Church Growth Vs. Gospel Growth: Which Is Your Church Pursuing?

In The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mindshift That Changes Everything the authors make the distinction between Church Growth and Gospel Growth.

Marshall and Payne write,

We talk a lot these days about church growth. And when we think about our lack of growth, we think of the lack of growth of our particular congregation: the stagnation or decline in numbers, the wobbly state of finances, and possibly the looming property issues.

But it's interesting how little the New Testament talks about church growth, and how often it talks about 'gospel growth' or the increase of the 'word.' The focus is on the progress of the Spirit-backed word of God as it makes its way in the world, according to God's plan. Returning to our vine metaphor, the vine is the Spirit-empowered word, spreading and growing throughout the world, drawing people out of the kingdom of darkness into the light-filled kingdom of God's beloved Son, and then bearing fruit in their lives as they grow in the knowledge and love of God...

This results, of course, in individual congregations growing and being built. But the emphasis is not on the growth of the congregation as a structure--in numbers, finances, and success--but on the gospel growth, as it is spoken and respoken under the power of the Spirit. In fact, New Testament congregations, as far as we can tell, were usually small gatherings meeting in houses. They were outwardly unimpressive, and had minimal infrastructure. But God kept drawing people into them by the gospel. Or to put it another way, Christ kept doing what he said he would do in Matthew 16. He kept building his church.

Here's to Christ continuing to build his church--through Gospel Growth, not necessarily Church Growth.

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