You know what a maxim is right? No…I don’t mean that men’s magazine. Maxim: a short, pithy statement expressing a general truth or rule. Years ago the maxim, “All healthy things grow and reproduce” began to be used by the church growth experts to explain that if your church is healthy it will grow and reproduce. Therefore, if your church is not growing and reproducing…your church must not be healthy. This phrase comes up all the time when I’m talking to pastors of smaller churches. I believe we’ve become victims of a maxim.
First of all, not all healthy things grow and reproduce. Humans don’t keep growing. I stopped growing a long time ago, assuming that you don’t count gaining weight the same as growing, and I’m healthy. Women reach a point where they can no longer have children and we wouldn’t say they’re not healthy. “All healthy things grow and reproduce” is a neat phrase, it sticks in your head, but it’s a weak statement when used in the context of church growth. How is it that we have become victims of this maxim?
This is how it works. Let’s say you believe the statement “all healthy things grow and reproduce” applies to the church. Let’s say your church isn’t growing numerically. So now you begin to search for what is wrong with your church. If you can identify the area in which your church is not healthy and correct it then your church should begin to grow…right? Maybe…and maybe not. Healthy churches grow and unhealthy churches grow. One church does all the right things and stays small and another does all the wrong things and experiences growth. Go figure.
Now let me clarify…sometimes a church is doing things, or not doing things that actually create obstacles to growth. This is a very real possibility and one that needs to be explored. You can be so close to the situation that you can’t even see the things that might be preventing growth. I have a step by step process I’ve developed to help a congregation see their church through the eyes of a visitor and identify obstacles to growth. If you think this might be of help to you let me know.
Let’s come back to this maxim: all healthy things grow and reproduce. We’ve seen that not all healthy things grow and reproduce. I believe your church can be small and be healthy. Why one church grows and the other stays small is a mystery and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you assume the reason why your church isn’t growing is because something is wrong, if you invest time and energy in finding out what it is that is wrong, if you make the adjustments and still see no growth…where does that leave you? I’ll tell you where it leaves you, it leaves you even more discouraged and probably questioning yourself and your calling. Victim of a maxim. Don’t be a victim.
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