Establishing the Boundaries of a Biblical Worldview

church growth

Not surprisingly, amillennialism produces a retreating and crabbed outlook, a church in which men have no thought of victory but only of endless nit-picking about trifles. It produces a phariseeism of men who believe they are the elect in a world headed for hell, a select elite who must withdraw from the futility of the world around them. It produces what can be called an Orthodox Pharisees Church, wherein failure is a mark of election. Lest this seem an exaggeration, one small denomination has a habit of regarding pastors who produce growth in their congregations with some suspicion, because it is openly held by many pastors that growth is a mark of compromise, whereas incompetence and failure are marks of election! Amillennial pastors within this church regularly insist that success surely means compromise, and their failures are a mark of purity and election. Not surprisingly, postmillennials cannot long remain in this basically and almost exclusively amillennial church.

Rushdoony, R. J. (2012-09-20). God’s Plan For Victory: The Meaning of Postmillennialism (Kindle Locations 170-176). . Kindle Edition.

propsteikircheSocialism is the enemy of the people. Thus argued Ludwig von Mises in his book by that name, Socialism. It is the enemy of the people for economic and political reasons. But it is also the enemy of the people when it comes to Church Planting. And this is the view of David Garrison in his book, Church Planting Movements: How God is Reclaiming a Lost World (2004).

The Church Planting Movement (hereafter, CPM) has literally become church planting on steroids in some parts of the world. When missionary David Watson was sent to India in about 1991, he asked God to give him five converts in the first year. That prayer was honored by God and David got his five workers. From there it was all a downhill run. Or so it seems. Fifteen years later, the results were 80,000 churches with an average membership of around 64 people, and about three million baptisms. Church growth may be dead in your neck of the woods, but in other places it is alive and well on planet earth.

The CPM movement developed a number of important ‘steps’ to successful church planting. One of them, for example, was the idea that church planting was a relative failure when the teaching carried with it cultural baggage. That is, trying to plant western-style churches with stain-glass windows into a culture such as India was a commitment to failure. In the words of Garrison, “When the gospel is perceived to be alien to a culture or is viewed as belonging to another people group or culture, Church Planting Movements face an uphill battle.”[1] David Watson explained that it was necessary for them to strip western culture out of the Gospel in order for the Gospel to do its work. And it would be the Holy Spirit in the lives of the new believers that would eventually bring cultural change in India.

Sustainable church growth must learn to find its own resources.

This article, however, is not about CPM in general, but only about socialism and its identified impact on the CPM movement.

Socialism is a term that refers to ownership of the means of production. It is different from communism in one respect. Under communism, all property is owned by the state. It is therefore controlled by the state. Under socialism, property may well be ‘owned’ by individuals and corporations, but it is still controlled by the state. But there are two aspects to socialism that cause it to fail. First, it takes the decision-making away from those who should be making decisions. Second, it can turn finances into a perpetual state of subsidy.
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Footnotes    (↵back returns to text)
  1. Garrison, Church Planting Movements, Kindle edition, Loc. 4090.↵back

You don’t have to do this — survival is not compulsory
— W. Edwards Deming

This was going to be one interesting meeting. People began dribbling in around 6:00 pm on a Friday evening. Not all at once; some came a distance, and others finished their work day later. By the time the assembly was complete there were thirteen church elders and deacons, two pastors – and yours truly. The purpose of the meeting? To find out what was wrong, if anything, with the senior pastor.

Early in the event I asked the question about profit. Now I should have known better than to use the ‘f’ word in a meeting of church elders. They were happy to talk about “prophets” but not “profits”. But I had committed the mistake – deliberately, I might add.

“We’re a church,” I was told. “We don’t make a profit.”

With that response I went to the whiteboard and wrote two numbers: revenue and expenses. And I made sure the expenses were less than the revenue. Accounting systems usually refer to that as net profit. But this is a no-profit church.

“This $10,000 you see here at the bottom that has not been spent,” I asked. “Is that a profit? It is certainly money left over at the end of the year. What do you call that?”

You can’t beat up on the pastor just because he failed your expectation, especially when you didn’t tell him what you really expected.

“We don’t make a profit,” it was repeated. After some thought, “But we can call it a surplus.”

I know when I’m ahead, and I figured “surplus” would achieve our ends. From that time forth the question was not “Should we make a profit?” but “Should we have a surplus?”

There was silence as a response to this question. Logic said “yes” there should be a profit – sorry, surplus – but something prevented these church leaders from planning to have a surplus. Why?
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Why Check-Book theology is Necessary For the Expansion of Christianity — Part 3

Look around many  cities in the USA, as in Europe, and you find empty churches, or churches that have been taken over by businesses or by non-Christian faiths. Dying churches, allegedly, are a sign of our age and coming catastrophe: inevitable, or at least, beyond our ability to reverse the trend.

This negative belief is to be expected. It’s suggested that the “average” (mean) church size is about 189 people. Or, to look at the statistics another way, about half of church attenders attend a church of 400 or more, while the other half attend a church of less than 400. We hardly seem to be on the winning side.

What these statistics don’t tell you, however, is the distribution by theological persuasion. By that I mean the underlying theology of the churches. Are they predominantly Baptist or Presbyterian? If they are Baptist, what is the distribution of Reformed Baptist as opposed to non-Reformed Baptist? Does the theology of the church give you any indication of the size of the church?

Growth vs. Doctrine

In small conservative churches it is not uncommon to hear the idea expressed that in order to be large, you have to give up your theology. Gary North wrote about this in his book Crossed Fingers. He identified the idea from looking at Presbyterian church history that when the church growth people meet the doctrinally pure people, the church growth people always win out. This implies that church growth is only possible at the expense of doctrine. Is this true?

But there’s another question: why is there a conflict between the church growth crowd and the doctrinally pure crowd in the first place? Is it essential that in order to have church growth, you have to give up your doctrine?
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Why Check-Book Theology is Necessary For the Expansion of Christianity — Part 2

In Part One I wrote about a workshop with church elders that highlighted the lack of planning. Part 2 is about implementation, but the implementation story is from another workshop I conducted with even better results.

When Danny said he believed God was directing him to a new “calling,” my mind began racing. Why would a man,fifty-three years of age, eighteen years in the pastoral ministry, receive from God a new calling outside of the ministry? Was it to become a truck driver? Maybe a janitor?

Danny, a humble minister of the gospel, did not think he was being called to be president of a major corporation. He could readily empathize with Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) in the Dirty Harry movie, Magnum Force: “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” And Danny was certainly well aware of his limitations.

You have to stop circling the wagons around doctrine. You need to let the doctrine do its work.”

At the same time he also knew he served a God who had no limitations, and for these many years Danny had faithfully relied on God as he served his local parish in the suburbs of a city of around one million people. It was a quiet, lower middle-class area, with a growing population as land availability and prices were forcing people to move to the outer suburbs. Danny had surrounded himself with a small number of faithful elders.

We were sitting over coffee when Danny dropped this bombshell about a new calling. We explored his options, which he recognized were few in the marketplace.

“If your church was growing at ten new members a month, or even if it was just growing in attendance at any rate month after month, would you want to quit the ministry and go somewhere else?” I asked.

I could tell from the expression on his face that he was thinking. But it took him a few days before he called me with his response.
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From the archives. Originally published October, 1993.


Over the years I have made reference to the idea that in Christian theology there is no division between the sacred and secular. Too often the sacred (religious) life is seen as superior to the secular. There is a growing number of Christian authors who have expressed similar ideas in far more detail and with far better skill than I have. But so far, there are some unanswered questions in the sacred-secular debate. In this essay I want to explore what I think are some of the implications of the idea of work when the sacred-secular division is taken away. In particular, I want to explore the idea of success — success in the home, church, or business.

The dividing line between the idea of work in the sacred-secular division has been the idea that the former is a ‘spiritual’ work while the latter is work of ‘the world.’ This division implies there is a Christian way to work as well as a non-Christian way to conduct business. And so there is. But the question is how are these to be determined? They can be determined the wrong way, by classifying ideas as “spiritual” or “worldly”, or they can be classified as ethical, in terms of right and wrong.

We are called to be faithful in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

It has been popular to attempt to build the Christian idea of work on the non-Biblical idea of spirituality. This expresses itself in the idea that we are to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit and only undertake those things that He has instructed us. This idea is appealing to many, partly because it contains an element of truth in it. As Christians, we do seek guidance from God in all our activities. But saying this does not tell us how we are guided in particular activities. Until we know how God gives us instructions we cannot be certain that we are the recipients of those directions. Because Christians don’t know how God instructs them, there is a crisis in decision making and knowing the will of God for their lives.
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