Does your church grow by evangelism? Probably not.
Can you even think of a single congregation that’s bursting at the seams because of their robust evangelism program?
The haunting question is WHY?!
I blame the Church of Goldilocks, a consumer orientation that the vast majority of congregations have adopted that’s leading to the slow demise of Christianity in North America. Here’s why.
The kind of leadership many churches chase, particular large congregations, is a CEO-style without CEO-style performance metrics. We don’t fire a lead pastor because he didn’t meet the evangelism goals during a term. We don’t replace denominational leaders when their lofty vision to plant 5, 50, or 500 churches amounts to 1. There’s a reason why leaders do not face pressure of firing due to performance metrics–it’s by design. Leaders and congregants are looking for a pragmatic faith, not profound Gospel challenge. (To be a bit less dramatic, I know many leaders pay attention to metrics (ABCs) but I don’t know many who are worried about their jobs because of the results.)
Don’t believe me? Look at the DNA of resilient congregations. They are the ones that admirably balance a ‘not too hot, not too cold’ religious existence. Churches that can balance a functioning Christian subculture that comfortably exists alongside mainstream culture are having the most success. That subculture needs to be different enough to provide some unique identity, but not too different that it sits in total discord. This is why mega works.
Well resourced churches understand the balance which is why they do so well incorporating technology, using contemporary music in their services, and offering targeted programs to families and youth. Without us knowing (or maybe we do) a cycle that caters to the demands of consumer Christian over robust spiritual formation emerges. The former doesn’t challenge, the latter challenges too much. At the expense of the subversive Gospel leaders design churches to offer great service and programs so they don’t lose people to the church down the road doing the same.
The Goldilocks church leads to inevitable decline because substance is traded for an individualized religious experienced devoid of in-depth connection to an active church that’s supposed to be on a continuous pursuit of righting wrongs in our part of the world.
What we get instead are ‘not too hot, and not too cold’ Christians who aren’t disciples, aren’t evangelists, aren’t much of anything, but at least they come to a service once a week.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Assuming evangelism is indeed a real value for evangelical churches (evidence would suggest the complete opposite), is there a solution?
One idea is a paradigm shift doing away with Goldilocks experiences and centering around God’s dream to restore all of creation instead. Advocating for paradigm shift opposes the easier alternative: seeking ways to increase ‘effectiveness’ of various components of the Goldilocks model in a continued attempt to aggrandize a broken and possibly detrimental model of church.
Incrementally improving the current system doesn’t appear to be yielding anything more than the slow elimination of congregations incapable of competing. Instead, what would it look like to go against the grain and earnestly addressed the creature comforts in the church pew while waking the sleeping priesthood of all believers? It may come at a temporary expense of losing fickle consumer Christians, but the Gospel isn’t in the business of managing Christians till Kingdom come. Pursue a movement state and see who comes along. The rest will happily find another house to lay low.
Photo cred to Riley Rossmo.