Riverside has been blessed over the past year to have experienced numerical growth. Our Sunday worship service attendance has increased by over 25% this past year. We have all seen more people and experienced some cramping in various areas of our facility. This is great, but this does not guarantee that we are a "quality" church. I am fairly confident that if we started showing movies and providing free back massages every Sunday morning we would have lots of people show up, but we would not be the church as Christ intended.
What is a quality church then? A quality church is a community of Christians that consistently lead people to God and into lives wholly devoted to Him.
I have been working through these ideas and their implications on church growth by reading Christian Scwarz’s "Natural Church Development." He begins by saying, "we should not attempt to manufacture church growth, but rather to release the biotic potential which God has put into every church. It is our task to minimize obstacles to growth – both inside and outside of the church."
His point is a good one. God is responsible for growth. We plant the seeds and water, but God is ultimately the agent of growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6) Part of developing a quality church is fostering an environment in which God’s Spirit is not inhibited. And God’s Spirit does not function in one particular way. Each church is made of uniquely gifted and equipped people that God desires to use in a unique way where God has placed that church. It is thus unhelpful to simply pick a popular church and then seek to do exactly what they do. First, they may not even be a quality church, but second, every community of Christians has a unique call given their gifts, talents, and God-given passions.
We must learn to ask the right questions of ourselves. Why did God put us in this time and place? Why have we been given this particular resource, gift or talent? What is God trying to do in our community? Are we a part of that movement or are we only a part of our own movement?
I like the character of the church that Scwarz describes as "quality." "This is a church in which the leadership is committed heart and soul to church growth; in which nearly every Christian is using his or her gifts to edify the church; in which most members are living out the faith with power and contagious enthusiasm; in which church structures are evaluated on whether they serve the growth of the church or not; in which worship services are a high point of the week for the majority of the congregation; in which the loving and healing power of Christian fellowship can be experienced in small groups; in which nearly all Christians, according to their gifts, help to fulfill the Great Commission; in which the love of Christ permeates almost all church activities."
May we keep counting the numbers, but always emphasize the quality of them.