Below is a thought-provoking blog post from United Methodist pastor Joey Reed:

I’m Done “Growing the Church”

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Yes, you read that right. I’m done.

No more outreach strategies to fill the pews. No more ideas to draw young people. No more switching out the hard stuff for lighter fare in hopes that we will appeal to a larger audience.

No more “growing the church.”

It seems that every time I sit down to think of ways to lead people to Jesus, I find a new way to “align a program” or “bring focus to an issue” — or worse, I find good people who mistakenly think that my job is to be a chaplain, or just their “professional visitor.” Gotta get those visitors to close the deal and join up.

Too many people think that mission of the Church is to swell the ranks and fill the pews. Too many people think that this task is my job. Too many people find me a failure for not getting this done.

So. No more just “growing the church.”

Unless. Unless you mean something different when you say, “Grow, Church.”

Perhaps you mean, “Growing in Grace.” Perhaps the church is learning to become more mature about forgiveness. Maybe that would mean that the churches in the USA would be more willing to reach across boundaries of age, race, gender, and politics (yeah, I said it) in order to develop real relationships.

I would love to grow that church.

Maybe you mean, “Growing in Love.” That could mean that the church is learning to become more selfless. That could turn into giving our time and our money to help people who are in a bad way — even people we don’t think really deserve it.

I could see myself growing a cool church like that.

Maybe you mean “Growing in Depth.” Would that mean that people were learning to accept their flaws without glossing them over? Would that mean an outbreak of patience and kindness that only comes from realizing that we are all screwed up in one way or another, and God loves us anyway? Would that mean that folks realized that they are unqualified to do ministry – just like the minister – and would commit to doing ministry anyway? Would that mean that you realized the value of what you have in Christ is too valuable to not give it away?

I would give my right arm to grow that church.

What do you mean when you say, “Grow the church?” Because if you are looking for growth strategies that capitalize on market demographics and creative sales pitches, I’m probably busy that day you want to talk.

What do you mean when you say, “Grow the church?” Because if you are trying to find ways to impress kids, add some flash to your worship, and pray that they will give enough to pay for the brand new $2.3 million, 2500 seat worship center, I’ve got another appointment to keep.

But if you mean that you are interested in growing disciples into deeply committed Christians, let me invite you to pull up a chair, stop pulling out your hair, give up on pulling up your own bootstraps, and let’s get down to brass tacks.

________________________________________________________________________________

I’m completely

on board with this. St. Nicholas is a growing congregation, no doubt. Our average Sunday attendance has steadily climbed, our services get a little fuller every week, our budget has grown, and we’re soon to be adding to our campus. In the last 6 months, we’ve welcomed many new families, some of which are young couples with children. Our kids program, SNICK, is growing as well, welcoming children from the surrounding Hamilton neighborhoods. It seems we are doing everything right.

But unless all this numerical growth includes real spiritual growth, then what are we doing? Are the lives of the people of St. Nicholas different from when they walked through the door? Are we more prayerful, more compassionate, more generous, more loving, more willing to share God’s love?

Don’t worry, a survey won’t be given to determine the answers to these questions. But the challenge is laid before you and me. Are we really growing? Most of the time, it seems like we’re just trying to survive all that life has to throw at us, how can we grow on top of that?

Lent is a season of intentional spiritual growth. We take on Lenten disciplines to focus ourselves on connection with God. This year, take on something that will really stretch you. Even if you can’t keep the discipline for one day – keep trying.

Read Scripture daily with your family.

Refrain from electronic communication.

Exercise.

Write a poem a day.

Plan to meet and get to know every member of the parish, including newcomers.

Take a senior adult out to lunch.

Read to a child not related to you, or a group of children at one of the schools.

 

Empty out your wallet of loose bills every Sunday and put it in the CVEM poor box in the narthex.

 

Replace an hour of TV watching a day with prayer, spiritual reading, and journaling.

Confess your sins to your priest.

Volunteer for a new ministry you currently know nothing about.

Plan your day so that your family has at least one meal together every day.

Plan to grow this Lent.

I promise if you do one or more of these or any other spiritually-growing exercises during Lent, you will grow. You are the Church, and so the Church will grow.

Let’s not just grow the church. Let’s GROW the CHURCH.

Jeff+