I had an interesting conversation with a colleague recently. He is not the only critic of what he called the “church-growth movement” (I find myself such a critic at times), but his critique took a different and intriguing angle. Most often the movement is criticized because it makes church a market-driven enterprise to satisfy spiritual consumers or because it sacrifices depth and discipleship at the altar of growth and comfort. Both are legitimate problems that large churches must wrestle with and strive to avoid. But my friend mentioned another, less noticed problem, and the way he explained it got me thinking.
He argued that the focus on growth brings the surrounding culture into the church and makes the would-be holy community indistinguishable from the world. The church loses power to change the world because it becomes a reflection of the world. Our shrouded light stops shining. Our diluted salt stops preserving. We fail to change the world because we uncritically invite the world through the front door.
Interesting. I’m not sure this is always true. Many churches work faithfully to maintain the tension between hospitality and holiness. But this is tough to do, and my friend’s comment ought to give us pause to evaluate how our body composition effects our mission execution.
Perhaps it’s worth asking: Have our seeker-sensitive approach, our consumer-driven church culture and our contentment with canned and shallow discipleship produced results that no one intended? Have they compromised our holiness and, consequently, stained our witness and disabled our mission to the world?