Church Growth: Growth at all Cost

Posted: August 14, 2011 in Church Praise and Worship
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In our trek towards the truth of the matter regarding Church Growth we need to begin by investigating the “marketing of religion” phenomena that has invaded our modern churches. As we look into church history we find that this movement initially came out of the observations of Donald A McGavran while he served as a missionary inIndia. As a result of his studies McGavran started the Missiological Movement as a pragmatic approach to planting and nurturing the growth of churches while founding the Institute o fChurch Growth. His whole approach to growth was based around adapting the church to the surrounding culture. Later Fuller Theological Seminary through such personas as Peter Wagner and John Wimber did much to popularize McGavran’s Church Growth principles.

In his book Leading Your Church to Growth Peter Wagner wrote: “The Church Growth Movement has boldly asserted that not only is church growth OK, but is the will of the Almighty God.” Consequently we find that within the core of the modern Church Growth Movement lies the notion that growth is the greatest good and anything that leads to growth is therefore good. “Growth first!” is the call of Church Growth advocates today. And this is regularly interpreted to mean getting more people and more money into theInstitutionalizedChurch.

When considering this “growth first” pronouncement one needs to take into account that there has been no time of greater church growth in history than the expansion of Christianity as witnessed in theEarlyChurchprimarily through the ministry of the Apostle Paul. When you look at what Paul did in the Book of Acts and what he said in his epistles, therefore, you should expect to find the most effective formula for growth and the model that the church should follow today. Yet when you read and observe these accounts in the Bible, you will not find the emphasis on “growth first” that we witness with modern Church Growth advocates. Rather the life and writings of Paul place a specific emphasis on ministry, evangelism and morality.

For that reason, the “growth first” philosophy of the Church Growth Movement today does not find its source in the Bible. Rather it is the humanistic philosophies of the world that lies behind the movement. And in the humanistic world, this ”growth first” philosophical system was introduced by an evolutionist named John Dewey. While breaking away from his philosophical predecessors Dewey determined that there are no moral absolutes. He resolved that man is good no matter how bad he is as long as he is seeking to be better than before. In other words, good can be equated with growth.

Accordingly, the adherence to growth as the greatest good is a secular worldview that was first promoted by a philosopher who sought to find meaning to life outside the confines of the Christian worldview. And many in Christendom have adopted Dewey’s growth philosophy as their mantra.

Dewey was an educator and devoted a large portion of his life seeking to institute his philosophy in the educational system. In his highly influential book, The School and Society, he formulated an educational theory based upon his evolutionary-based growth philosophy. In this work, Dewey developed a method and curriculum in the schools in which the child’s growth became the central concern.

The progressive schools that came out of Dewey’s efforts emphasized this concept of growth or progress above the assimilation of content. Therefore, as long as the student is moving forward in this educational scheme, it does not matter what has been actually learned. There are no educational goals other than growth, so no one has to get to any particular point within a specific time frame. In the educational community today this methodology is called Outcome-Based Education and it has dominated many of our public schools for decades now. As this growth philosophy has inundatedAmerica’s educational system we have seen learning dumbed down to such a point that kids cannot even pass the simplest of standardized tests.

In the same manner Dewey’s “growth as the greatest good” philosophy has taken over many churches. In their zeal to become like the world in order to expand we have witnessed church leaders dumb down everything from theology to music to the same deplorable level that our schools have descended to. The inclination today in many Christian circles is to put uneducated pastors in our pulpits and unlearned musicians at the forefront of our church services.

“The laity are begging for substance,” wrote Michael Horton in The Agony of Deceit. “They are often more anxious to deepen their faith than their pastors are to help them deepen it.” So today few of our young Christians really know their Bibles and few can appreciate the profound lyrical statements that are found in hymn liturgy. Few understand the attributes of God, so hymnology that speaks at this level escapes them. Many don’t even understand the nature of salvation nor do they hear about it in many modern worship and praise song texts. Indeed, Dewey’s growth dynamic has demonstrated itself to be the instigator of ignorance in every corner.

In creating a communist society in Russia, Stalin was primarily after the minds of the kids and he got to them by putting together a compulsory educational system that rendered children ignorant of the truth.[1] Likewise Dewey has dumbed down our mandatory schools to such an extent that our Constitutional freedoms are being slowly eroded by liberalism as we slowly but surely put on the cloak of Stalin’s socialism simply because the current uneducated populace of America does not understand the Constitution. In the same way, because of Dewey’s ever so popular “growth at all cost” theories that have mesmerized ambitious pastors, much of the church has been dumbed down while inhaling every bit of bologna that blows through the door. Consider the vulnerability that the Charismatic Church has to every wind and doctrine such as the Shepherding, Word of Faith and Inner Healing heresies and you’ll have adequate evidence of that fact. [2]

Cult Expert Ron Enrod declared, “People today are spiritually starving. Western society is now almost totally secularized – little satisfaction for spiritual hunger can be found in its institutions. Even the Christian church, in many cases, has lost sight of the meat and drink of God’s Word. The result is that many who ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness’ remain unfilled, craving food but not knowing where to find it.”

“. . . How urgently we need a return to biblical literacy in the church!” wrote Ron Rhodes in The Culting of America.

“The biblical illiteracy of this nation is truly abysmal,”Rhodesconcluded, ”And worse, the religious profile that emerges of the typical American Christian – at least in terms of Bible knowledge – is nothing less than frightening.”

Even the expectations for people’s lives have become watered-down with cop-out catch phrases such as “God is not through with me yet” being fostered to explain the fact that Christians continue to live in sin. Peter admonished: “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” (I Pet1:15-16 MKJV) Yet when many pastors speak of holiness these days it is in terms of the unattainable rather than the way we should live. In the same manner sin has become far more tolerable in the church because it is not expected that parishioners attain a certain level of saintliness. As long as they are at least progressing, no matter what sort of lifestyle they lead, everything is viewed as being OK. At least the person is on the right track.

C.K. Chesterson declared, “We do not want a church that will move with the world. We want a church that will move the world.” However, it has played out just the opposite in much of theContemporaryChurch. In a real way Christianity has been dumbed down through Church Growth strategies in order for the church to relate to the people who have been left intellectually bankrupt by Dewey’s educational system. The church has lowered the bar to become dumb for the sake of ministering to ignorance. It’s a self-perpetuating full circle of mediocrity that rolls down the path leading to even more ignorance and endorsed sin as time passes. And John Dewey is at its head.

Charles Spurgeon assured: “The only multiplication of the Church of God that is to be desired is that which God sends…If we add to our churches by becoming worldly…if we add to our churches by accommodating the life of the Christian to the life of the worldling, our increase is worth nothing at all; it is a loss rather than a gain. If we add to our churches by excitement, by making appeals to the passions, rather than by explaining truth to the understanding; if we add to our churches otherwise than by the power of the Spirit of God making men new creatures in Christ Jesus, the increase is of no worth whatever.” (from: Harvest Joy, Sermon No. 2265) (RT: Spurgeon.US)

[1] When the communist party first came into power, they proceeded to create a nation-wide system of education. After the revolution in 1917, primary and secondary education were made compulsory. In October of 1918, the Soviet government instituted the Unified Labor Schools, designed to lay down the principles of military atheistic and political education, strong polytechnical alignment, coeducation, instruction in the native tongue, and the training of teachers in a manner that would insure that the ideologies of the Communist Party were carefully conformed to. Likewise the Russian schools began to see themselves as the place where morality ought to be taught. They wanted to create moral individuals who could be productive in the society the Communists envisioned.

[2] “By using eisogesis (superimposing a meaning onto the text) instead of exegesis (drawing the meaning out of the text)” wrote Ron Rhodes in The Culting of America, “a Marxist interpreter could, for example, so skew the meaning of the U. S. Constitution that it would come out reading like a socialist document. Cultists and Word-Faith teachers have done the same type of thing with the Holy Scriptures. They have so skewed the meaning of the biblical text that it comes out saying something entirely different than what was intended by the author.”

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.”

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