined these congregations have invited them and they left my church for the larger one, but frankly, that is also how most people come to smaller churches--at the invite of a friend. I am opposed to sheep stealing, but I am more concerned that my small church be reaching the lost ourselves. If we do that, the ones we lose to bigger churches won't affect us anyway.
Terry Reed
Small Church Tools

Darrell said...

If you've never experienced it, then I'm amazed. I can tell you that where I live, it is WAY too common, and most people. I have spoken to say the same thing. Others responded to this on Facebook rather than here, and you are the only pastor who has said anything contrary to what I've written, so all I can say is, "count yourself blessed!"