There are five simple ways to make sure that your church will not reach its full redemptive potential. Follow one or more, and you can just about guarantee your church will not grow.
First, make your church all about the people it already has. Their care, their comfort, their concerns, their sense of being “fed.” Your mantra should be, “It’s all about them.” This means you spiritualize the idea of discipleship as the ultimate endeavor and then interpret the meaning of discipleship to be a weight-gain program of knowledge. Do not, under any circumstances, interpret the goal of discipleship to be for any sense of sacrificial mission to the least or the lost.
Second, cast a small vision. Or at least an insular one. There is a vast, lost world, but keep that from anyone’s thinking. Make the vision about something much, much smaller. As in… them! Cast a vision for deeper community and fellowship, small groups and men’s/women’s ministries – but be sure to stop there. Don’t go beyond the community of the already convinced.
Third, don’t talk about evangelism. If anything, put down churches that emphasize evangelism as if they are the shallow, undiscipling churches. Yes, you have to say you care about lost people, but keep it in a muted, vanilla way that never captures anyone’s attention. And for goodness sake, don’t make ANYTHING about evangelism seem as if it’s actually urgent, to be prioritized, or that heaven and hell are on the line. Then people might get exercised and want to actually do something.
Fourth, don’t let leaders lead. Do not let the people with the responsibility have any of the authority. Make sure you put decision-making in the hands of those who are removed from the day-in, day-out pursuit of that ministry. Think committees. That way the decisions are made by the least qualified or informed. The one thing to avoid is to let someone who might be closest to a ministry, most informed about a ministry, most passionate about a ministry, make a decision that might actually accelerate the effectiveness of that ministry. Put handcuffs on them as much as possible.
Finally, don’t make the church’s “front door” be open for anyone but the already convinced, meaning Christians who are church hopping and shopping. Focus on helping them make the best consumer decision. Give them everything they want. Which means don’t even think about the person who is unchurched. Who is unconvinced. Who doesn’t even have the memory of the gospel, much less is conversant and familiar with the evangelical subculture. Don’t be sensitive to their questions, concerns or issues. If they come, consider them an anomaly that is not in your wheelhouse, much less mission.
So there you have it: How to not grow your church.
James Emery White
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.