Church Growth: An Informational or Discipleship Problem?

Most churches desire to impact people with the Gospel. For many churches, there is a recognition that people in their community do not know about their church and the great experience they can have at their church. Questions arise, how do we let them know about us? How do we best move our congregation to action to address this question?

This perspective assumes that people have an informational problem about their church. They don’t have the information. The assumption is that if the information was provided in a warm and welcoming format people would show up.

Thomas Rainer, in his book The Unchurched Next Door, states that many unchurched people who come to church will come if brought by a current attendee of the church. “As I have also indicated, inviting them and taking them into the church building is very important.” (Rainer, 246) Even the most resistant groups toward churches that Rainer studied would be open to a personal invitation to church (Rainer, 240). But current attendees are not inviting and the answer many churches arrive at is a professional presentation (advertising blitz) of our church will help them to get over the fear of inviting.

I wonder if in God’s great wisdom the best thing for churches is that the advertising campaigns are not successful. Why would I say such a thing? First if the tools worked, as we dream and pray they would, the churches would be unprepared for the influx of needs, questions, and growth opportunities that this mass of people would bring. They would simply overwhelm the systems of many churches.

Second, they would enjoy a great service but would they be able to engage in a helpful and meaningful way through the rest of the churches’ growth processes? The discipleship systems many churches have in place are not exceptional at producing disciples who actively engage others.

This goes back to the initial problem. People are not active and engaged enough in the community to provide the large scale introduction to their church. Again the problem is that churches’ internal systems are not actively producing, on a large scale, disciples who are impacting their world in a way that causes others to come and see why they are the way they are. It is not an informational problem, it is a discipleship problem.

2 thoughts on “Church Growth: An Informational or Discipleship Problem?”

  1. Good post John. When it comes to believers inviting their friends/ family/ neightbors/ etc. I believe that there are two overarching realities at play:

    #1. in an affluent culture, people (both churched and unchurched) tend to be compelled by relational rather than spiritual need.

    #2. If our churches are exclusively in the information business rather than transformation then we place ourselves in direct competition with every other information vehicle in society. Simply put, when we lose the element of the supernatural we become one more square in the crowded waffle of peoples’ lives.

    1. Great points Ben! The difficult thing for people in the “minsitry world” is that we are in a sense competing with every other information vehicle. I think one reason ministry leaders run to the “publicity” side of things is because they see how it works in the world and want to see that same type success in their churches and ministries.

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