Summary: I want the church to grow because it is God’s desire but I really don’t want people I am afraid of to worship here.
This idea came from notes I recieved from my Mentor Jerrie Barber.
I Want The Church to Grow But I Don’t Want Any More People
During the summer of 1993 I was working with a missionary congregation in South Georgia. We were having a Men’s meeting to discuss how our summer had gone and the preacher at this congregation was addressing the group. To put it mildly the preacher was flat wore out. He had just returned from directing a week of camp that followed a very stressful VBS. You could hear the weariness and frustration in his voice as he addressed the men of the church. “We need this church to grow! We need to seek and save the lost! We need to reap the harvest! And I cannot do this alone. I need every family every member to share this load.” And he went on and on pleading with the men to get involved and do something. Then he finally asked the men “Do you want the church to grow?”
There was silence in the room as the men looked at the floor, the ceiling, and the walls anywhere but at some one else. Finally after what felt like an eternity one of the men spoke up and said, "Yes, I want the church to grow, but I don’t want any more people here." You could have heard a pin drop. I was appalled, and refreshed at the same time. I couldn’t believe what he had just said but I was excited about his honesty.
He went on to explain that he wanted the Church to Grow because that is what God desires, but he wasn’t so sure that it needed to grow in this small South Georgia town. It would be great if the church would grow in Valdosta, or Columbus, or even Atlanta but you know it could make it uncomfortable, and was sure to cause a ruckus if all these new people started showing up here.
If we were to be totally honest with one another we would have to admit that this brother in Christ is not alone. Most of us don’t like to fight or deal with stress or any type of hassles. And I have never seen a church grow without some type of conflict. And that is not new with us. From the very beginning of the Church there has been conflict with Church growth. Let’s look at Acts 6:1 – 4 and we will see a church on the grow and in conflict.
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
You see the church wasn’t even a year old and they were already struggling with the problem of growth and they were in conflict. You see the Hebrews were letting the Hellenists know that they were not wanted in the church. That’s why they were neglecting their widows. The wanted to serve and worship with people that they chose and the Hellenists were not the chosen ones.
And you know I have been in churches from California to New York, Canada to Florida and I see the same thing happening 2000 years later. Now we may have different ways of handling it but we still let people know that they’re not wanted.
For example there are subtle ways that we handle it.
The first way is called screening: Screening is done by a subtle movement of your body, if someone you don’t want at church comes up to talk to you or the group you are talking with you just move a little so the person is behind you.
The Next way is Exclusion – This is a little less subtle. We do this by inviting someone to a function (out to eat, over to play cards, to a movie) but not the person that is standing right there.
Finally there are Family Secrets – Family Secrets rule the world. There are little things that are taboo in every congregation.
I worked with a church one time where there were flowers that were placed on a ledge behind the pulpit. Every season a dear Sister would change the arrangement just as she has done for the last 40 years. In the summer of 2002 a new family had placed membership and wanted to donate some live flowers to freshen up the place. No one told them about the rule, of not touching the flowers. It wasn’t written down, it wasn’t covered in the new member handbook, but everyone, but the visitors and new members, understood it. The family went to the building one Saturday and made the mistake of “fixing” the flowers. Well about 10 minutes before Sunday School people started rolling in and there was the new family waiting to hear people ohh and ahh about the beautiful flowers. Unfortunately the Ohhs and Ahhs never came and what happened was not to pretty and the new family spent their last Sunday with us.