I lament the things being adopted in churches today in the name of church growth. The early church grew because saved people were added to Jesus’ church.1 “And God was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” The early church grew when the Gospel was preached and people obeyed it by turning from sin and being Baptized.2 Jesus said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”
But we live in a world where Christians seem reluctant to live and proclaim it as they did in the first century. Many of today’s Christians are uncomfortable with topics of sin and condemnation. Today, we live in a sophisticated world where people need polished preachers, perfect song-leading, comfortable pews, and something undefinable to quicken the spirit. In the spirit of our more enlightened time, let me offer some ideas.
If you want to grow, make the children happy. The time has passed when children can be expected to stay seated. Many people recognize that children can be difficult but this should not hinder others from worshiping. “Growth” interested churches can make sure that no one is distracted by children. To help the situation, pacify the children with food dispensers at each pew. When Cheerios don’t work, have baskets of toys at each row. And for the really difficult children, have handheld video games. Video games are able to hold the attention of the most difficult cases. If the toys don’t work, then let the kids have free reign to run and tumble throughout the services. If people are still distracted, noise-cancelling headphones can be issues to interested adults. That way the kids are seen, but not heard. Remember church “growth” can happen without hindering the children.
A “growing” church must recnogize that adults like to be entertained. The simple nature of worship as found in the New Testament can’t compete with the kind of entertainment people are used to. If a church is to “grow”, “Christian” entertainment is a necessity. “Growing” church invest in things like art, beautiful architecture, and a great sound system. Imagine how the spirit could be lifted if every seat was mounted with a 200 watt speaker! These kinds of modern advancements would provide the spiritual kick that people need today. Churches can’t “grow” if people don’t like the music.
“Growing” churches are comfortable places. The sermons are pleasing. And while trying to make people comfortable, provide recliners. People don’t sit on wood benches anymore. Think about it. Which church are you more likely to attend? The one that has uncomfortable chairs or comfortable? Give people what they are accustomed today and the church will “grow”. A church that becomes known for providing each member a recliner would be a “growing” church. Doing this, people would fight to be the first to church to have the best seats.
Big Screen TVs. People like and need visual stimulation. Long sermons like Paul would have given don’t build churches anymore. People need to to be stimulated. We live in a sophisticated and savvy world that loves technology. A “growing” church will not fall behind the technology curve. A big screen with 1080 DPI will attract the entertainment-minded who would otherwise be unable to worship God. Flashing images excite people.
Hollywood imitation. Think about it. Who knows better how to pack a house but Hollywood. Think of the movie theaters are modern churches. Give the people what they want: a good story, friends, refreshments will “build” the church. Get people involved and “grow” the church by letting them sing and dance. The dancing could be called “holy dancing”. And modern people will go to church if you call it Karaoke. They will feel like a contestant for American Idolatry. If a church wants to “grow”, give the people a stage. If they are never famous anywhere else, they can get the applause and praise from the church. Just like the movies, a “growing” church is looking to stir the emotions.
No shoes, no shirts, no problem. I hear today that God accepts you the way you are. The old way of calling for people to repent is so negative and unrealistic. Who wants to hear, “Unless you repent, you shall likewise perish” (Lk 13:3)? People don’t have to change anymore. A “growing” church must be willing to moderate the tone of its teaching in order to broaden its appeal. The church that still calls for repentance might as well post a sign out front that say, “Go Away, Being a Christian is Too Hard!” It is the churches that avoid talking about divorce and remarriage, premarital sex, alcohol and drug usage, and other moral imperatives, that are providing a place for people to stay just as they are. “No problem” preaching accepts people where they are so the church can “grow”.
Having said all of this, has the church really grown if unrepentant, self-centered, and entertainment-minded people have gathered in the same place?
1. Acts 2:47
2. Act 2:40,41 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.