Last week we had a whole teach-in on 'Church-planting'. For those who don't know, that simply means starting churches where there aren't any. Some of it was quite thought provoking and lots of people have thought up models of how to do it. What we certainly don't need is another model. If that's your thing then Willow Creek, Rick Warren or a host of others are a good port of call.
I think churches grow because of people. It sounds obvious but surely the answer lies not in systems but people and potential. Lots of the people who spoke to us cited the Parable of the Sower as a justification for preaching the bible with seemingly no effect and calling this a strategy for church growth. I must say I just found some of this very depressing and I wouldn't wonder if others did too. If you don't seem to be enjoying the Christian life, it beats me why you expect preaching the bible at people is likely to encourage others to join in. Some wings of the church might benefit from cheering up a bit, a reassurance that it is OK to laugh on occassion and may beneift from spending a wee bit more time listening to the culture and a little less time in their own increasingly disconnected world.
Some seem to have been reading the book yet missed the man.
Are not the markers of a growing church more likely to be passion, compassion, mission, prayer and joy. For some schools of the church, joy is a dirty word but, to quote my new Californian friend Bill (see post below), 'Christians should be marked by joy'. Joy and happiness are not the same thing, with one being conditional on circumstances and the other not so. All these things start with the leader and without a leader full of joy and passion,I conclude it will be unlikely for their followers to spark these independently. How do some people with all good intentions think people want to come to a place they call church to be depressed, repressed and sapped of life when the Jesus I know seems to be, and experientially is, the antidote to those things.
So, I conclude, churches grow when leaders grow into a place of passion and fire such that those around them catch it too. The few I follow have this fire and I guess my task is to get it too. (Tim Keller, Rob Bell, David Carr, John Peters, Jon and Debbie Wright,). This morning, I read that the crowds were so desperate to be around Jesus that they trampled one another (Luke 12:1). When people start trampling one another to get to church we know somethings cooking.
I also discovered last week the song 'Because of you' by Kelly Clarkson. Great voice and she just goes to show what extraordinary talent lies undisovered in the highways and byways. She was spotted on American Idol and is now a superstar.