Seth Godin says profit covers many sins.
In the business world, a lot is accepted in the name of profit.
- Questionable tactics are tolerated as long as the team hits the revenue numbers.
- The mission of the company gets in line behind the marketing of the product.
- Core values are violated in the name of pragmatism
Churches don’t have this problem because they are non-profits. Or do they?
In the church world, it’s not profit that covers a multitude of sins. It’s growth.
- Increased attendance often means looking the other way in addressing leadership concerns.
- Reaching guests becomes the goal so you compromise on the Truth.
- You divert all kinds of resources to get people in the front door and leave the hard work of discipleship to someone else.
The Myths of Growth
The growing churches get the press and the big churches get the buzz. They must be doing something good, we think. How else would they get so big?
But growth is not all it’s cracked up to be. Here are three myths of growth that not enough people are talking about.
Myth #1: Growth leads to happiness.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with a few different megachurhces and I’ve seen behind the scenes of a few others. They struggle with so many of the same problems. They are just covered up by quality production and fancy websites. But behind the scenes, leaders of these churches are wrestling with very real issues. If you were to sit in the meetings, you’d say, “I can’t believe they are still struggling with this.”
A big church isn’t big because they have figured out all of the problems. In may way, the problems are just bigger.
Some of the most miserable leaders I know work in growing organizations. There are lots of people and lots of activity. It’s a merry-go-round that never stops. You think you’d be happier if the church was bigger, but just the opposite might be true.
Heck, I believed this myth for a long time.
I started a church that grew from zero people to almost 1,000 people in a couple of years. In a town of just 17,000 people. You would think this would have made me happy. But instead, I focused on breaking the next barrier and going to the next level. I was successful on the outside but miserable on the inside.
If you’re not content leading a church of 200, you won’t be content leading a church of 400. Because happiness is not found in growth. Contentment doesn’t come from the outside – it’s a position of the heart.
Growth won’t make you happy and growth doesn’t lead to happiness.
Myth #2: We need a little more.
Maybe you’ve heard the quote from John D. Rockefeller. He was asked, “How much money is enough?” He answered, “Just a little bit more.”
His honest answer is telling, isn’t it. We’re on a quest for more.
But the problem is “enough” is a moving target. Once you get to the next level, you find another one waiting for you. Once you climb the next hill, you find a bigger one.
If you’re on a growth quest, there’s no destination. You’re not going to reach a point where you say, “we’ve grown enough…let’s just settle here for a while.”
You will never have enough money. (Besides, if your vision is fully-funded, you probably need a bigger vision.)
You will never have enough people. (I’ve never met a church leader who says “you know…we’ve got enough volunteers and leaders…we don’t need any more.)
And there will always be more you want to do.
There’s a massive tension here. There are people to reach and a mission to advance. But the Gospel teaches us that we’re not in control and we can’t do it on our own. We’re responsible to be good stewards with what God has given, but we must rest in Him and be at peace.
The myth of more can lead you down the Rockefeller path.
Myth #3: Growth and health can’t co-exist.
Not long ago, I tweeted about the network I’m starting to help 12 pastors better lead a growing church. Someone responded, “So just because you were big that means you were faithful. #shakingmyhead”
There’s a belief among some leaders that you can’t be faithful and big. Big churches compromised on something – that’s how they got big. Small churches are more faithful to the Word – that’s why they are smaller.
But this is a lie.
Justin Breyans writes, “You can be large and unhealthy and you can be small and unhealthy. Growth or size does not prove health.”
Growth and health are not opposite, and it’s wrong to pursue one without the other.
As a father, I want my children to grow and be healthy at the same time. Both are very important, and focusing on just one would be a big mistake.
That’s why we focus on growth and health in my coaching networks. I want your church to experience both.