Total Church 25: Success – 2 Models of Growth

This is part 25 of our series Total Church by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester. Blame and credit for these posts must be shared by the Wednesday morning Total Church reading group: No for these last few posts I am on my own… we finished up for the year before we got to these chapters.

“If we are to reach our cities and towns effectively with the gospel through church planting then we need a radically different model of success.” p187

Others than numbers, budgets, style, staff, prestige…

Two models of growth: larger versus more

Neither large nor small must be equated with success.  But what must be challenged is the common assumption that big is necessarily better.

To illustrate we may rightly say that big churches may also result not from success but from 2 possible failures.

(a) A gospel failure – give people what they want to hear and they will come to satisfy their itching ears. (2 Tim 4:3).  To talk of judgement and sin is generally not what people want to hear, but without that grace cannot be seen.

In fact faithfulness to the gospel may make us less successful  – but only if we measure success in terms of numbers.  “If however you view success as faithfulness to Christ then being gospel-centred becomes the very definition of success.” p189

To reiterate large does not equal unfaithfulness but “numbers are not a reliable or sufficient measure of success.” p189

(b) A community failure

Too many churches are preaching stations rather than families.  And too many of us are aware of it but in our attempts to “fix it” we do not go deep enough.  It may well be that our underlying model itself is faulty?

Perhaps the authors suggest what we need is not bigger churches but more churches.  So instead of growing the one meeting place, establish many smaller congregations.  Where members will grow in their love for God and each other, and unbelievers will experience that in the life of the shared community.

But this requires a different vision for church growth!

This is, I think, the way God is moving me.  I am not a hater of big churches.  Of course God can use them to build His Kingdom, He can do whatever he likes – He is God!

But he also asks me to use my wisdom, my gifts and my best understanding of my city and my context to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:13) right where I am . And many smaller communities spread out over the city, frequently planting makes sense to me.

Numbers are not the issue in one sense because everyone wants to see more people saved and discipled.  I believe that the smaller the communities are the easier it is to keep them on mission, and keep them flexible to the changing context of the mission.

Discipleship always (overstatement?) happens best in the context of smaller communities, where our questions and misunderstandings can be dealt with, our idols and sins challenged because we actually know each other and share life with one another.

Without a doubt this is the chapter that has challenged me the most in the entire book… Part 2 of the chapter on success soon.


~ by John on February 5, 2009.

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