Church Growth as the Accumulation of Believers

When we removed kingdom from ekklesia [church], we set upon a course of redefining Ecclesia in ways that minimize and manipulate the meaning of Jesus’ ministry, teaching, and strategy. It is rather easily discovered that we simply marginalize Him in terms of function while attempting to worship Him in terms of Redemption. In this way, His work on the Cross becomes so intensely personalized – Jesus died for our sins. – that being born becomes an end point instead of a beginning. No surprise that immaturity is the mark of modern christianism.

Without kingdom in ekklesia, “church” becomes an accumulation of believers. The accumulation of believers is then memorialized in the sheep and shepherd metaphor and motif at the complete expense of any other aspect of kingdom leadership. People are flocks. Pastors are providers and protectors. “Be comforted and conformed until Jesus returns. Our task is to maintain His growing flock.”

This isn’t kingdom at all! No, I mean there is no kingdom in that picture at all. Nothing. To answer your immediate objection that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He tells Simon to feed His sheep, etc – I would remind you that He is the Good Shepherd of the sheep. He is also the Prophet, Apostle, Teacher, and Evangel. When you redefine these leadership roles to fit or not fit into your a-kingdom definition of church-anity, you discard apostle and prophet, make the evangel someone who puts more sheep into the fold, and make the teacher someone who prepares sheep to be good sheep so they tend to stray less.

Welcome to dispensationalism, or church without kingdom, the modern version of church that successfully removes Jesus as King, Head, and Strategic Leader so we can push everything He’s doing or gonna do into the future. “When He returns, He’s really gonna do some stuff. Right now, well, we are marking time, filling up the fold, and looking to set up a subculture called “community.”

Jesus wouldn’t recognize this as Ecclesia. He’d start all over again rather than attempt to fit into it. In fact, if He were here, the modern church wouldn’t even allow Him to join the flock. Why? Because He isn’t building a flock! The Ecclesia certainly has a sheepfold, but the objective of the kingdom isn’t to be the world’s greatest sheep herding enterprise!

Church growth as a movement, when it is dominated by this definition of Ecclesia, accumulates believers as a sign of success. So, bigger is better, and whatever adjustments need to be made to our marketing and method to maintain that definition will be made, in Jesus’ Name. That is, with “Jesus” attached to the enterprise and “since 33 AD” on the sign.

Church history is more complex than this but the concept of size being success has always been present because appearances mark this spirit of leadership, not kingdom. Interestingly, whenever reformation, revival, awakening, and a move of God arrive, this motif gets seriously challenged because it is inconsistent with how God works. Church growth challenges awakening because it defines awakening by how many sheep are going to get herded into their pastures.

For example, the president of one large denomination defined “revival” as “souls being saved.” Period. Why? Because this is the definition of success in the church as the accumulation of believers motif. No kingdom in that except that the kingdom has really, really big nursery.

Let me suggestion this: in the church growth, accumulation of believers scenario, it would be perfectly predictable and acceptable that the Message of the Gospel only get people saved but never really challenged the culture, that the Gospel would never announce King Jesus but always introduce Savior Jesus. It would be perfectly predictable and acceptable that the general culture would have no idea what the Ecclesia is or does, really, but would continue to live with a complete ignorance of its objectives, and would not listen to what it says. The church growth would not disrupt the culture at all.

We are talking but nobody is listening. We are so marginalized that politicians play us for votes with appearances and perceptions, and we are thrilled to think they really care about your feelings. They have no idea what we think or care about it because it has no relevance to the real world in their minds. It is all sheepfold dynamics functioning in a closed subculture. We wish to have religious freedom to be left alone, not to impact our world!

Our endtime scenarios fit our definition, of course, and help us make sense of this novel concept. Without kingdom in Ecclesia, we are “called out of the world,” not called together in the kingdom to accomplish our kingdom assignment. Without kingdom, we are ready to alter the entry requirements merely to maintain a larger sheepfold so the appearances aren’t diminished. Because “born” is our working definition, we continually dumb down the Gospel. In fact, this makes keeping the sheep comfortable a bit more manageable. Isn’t it singular that the more we perpetuate this model, the less modern believers know about basic kingdom and Biblical ideas? We are willing to make room for silliness because we are happy to have so many babies in the fold.

Such a management process studies the “best practices” of Disney and the Marriott because it fundamentally a customer service organization.

Then, we put Jesus in a Disney suit and have Him eat breakfast with kids for a fee. “Our entertain value is great over here at Disney church on Sundays. You won’t have to worry about your kids not wanting to go to church anymore. We’re better than McDonald’s now, you know. The church has come into a new place.”

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Dr. Don

Dr. Don

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