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Growth Hormone...at the Christian Witness Ministries Web Site
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Church growth hormone
-a biblically banned substance

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SUMMARY: 
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death —Proverbs 16:25


FOR the fi rst eight years of my ministry I was a church growth hormone addict, thriving on a daily diet of books and videos centred around the latest fads and trends that focused on church growth. I was on the cutting edge of ministry thinking, learning more and more about marketing and the psychology of connecting people. I believed that numbers equalled success, even if that meant changing the name of the church, offering self-help programs, or implementing any other sort of method I thought would help to boost the numbers. Like many pastors, I could be compared to a professional athlete when it comes to how we view success and how we value ourselves. For an athlete, the math is pretty simple; score goals, hit home runs, and nail three-point shots; it’s all about numbers. The more successful you are in making the score, in essence, hitting your numbers, the greater your worth. For pastors, it’s the number of people that are sitting in the seats that seems to be the measure of success. This is something, however misguided, that we all strive to obtain. Now, more than ever before, books emphasise church growth with the goal of becoming a megachurch. This desire facilitates the thought, “If I grow the church bigger, I’m doing more for God than the next person.”

Recent news has revealed that many professional athletes have been taking illegal substances to build muscle and strength in order to improve their performance. They will do whatever it takes to achieve their goals and thus enhance their perceived value. For them the end result justifi es the means, no matter what the side effects. Similarly pastors around the world have come to believe that church growth equals success. Thousands attend conference after conference, read book after book, and watch and listen to video and audio messages regarding church growth. They, like the professional athlete on steroids, are taking “church growth hormones” just for the sake of growth. Having seen the quick “success”, they have signed on for the dangerous pill. True they have improved their performances on Sundays and Wednesdays, not recognising that the “church growth hormone” contains some ugly ingredients. Let’s take a look. Ingredients include: man-centred theology; relevant messages to meet people’s needs; events and programs that reach out to the community; contemporary music that is entertaining. For best results, remove the pews, dress casually, and install a 5,000 lumen projector. Take the “hormone” weekly, follow the regimented marketing strategy and you are guaranteed growth. The side effects may include unbelievers in the leadership, false converts, uncommitted members, and shallow minds.

On my own, there is no way that I could have seen the damaging effects of what I was participating in. To top it off, I was encouraged in this sin by the people. If anyone asked how the church was doing, what they really wanted to know was how the attendance was progressing, not how God was working or what He was doing in our congregation. My world-view was fi lled with garbage and I was blinded. My fl esh (ego) craved constant validation.

This came directly from numbers and growth, not from what God was doing or how He was moving. That’s right, I said fl esh, and that was my problem. It was all about me. When I left myself out of the equation, my sight started to become clearer. The Word had to become my number one reference for all things.

After some study, I actually began to be discerning. Those many books that I owned went right into the trash and I learned how to study the Bible inductively. To use a computer-based analogy, Jesus in effect reprogrammed the hard drive of my mind, steering me away from a numbers-driven thought process. Growing the church is no longer my focus. Now my focus is on training believers.



About the Author...
JOHN LANCASTER is a respected senior minister with over fi fty years experience in the Elim Church of the UK. This article was originally published in Direction Magazine (November 2006), journal of the Elim Pentecostal Churches

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Appeared in Issue 13.1 CETF 39 MARCH 2007
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-Last revised-Monday, October 09, 2006
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