read it all here for yourself. But that will not keep me from a couple of good quotes.
Success is a slippery subject when it comes to the Church. That our
ultimate picture of success is a crucified Messiah means any
conversation about success will be incompatible with a "bigger is
better" mentality. Yet, bigger and better is exactly what most churches
seem to be pursuing these days: a pursuit which typically comes in the
form of sentimentality and pragmatism.
Sentimentality and pragmatism are the one-two punch which has the
American Church on the ropes, while a generation of church leaders
acquiesces to the demands of our consumer culture. The demands are
simple: tell me something that will make me feel better (sentimentality
for the churchgoer), and tell me something that will work (pragmatism
for the church leader). Yet it is not clear how either one of those are
part of what it means to be the church.
Perhaps more than sentimentality, pragmatism is ravaging the church.
Pragmatism has led to a fairly new niche industry I call the Church
Leadership Culture. Taking their cues from business, church leadership
manuals are more than willing to instruct the interested pastor in how
to gain market share. I once heard church consultant and leadership guru
say that you can grow a church without God if you have good preaching,
great music, killer children's ministry, and an engaging youth minister.
Cousins should know. He helped build Willow Creek Community Church and
the church leadership culture. In the pragmatic church, there is only
one question that matters, "What will work to grow my church?"
I was especially intrigued by the sentence: You can grow a church without God... Isn't that exactly what we are trying to do? The church growth movement has tried to identity growth characteristics and turn this into a marketing strategy. It is an evolving and ever changing strategy because as soon as you implement it, the world around you moves on and you have to move on to keep up. Sadly, in too many Districts of the LCMS and for a time in the holy city (St. Louis) we thought we could grow the Church and did not need much help from God. We thought that we could grow God a Church and then hand it to Him while expecting to receive thanks and commendation. When we do this, we forget our own theology. What is it that Luther said, "I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him..." Even if we believe that we cannot bring ourselves to faith, we have certainly deluded ourselves into thinking we can bring others to faith and grow the Church with little help from the Savior.
I went to Don Cousins' web site and pulled off this sentence: Results change when the approach make sense. But isn't that the very problem? The Gospel does not make sense. It is not rational or logical. What is required is not convincing of the mind but the Spirit's breaking down of the walls of the heart that we might trust in that which makes no sense at all -- that God comes in human flesh and blood to take our place in suffering and death that we, the unworthy and undeserving might be declared forgiven, righteous, and holy.
So, God save us from the successful church. Give us churches who shun
sentimentality and pragmatism and aren't afraid to face the inevitable
shrinkage which comes as a result of following Jesus. God save us from
church leadership strategies.