Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Presence-Driven Church Rejects "Success"

Image result for john piippo success
Holland State Park (Michigan)

(My new book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church. See especially my chapter on how secular marketing language has colonized the American Church, and what we must do to de-colonize ourselves.)

The Presence-Driven Church removes the word “success” from its vocabulary. This results in the slow death of the quantitative measurement tools of the Church Growth Movement.

The Church Growth Movement arose in the late twentieth century. Gary Black describes it this way.

“To track the quality of church membership, [Donald} McGavran suggested modern quantitative accounting methods to evaluate and measure specific determiners of church “success.” Therefore, the CGM methodology gradually emphasized the accumulation, public reporting, and management of key metrics and measurements of congregational accomplishment.”[1]

The Church Growth Movement focused on numbers – of new converts, of membership growth, of church service attendance, and of financial giving. Black writes that “Seeker Sensitive” or “Seeker Driven” churches are the logical and historical culmination of the Church Growth Movement. “If “crowds, cash, and converts” are growing, then successful contextualization of the gospel into the culture is believed to have occurred.”[2]

The Seeker Church eventually morphed into the Entertainment Church, for that is its logical outcome. The Entertainment Church applies “the latest, modern consumer marketing techniques and technologies is essential for displaying cultural acumen, creating an entertaining atmosphere, and maintaining brand loyalty in a competitive religious marketplace. The technology and marketing efforts focus directly on the Sunday morning “worship service.””[3]

Seeker-driven worship, at its quantitative worst, becomes the creation of a performance event, a spectacle, meant to entertain, for the sake of being successful. Essentially, the Entertainment Church exists for its own sake.

Presence-Driven Churches are vastly different from this. Numbers are not completely irrelevant. If you are a pastor of one hundred Jesus-followers, and this Sunday not one of them is in the house, surely God is trying to tell you something. But “presence” massively overwhelms “numbers.” Keeping this clear, as expressed in how we talk about Real Church, slowly heals the incessant guilt and shame that accompany leaders in consumer-driven churches.

What if your church had but two, maybe three, followers of Jesus? The Entertainment Church would consider that a massive disaster. Jesus, however, would not view things that way. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.[4]


In the Presence-Driven Church, better are three gathered in his name than a thousand colonized elsewhere.


My first book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God. 
You can contact me at:

[1] Gary Black, The Theology of Dallas Willard: Discovering Proto-Evangelical Faith, p. 34
[2] Ib., p. 35
[3] Ib.
[4] Matthew 18:20