Nothing in nature supports the idea that living things keep growing bigger and never stop. In fact, in the natural order of God’s creation, it’s quite the opposite. All living things grow to a size predetermined by DNA and environment. Then they spend their energy sustaining life at the size God has ordained.
Some are ants. Some are elephants. Most life forms are somewhere in-between. But once a living thing reaches its predetermined physical size, it stops growing larger. It’s not a matter of unhealthiness. It’s a matter of God’s design.
Applied to churches, the idea of endless growth is dangerous:
1. It can cause people in big churches to get puffed up. Have you ever noticed that the primary proponents of endless church growth are those who already serve in an elephant-sized ministry?
2. It can discourage people in smaller churches. There is a plethora of pastors, church leaders, and church members who are embarrassed of their church size. They feel guilty or inadequate for not growing beyond what their gifting, spiritual DNA, or fertility of the harvest field they serve in will allow.
3. It tempts church leaders who face a slow growth rate, or a plateau, to take organizational steroids. Instead of accepting God’s ordained size for our church and faithfully shepherding the flock God has given, we can be tempted to chase after the latest theory, hot-off-the-shelf programs, or worse, gimmicks, believing they will help us to keep growing. It is a mistake to believe that bigger is always better. But as we all know, steroids can make us bigger, but they do not make us healthier. If anything, steroids usually make the human body unhealthy. The parallels are obvious. Draw your own conclusions.
I wrote a related article back in July – The Tyranny of Always Striving for the Next Level – about this pressure to keep pushing for physical growth. It prompted a few comments. If you are interested in the subject: See Here
Here are the facts about PCC. We are a medium-sized church. That makes us larger than a lot of churches, but not as big as others. Our size has been determined by a lot of factors: our unique DNA, the spiritual receptivity in this community, the fertility of our harvest field, our building size, the limit of our seating capacity, or perhaps even the limits of our leadership abilities. It’s also a possibility that our current size is actually God’s will for us. Maybe it’s a combination of all these factors. Whatever the case, I’m resting in the knowledge that this is the size we are supposed to be for this season in our journey.
We’ve experienced steady, consistent growth over the years, and it has been ‘healthy’ growth. Yet we find it difficult to break through the threshold of the next level, so this may be our optimum size. One thing is for certain, we are so well established and healthy that, short of a colossal disaster, there’s little chance of a significant decline. We’re here to stay.
This is also the season for us to focus on spiritual maturity like never before. We want to keep going deeper, not just broader.
Along the way I’ve been challenging men to step up and fill their God ordained rolls in the home and the church, and this has had the positive effect of closing the gender gap at PCC. We’ve also begun talking about inter-generational ministry – emphasizing the importance of the age groups becoming more integrated together rather than being structurally segregated. This is helping to close the generation gap.