Tag: church health

If God were GM, He would close a lot of dealerships

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Both General Motors and Chrysler have announced that up to 25% of their dealerships will not have their franchises renewed.  Reasons cited were:

  1. Some dealers did not carry the full brand lineup. Chrysler wants dealers who carry their entire line from trucks to cars to Jeeps.
  2. Some dealers also carried competitors’ brands. That’s pretty common in smaller communities where one dealership might carry brands and models most suited to their market.
  3. Most of these dealers under-performed. Chrysler said that 25% accounted for only 15% of its total sales.
  4. Some brands are being discontinued. Wouldn’t want to be a Pontiac dealer right now, would you?  Also, Saturn, Hummer, and Saab are on the chopping block one way or another at GM.

But what if we applied that same criteria to churches?  Would your church be in business next week?

Some churches don’t carry the full lineup.  Many prefer to emphasize only the spiritual side of the faith, while leaving off any attempt at physical ministry.  Others are just the opposite, with lots of social programs, but little in the way of evangelism and discipleship.  You get the picture.  Should these churches keep their doors open?

Some churches carry the competitor’s brands, too. Okay, we’ve got to tread carefully here, but I’m thinking particularly about Fred Phelps’ church, Westboro Baptist.  They spew hate and venom towards any and everyone at any opportunity they can get.  They would be the extreme example, but other churches also help the “competition” by either not living the difference Christ makes or by taking a stand in an unloving manner.

Some churches under-perform. GM and Chrysler use an objective criteria to weed out the under-performing dealers — sales numbers.  But, some churches also under-perform in attendance, missions, programs, and outreach.  What should happen to these churches?  I have often contended here that we need to measure more than attendance, especially in small churches; but, even when measuring other factors some churches aren’t cutting it.  What should they do?

Some brands are being discontinued. Denominational identity is fading, as are a host of other emphases that once were very popular.  Remember the 1970s charismatic movement, or spiritual gifts surveys?  Lots of “brands” come and go, and if a church is heavily invested in one narrow perspective, it may find itself out of business in a changing culture.

Fortunately, God is not GM or Chrsyler and churches aren’t dealerships.  Churches tend to rise and decline in an organizational life cycle which can be accelerated by forces outside the church.  But even if we aren’t automotive dealership managers, it might help us to take an inventory of effectiveness periodically.  We might be either surprised or horrified at the result.  What do you think?

5 Church Growth Lessons from Your Garden

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” — Paul, I Cor 3:6

Our garden plot. We have an organic vegetable garden this year, which got me to thinking about growing churches. Knowing and doing are two different things in both gardens and church growth. I thought I knew a lot about gardening until we started the vegetable garden this year. Here’s what I’ve learned about growing churches from our garden experience so far–

  1. Preparing takes work and time. We have been working on our garden plot for weeks. We built four 4’x4′ raised beds, a fence, a garden gate, hauled in mulch, bought compost, peat moss, and vermiculite, mixed it all together, and filled the beds. We’ve spent time and money just getting ready. And, we haven’t even planted anything in the garden yet. Which should give us a clue about church growth, both numerical and spiritual. Preparing the “soil” takes time. Jesus told a parable about different soils and there’s nothing like preparing your own garden soil to drive that truth home.
  2. We can’t grow bananas. Bananas will not grow in Chatham, but tomatoes and beans will. So we’re not trying to grow bananas, even though there are other gardeners in other places — Florida, California, Mexico — who grow bananas successfully. We can’t copy other gardeners and their crops because we have to figure out what grows here. Ditto for churches. Rick Warren wears a Hawaiian shirt at Saddleback; I wear a black robe here in Chatham. Neither is right or wrong, but both work in their own context.
  3. Some plants need special help, others don’t. We planted tomato, cucumbers, and pepper seeds in sprouting trays that we’re starting inside where the temperature is warm and we can keep an eye on them. Other seeds we’ll plant directly in the ground when the weather warms up. Some plants will survive frost; others won’t. Not all plants are alike. If plants are this different, think about people. Willow Creek just discovered that their one-size-fits-all program didn’t work either.
  4. Harvest will not come quickly. Tomatoes take about 70-days from garden-to-table. So, we’re patient, but attentive to the signs of growth and productivity. Plus, a lot happens between planting and harvesting — weeding, fertilizing, pruning, protecting, and watering the plants. Same in church — there’s lots of time between beginning and maturity, and that requires work and patience.
  5. We won’t be able to eat it all at once. We have 72 tomato plants. Some are slicers, some for sauces, and some for canning. We’ll eat some fresh, make some into sauce, and can the rest. In other words, we’re already planning how we will conserve the results of our labor. The last thing most churches need is a hundred new members because most of our congregations aren’t prepared for a big harvest. Figure out what you’ll do with the harvest when it comes in.

Jesus used a lot of agricultural analogies to illustrate the kingdom of God. Plant a garden yourself and you’ll have a new appreciation for their meaning. But in the end, God makes both church and garden grow.