Monday, November 24, 2008

11 Characteristics of Successful Churches - 2. That-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named


This article from Hartford Seminary claims that 1,200 protestant churches are considered megachurches and while only representing less than 1% of all protestant churches, could represent as much as 50% of the total weekly church attendance.

Dallas and Houston have a total of 56 megachurches, which constitutes 4.5% of the total number of megachurches.

When I read these figures to my wife, Amy, she said, "Wow. That many church in Dallas are megachurches? Which ones do you think are megachurches?" When I told her that a megachurch is a church with 2,000 or more in attendance weekly she kind of rolled her eyes and said, "Well, yeah, there are that many here!"

And she's right! There are probably 5 such churches within a 5 minute drive from our apartment!

You'll find that many of the whirlwind of churches I have visited over the past few months fall into the megachurch category and of the few that don't, I feel that many of them will be there within the next 5 years or so.

I'm about to write something that is not popular among a number of my friends and colleagues. If you find yourself in either category, please skip the next sentence. For the rest of you, I will whisper.

I believe one indication of success is: Numerical Growth

I want to make it very clear that this is only one indicator of success, not the indicator of success. It's very possible for a church to be successfully changing lives through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ and not see much growth at all. But I believe this is the exception, not the rule.

Rick Warren said, "We count people because people count." I think that's a good way to think about it. Growth is not about the number of people, but about the number of people who are affected by the gospel. This is easy to forget when we're looking at a chart or spreadsheet, but each of those dots and numbers represents a person that Jesus cares about.

Also, Luke uses the numerical growth as an indicator of success in the early days of the church in his book of Acts.

Acts 2:41 - So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added.
Acts 2:47 - And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved.
Acts 5:14 - More and more believers in the Lord were added to their number, crowds of both men and women.
Acts 6:1 - Now in those days, when the disciples were growing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Greek-speaking Jews against the native Hebraic Jews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
Acts 6:7 - The word of God continued to spread, the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.
Acts 11:21 - The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
Acts 11:26b - So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught a significant number of people.
Acts 17:12 - Therefore many of them believed, along with quite a few prominent Greek women and men.

The point is that I believe a church involved in evangelism and outreach is very likely to grow over time. It is not a measuring stick, however, to say that one church is better than another because of size. It's just one indicator of success.

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