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Let’s Declare War on the Church-Growth Movement

Stan Moody

I was a late-comer to pastoral ministry, having spent a considerable portion of my adult life chasing the American Dream of prosperity and success. Entering seminary at age 48, I was suddenly confronted by a most insidious, counter-Christian prosperity scheme, the church-growth movement (CGM).  CGM was the application of the American Dream business ethic to the Confessing Church. I couldn’t get away from greed and ego to save my soul!

Why, you might ask, would church growth be a problem? We only have to look at the status of the Confessing Church in America today to answer that question. CGM simply canonized the role of ego in Kingdom work and delegitimized the call of Jesus to selfless service.

Out with the sovereignty of God and in with building our own kingdoms:

It began with a scheme of feeding pablum to the masses in the hopes of bringing them to the meat as their interest in the things of God deepened. The ego gratification was, however, too addictive for pastoral CEOs. It left thousands of impoverished pastors of tiny churches vulnerable to their congregations that had become programmed to lust after prime time.   

After 5 decades of promoting Christianity-Lite to middle-class suburbanites, Evangelicalism finds itself with no best option but to turn America politically into a theocracy that values select moral codes over righteousness. The seeker-sensitive model of worship has succeeded in driving some into church shopping and others into quietly exiting out the back door.

Do the mega-pastors and their flocks blame themselves for this debacle? No; it’s the liberals/progressives outside the Church who are to blame, affirming that the God in whom we profess to believe may well be impotent. Our crosses, which we are commanded to pick up daily in following Jesus, have been traded in for political strategies to win a culture war against the paralyzing fear of minority status. Attention! Minority status is the divinely prescribed way of Life, praise God!

“All sin goes back to, ‘I want to be somebody’”:

A dear friend of mine is under hospice care in his late-80’s. He had given his entire life to Christian service without owning anything material – not even a personal car – or building any legacy. Of all the lessons I had learned from Peter Willard of Chop Point Ministries, none made more impact than his statement to me, “All sin goes back to, ‘I want to be somebody’”. Welcome to evangelical America!

One writer tells it this way[1]:

The church growth movement has led to weaker community, weaker theological acuity, weaker biblical knowledge, and little understanding or appreciation of the historic liturgies of the church. With so many fewer connections between the church and its members, it should be no wonder that many are fading away from the church altogether.

How about more Christians with the guts to live out their faith?

Some would say that we need Christians sacrificially in love with the Church. I think it is far too late for that. Even love of the Church has a long history of creeping idolatry. What we need is more professing Christians with the guts to lose the cultural war with grace, in church or out, touching a life here and a life there, and living in the joy of being fellow citizens of the Kingdom of God while aliens and strangers in any other nation or kingdom, including the good old USA. 

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).


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