It’s funny how often I’m getting asked this question now that people are hearing that we are moving to three services this fall:
Aren’t y’all getting too big?
My question back (to the mostly well-meaning folks) is: “How do I stop it?”
I’ve been thinking: Am I supposed to make my sermons boring and dull in hopes of keeping people away? Do I just throw together a sermon at the last-minute (Saturday night) and say, “The Lord moved on my heart just last night…and so…here’s today’s message.” Do I hope our Praise Team and choir begin really stinking it up by hitting the wrong notes and playing wrong chords? It’s almost ridiculous to even consider. How am I supposed to stop growth? Can you tell a bean plant to stop producing? How about a tomato plant. Can you cap the plant at 10 tomatoes! That’s it! No more!!! You’ve produced too many!!! Stop it!
What do I do? Do I tell people not to come? Do we put out a notice in the local paper that says, “MPBC has got enough…don’t come!” That’s crazy, is it not? Sure it is! But, it’s really what plenty of folks are thinking.
Sometimes people will accuse larger churches of only caring about the numbers. But, I’ve usually found that’s a criticism coming from folks whose church is on the decline. It’s an easy way to cast stones. I had a lady at a hospital tell me: “You are just stealing other churches members.” I said, “Really? How am I doing that?” She smiled and she said, “I guess you’re just preaching too good!” I actually think she was mostly serious! Maybe that was Peter’s problem and the church in Jerusalem was too big when 3,000 got saved in one day (Acts 2:41).
Get this… People who have never been to our church accuse me of preaching like Joel Osteen or some other “Prosperity Gospel” preacher. And the truth is…they’ve never heard me preach or watched a single sermon online. They say, “He must be preaching a watered-down version of the Gospel! That’s the only reason they’re growing. People are coming who have itching ears.”
Well, anyone who knows me knows that I hoe really, really close to the corn and I’m not afraid to preach the Bible as it is written…giving the full counsel of Scripture. So, those accusations are totally baseless. And if you don’t believe me, then just click on our church website and listen to one of my sermons for yourself. If you think I’m not preaching the truth of God’s Word and I’m tiptoeing around the tulips, please let me know. http://mpbc.ws/media/
Sometimes people unfairly criticize larger churches and say, “Well, their people can’t be growing spiritually. It’s just all about attendance up there!” Honestly, I work on this the hardest of any of the criticisms. Why? Because I never want it to be true. Numbers mean nothing, except they represent lives. However, beyond those individual numbers are those individual lives. I want people to grow in their faith and then be salt and light to the world.
Recently, I preached a revival and a man said to me, “I know some people who go to MPBC and I’ll tell you something preacher…they have really grown in their faith. I have noticed the difference.” Folks, it doesn’t get any better than that! It’s music to my ears!
I’ve heard this one about larger churches: “I bet they don’t look after their people.” Well, we have 15 deacons and they work hard. Our deacons have the Scriptural assignment of looking after families in the church, particularly the older folks (Acts 6…widows). They don’t decide the finances. They don’t decide if we are serving Coke or Pepsi at the next Movie Night. They simply take care of people. We have our deacons listed along with each of their families and their names on a huge board over the water fountains near our restrooms in the auditorium. There is no mistaking who your deacon is at MPBC. The truth is folks have had to get used to the “preacher” not coming to make every visit and handle every counseling session. It’s impossible with a church averaging over 500 people.
One of my favorites is: “I bet if you went up there, you wouldn’t know anybody.” That one is hilarious! And the truth is it’s statistically inaccurate. Did you know that when you go to a church of any size, (according to LifeWay Research) you will not be able to get to know “well” more than about 15-25 people. In other words, if you go to a church of 75 people or 775 people you will only get to know about 15-25. That’s it. That’s all that a person can get to know in a church well. Think about your own church and your own experience. How many people have you gotten to know well? Yep…about 15-25 people… You get out of something what you put into it.
I just wish people would be careful with over-generalizations. Don’t throw stones at what you don’t know or have never experienced. But, here’s the truth. It can work the other way too. People can cast false impressions toward the church that isn’t growing, too. That’s equally unfair.
You see, I believe we are growing because the Lord has had His hand of favor and blessing on us. He’s blessing us in spite of ourselves. Yes, we are working hard. Yes, we try to do everything we do with excellence, because Jesus deserves our best. Churches are notorious for doing things poorly. Just thrown together… Pieced together at the last-minute. Shame on us! We ought to be known for being the most polished and well put-together group of people known to the community. So, the words on the screens should match the music. The transition between the music and preaching ought to be seamless and folks should feel welcome and graciously cared for while with us. Hospitality in action!
So, here’s what I plan on doing. I plan on continuing to give the Lord every ounce that I’ve got. I’m going to study hard. Pray hard. Preach with passion. Mentor. Train. Teach. Counsel. And love people with all I’ve got. And if the church continues to grow, then praise His name! And please understand…a lot of what I believe is so great at our church is the atmosphere of worship. The music is powerful and uplifting and the time of singing is precious to me!
You see, I don’t believe you have to forsake sound theology and orthodox teaching to grow a church. The segments of Christianity that are declining most sharply are those that have moved away from the orthodox Christian position on Scripture. Evangelicals, who far more often embrace the divine-inerrancy of Scripture, are the one group still showing signs of life and growth (Barna.org).
Honestly, I don’t care a whit about the Social Gospel. What I mean is that you can give people bread for their belly and clothes for their back, but if you don’t give them Jesus, they’ll still go to Hell with a full belly. We are not the United Way. You see, there is no reason for the church to exist unless we are teaching and preaching Jesus…Him crucified…Resurrected…on the Throne and calling us to be Disciple-makers. If all we do it give out clothes and food… If all we’re here for is to improve life in the community, we could spend our resources better by supporting local nonprofits. I’m tired of seeing churches who, in an attempt to be more agreeable with their surrounding culture, have forsaken orthodox Biblical teaching. And you know what…they are the ones losing large numbers of members. Funny how that works! Lift up Jesus and all men will be drawn to Him.
Many churches have turned into brands that try to please consumers…their “target market.” Jesus calls us to preach a Gospel of repentance. It’s a “come and die” invitation to discipleship. Give up your life to gain it. Die to self! That is to say, while we must meet lost people with grace and acceptance at their point of need, the invitation we offer is ultimately a call to come and lay your old life down in exchange for another…the life of Jesus Christ.
As churches, we’ve got to stop buying into “self-help” and the American Dream. Coming to Jesus is the only way to true redemption, healing and restoration. Coming to Jesus is NOT a pathway to personal comfort or the American dream. Salvation is the free gift of God, but there is a tremendous cost to following Jesus. Our society knows nothing of this. And as the culture continues to become more secular, the cost of identifying with Jesus will become greater and greater.
You see, I believe the church will continue to thrive until Jesus comes. The Church will continue on and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. But the church, as we know it, WILL lose people in the years to come, because some will decide it’s easier to leave than to endure the stigma of being a committed follower of Christ and His teachings in the Bible.
Well, Katy has written another great blog! Catch it here… http://heartsonthingsabove.blogspot.com/2015/07/home.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HeartsOnThingsAbove+%28Hearts+on+Things+Above%29
Hey, did you hear about this? I bet you haven’t. No mainstream media will cover this…
A man (like Bruce Jenner) who had a sex-change in 1984 and now has reversed it. This man is Walt Heyer and he said that having a sex-change didn’t bring him happiness. He quotes stats at his website that indicate 41% of those who have had a sex-change attempt suicide. Very eye-opening. http://www.sexchangeregret.com
Finally, take a look at this picture. Do you know what that is?
You might say, “I have NO idea!!” Well, let me explain. This picture will have a lot to do with our winter. All the red/orange off the west coast of South America is called an “El Nino.” And it’s a big one right now. There’s a ton of very, very warm water and that will feed the southern branch of the jet-stream this winter right up into the Gulf of Mexico. Look at the map again. See that blue in the Atlantic between the Caribbean and the west coast of Africa? That’s cooler water and that’s why we have had zero hurricanes develop in there and why we probably won’t have much of any coming from that direction this hurricane season. In this pattern, we get hurricanes that develop right along the coast of the Southeast or Gulf. Keep an eye out for that. And keep an eye out for an active winter. :)