The Bible commands churches to grow. What kind of growth does the Bible require?
Many brethren would say the Bible requires spiritual growth and that is correct. Yet, the way many church leaders act only numerical growth is desirable.
How are preachers selected? Many are hired by elders and/or committees by the single most prevalent yardstick: numerical growth. In my more than 30 years as a preacher, I’ve seen it dozens of times. Many congregations of the Lord’s church hire preachers by how many baptisms were recorded at that candidate’s current work and how many new members are documented.
Not every church is like this, but many of them are. The alarming thing is that numerical growth was never commanded in the New Testament. Never.
The New Testament does command spiritual growth, but many congregations don’t know how to gauge that “metric,” so they don’t concern themselves with it. Why don’t they know? Don’t they understand how spiritual growth occurs? Why don’t they equate spiritual growth with success? Isn’t that how God views it?
The apostle Peter wrote about how Christians are supposed to grow. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” (2 Peter 3:18 NKJV). The apostle Paul also wrote, “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ,” (Ephesians 4:15 NKJV).
The Bible says that spiritual growth is necessary. Yet many brethren don’t even know what constitutes such growth. The answer is simple. If the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth of God’s word is preached, then spiritual growth occurs.
I have seen churches acquire 200 members almost overnight. That is not necessarily spiritual growth, though, is it? In one case I witnessed, a 30-member church ballooned to 230 members on one Sunday because a division occurred at a large church not far away. Some might consider that a success. The only characterization that deserves is sadness.
Why is it that some elders and search committee members use numerical growth to indicate professional success? They do it because it’s easy. But the truth is often never easy. The truth is that some charged with hiring preachers are not engaged by trying to find one that will help grow a church spiritually like they should and instead go for the quick fix they believe will give their congregations want they want: numbers.