For much of the last half of the 20th century principles of “church growth” have been at the forefront. The primary concern of many churches has been to meet the felt needs of people in order to get them to “come to church.” In many cases the results have been nothing short of amazing.

Toward the end of the 20th century many voices began to be heard questioning the underlying assumptions of the “church growth movement.” Surprisingly, many of the critics of the mega-church movement have come from within the movement itself. In summary, the concerns and observations are:

•          The initial inquiry seems to be limited to: “What will make this church grow?”

•          The orientation and perspective of the question is heavily weighted on human beings—what do the people need (want) and how can this church reach out to meet those needs (wants)?

•          The orientation and perspective of the church’s response to the answer to the question is, “Whatever works (makes this church grow numerically) is what we’re going to do.”

What too often happens in these mega-churches is that the adherents become passive, shallow spectators rather than active, mature, Christian disciples. Ask a Pastor of one of these churches and he or she will most likely confirm this phenomenon.

And so the concerns about the church growth movement are valid and the criticism is very much needed. However, it is my judgment that what is needed is godly balance rather than a reactive extremism expressed in isolationism (“they’ve gone completely off the deep end; we’re the only ones who love Truth, whatever they are doing must be avoided at all costs, they are evil, etc.”)

Such a balance, I am convinced, can be achieved by careful reflection upon and intentional practice of the incarnation—a blend of the divine with the human. There is much to learn from the church growth movement. There is also much to avoid. Perhaps if we reflect carefully on the incarnation we can discern the difference, make the necessary adjustments, and achieve a godly balance.

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