Saturday, July 21, 2018

5 American Myths of Successful Churches

'91 Ford Aerostar

I'm theologically in sync with Joseph Mattera's "Five American Myths of Successful Churches and Ministries." He writes: "Many of the ways American churches measures success are in fact direct violations of the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 23. In this passage Jesus speaks against people loving titles, celebrity status, and desiring prominent places in public events."

Much of this has to do with the metricization of the Church.

The 5 Myths are:

1. The size of the church shows success. The American church often measures itself numerically and monetarily. The early church did not. Paul's leading question to his churches (Ephesus, et. al.) was not: "How big is your church? 

Mattera writes: 

"Unfortunately many saints with low self-esteem or ego need to attend one of these “successful” churches because they feel it gives them status. This is a far cry from the early church that numbered in the thousands after the Day of Pentecost because of mass conversions and the contemporary persecuted church (for example, in Muslim nations) who often meet from house-to-house, break bread, and covenant with one another as brothers and sisters, and are willing to risk their lives for the gospel by being baptized! I am all for explosive church growth: the kind of church growth that involves mostly new converts rather than transfer growth."

Yes. If you see a new church that is "growing" rapidly, it's not real growth, but transfer growth (people shifting churches).

2. The amount of the budget shows success. The apostle Paul never asked his churches "What's the size of your budget?" As if budget size was some indicator of "success!" How could that be, since most of the first churches had no money, By American cultural standards they were failures.

3. The celebrity status of the leader shows success. In America we have a celebrity cult. In the early church people like the apostle Paul were cultural unknowns. So what? It did not seem to bother Paul that he was not posterized. Mattera writes: 

"In the past 30-plus years of full-time ministry I have seen many people who call themselves apostle, bishop, chaplain, or reverend who did not have the ministry, training, or the fruit to back it up." 

4. The title of the leader shows success. "Many believers equate success with the status that comes with a title." "Title" is the lowest level of leadership.

5. The affluent lifestyle of the leader shows success. For many years I drove a rusted out '91 Ford Aerostar. Did this mean I was failing as a pastor? And what about Jesus, who didn't even have a roof over his head?