For many years, pastors have erroneously equated congregational growth with church growth. The former is simply an increase in the population of the weekly assembly, whereas the latter is evangelism of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who otherwise would have been lost – and maturity and growth in the relationship with God through Christ.
The modern-day pulpit pimps have further blurred the meaning by building stadium-like “worship facilities” and “anointing sons and daughters” to extend their “apostolic influence” – all as monuments to their greatness. As I’ve said in the past, often times megachurch pastors end up “trading members” – attracting sheeple to and from pristine “worship facilities” – as opposed to growing the church with new souls.
God through His Word commands what we would consider “church growth”:
Acts 2:42-47 (New American Standard Bible)
42They were (A)continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to (B)the breaking of bread and (C)to prayer. 43Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many (D)wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44And all those who had believed [a]were together and (E)had all things in common; 45and they (F)began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46(G)Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and (H)breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,
Further, Jesus declared that He would build a Church that Hell could not conquer (Matthew 16:18). He didn’t say He’d build a building – He spoke of a living Body. Still, no man can glory that he is the “sheep herder-in-chief” for a region – only God is responsible for the growth of His Body (1 Corinthians 3:7-8).
Just because your pastor boasts that “we are 1 church in 3 locations”, or he has a network of “sons and daughters” who have “submitted under his covering” does not mean that he is a church planter. In fact, he is nothing more than a franchiser. Think about it: McDonald’s sells franchises by charging a fee for a franchiser to rightfully represent themselves as an official representative of the franchise. McDonald’s handles all of the licensing (and some level of marketing), and the franchisee pays an annual fee for the privilege of being called “a location”.
It’s the same in Church, Inc. I’ve already detailed the pay-to-play phenomenon of “spiritual covering” – as well as an examination of Alpha Pimp and master marketer Eddie Long (who is savvy enough to convince pastors to turn their churches over to him AND change their names!). Men like Eddie Long, I.V. Hilliard, Creflo Dollar, Paul Morton, and many others are interested in “growing” their churches clubs through acquisition. They’d rather be known as “Spiritual Fathers” and “Apostles” instead of lowly church planters, and rightfully so since they aren’t planting anything anyway.
Church planters, however, are people who recognize that God can’t be contained within a “location”, and are interested in evangelizing through training up church leaders for service WITHOUT CREATING SERVANTS AND ADMIRERS OF THEMSELVES. Church planting is essentially mission work – bringing the Gospel to a specific area, converting souls, making disciples, training church leaders for service, and moving on to the next location once the new “plant” can sustain itself.
Church planters realize that God is bigger than “1 church with multiple locations” – which is a plausible assertion. How can a church with over 10,000 members be led by a pastor (or elder board) that can successfully shepherd individual members? While it is impressive to amass such a large following (in a flesh-satisfying kind of way), one could argue that those 10,000 members could be better served in hundreds of smaller churches (spread wider and deeper within underserved communities) with pastors and elders who could minister to them – and shepherd them – more effectively.
The Apostle Paul was the prototypical church planter (Acts 14:21-23; Acts 15:41; 1 Thessalonians 3:2). Even though Paul was a spiritual father-figure, he did not create a network of “Sons of Paul”. In fact, once Paul (and his planters) trained the local assembly to sustain themselves (with his encouragement), the new plant would send missionaries forward to plant churches as well (1 Thessalonians 1:8). There are modern-day church planters in every community in the nation today (the Acts 29 network is one of the most well-known) – training disciples to preach and declare the Gospel…and make other disciples to do the same. These men don’t demand allegiance to them, and they don’t go around calling themselves “Spiritual Daddies” – they’re too busy declaring the Gospel.
As I’ve stated in the past – I’m not “anti-megachurch” per se (some of the bible teachers I admire lead very large congregations). I just wonder if the local assembly is more effective when the leadership can actually personally shepherd the congregation.