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Earl Middleton, M.Div.

Many churches and pastors have made a God out of growth. Like most evangelicals I would like to reach the largest number of people possible, but the current focus on growth has really become a case of the tail wagging the dog. Success in a church context should not be defined by the size of the congregation or membership, but by how accurately a church reflects the nature, character, and praxis of its founder–not the pastor, but Jesus the Christ. Could you imagine what Jesus’ ministry would have been like had he been as focused on size as we are? Ultimately, from God’s perspective, success is not about size. It’s about accuracy.

When sites like churchleader.com publish stats about how many people watched The Bible miniseries on The History Channel or how many people attended a new church on Easter Sunday isn’t it a thinly veiled attempt to demonstrate how relevant the church is in the world and, by extension, how hungry people are for spiritual truth? Exactly. It is really self promotion via numbers and size, and stands counter to how Jesus handled himself and his ministry, and how he taught his disciples to handle theirs. Using numbers to illustrate success, and draw and reproduce numbers is solipsistic and not evangelism at all.

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