I have bad news, Waters Church. We didn’t make Outreach Magazine’s list of “The 100 Fastest Growing Churches in America.” While we are a growing church, it appears we aren’t one of the greats.
That could be for a few reasons. Perhaps we are doing something terribly wrong. Maybe we aren’t working hard enough as a staff. I suppose we could blame our area… it is a very hard region to reach with the Gospel. Or maybe I could blame you people in the seats! Maybe you need to stop being lazy and start inviting people. I mean, come on!
But my guess is, we aren’t on the list because we don’t submit our numbers to Outreach Magazine’s survey. I suppose if we don’t tell anyone these things, it won’t help us make their cut.
Okay, I’m being sarcastic, but I had to address this issue because I think it’s something relevant to the Church and our individual lives. Who doesn’t want to be on someone’s “greatness” list? This is part of the human condition and our inward bent toward self-justification. We all want to believe that what we are doing is counting for SOMEONE or SOMETHING larger than ourselves. Humans have been measuring ourselves against each other since Cain killed Abel. We compete with and conquer each other to vindicate our relevance in the universe. It’s part of who we are.
I fear the American Church has been swallowed up by American culture in an area that is far more subtle than the “big” sins: The culture of “consumerism and spreadsheet success”. We have Christian magazines that lead Pastors into comparison traps which drive them to self-justification or self-depreciation based on the results. This no doubt can yield a hazardous environment for serving others. NO church is called to be the gold standard of “churchianity.” All churches are called to “SERVE one another in love” (Galatians 5:13). I’m all for growing the church and we should do everything we can to reach our generation for Christ, but when we start measuring, we might stop ministering.
Competition and self adulation comes standard in America. Look at our professional sports. We have domestic football teams play a game on American soil detached from every other country and then we have the audacity to call the winners “WORLD Champions.” Hey, its the American way!
But is it the Jesus way?
No one gathered a crowd better than Jesus. But He freely confessed, “I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27). And there were times when He thinned the crowds with great regularity (see John 6). Paul preached faithfully in Athens and hardly anyone came to faith. The Apostles served the Lord but the world castigated and killed them. Success is not an American institution formulated by metrics and results. Success is faithfulness to Christ in our context and “laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16). If we continue to grow as a church, let it be because people feel loved, touched and changed by the life of Jesus in how we treat them, not our brand or style of 90-minute church services. And if you’re caught in the comparison trap in your own life, watch out. Nothing will make you less helpful to other people than when you see them as the competition. “Love… does not envy.” 1 Corinthians 13:4
Hope that helps.