I have been an outspoken opponent of what is known as the “Church Growth Movement.” I am not an opponent of true biblical growth both in the life of the individual and the congregation as a whole, but I do oppose the kind of man-centered ideology and methodology that has marked the now decades old “Church Growth Movement.” That ideology is that if we make church marketable and attractive to lost people they will come. The problem with that is that it bypasses the gospel as the only thing that draws lost sinners to Christ.
So what does that have to do with Oak Crest? Our growth and health as a church does not depend on the activities and programs of our church, it depends on our growth in the gospel and our sharing that good news with the people in our lives and communities. Our activities may be a means to accomplish health, but they are not in and of themselves signs of health. The devil is little concerned with how many things we do at Oak Crest, as long as we are focusing on anything other than growing in Christ and sharing the gospel with the lost around us.
Last week I read a review of Thom Rainer’s new book “Autopsy of a Deceased Church.” I am normally skeptical of books that try to diagnose why churches succeed or fail because normally they look at all the human factors. They will say things like, “the church needs better facilities,” or “the church needed more programs.” In other words they try to evaluate church success using the same kind of worldly factors that a corporation might use. But one part of the review struck me as particularly interesting. In describing the various churches that were examined the article stated, “Surprisingly, most of the churches (that died) still had money in the bank when they closed. ‘You don't have to be broke to be dying,’ Rainer noted. But those churches spent most of their money on programs that benefited their members rather than on mission or outreach. They developed a me-first mentality, Rainer said, and had little connection to the community around the church. ‘Though it's difficult to isolate any one factor as the most dangerous,’ Rainer said, ‘the steep numerical decline of these churches was most noticeable as the congregation started focusing on their own needs. They became preference-driven instead of Great Commission driven.’”
I don’t want Oak Crest to ever become inwardly focused to the neglect of our outward mission. We must keep a proper, biblical balance between inward discipleship and outward evangelism.