pastors (3)

GUEST POST: Reassess the Church Growth Movement

Karl Vaters works hard to be fair minded in giving his accurate assessment of the Church Growth Movement (CGM). He knows it well, and I believe it's own proponents and practitioners would appreciate his descriptions.

Undoubtedly, they will disagree with his disagreements, but he is not backing down. He believes in de-sizing the church. Which does not mean he is a proponent of small churches, but he believes a fundamental issue about the church growth movement has reshaped the church in the last 50 years. We are looking again at his new book, De-Sizing the Church: How Church Growth Became a Science, Then an Obsession, and What’s Next.


Photo by Al Elmes on Unsplash

In a later chapter, Vaters discusses three phases through which the church has gone through in his life. These resonated with me. The three are revivalism of the 50s-70s, strategizing at the end of the 20th century, and social activism – the rest of this paragraph is all mine – which formed into antagonistic poles from the days of Ronald Reagan on. Progressives sometimes complain that conservatives are overly politicized. But conservatives complained about progressives being involved in political activism well before the days of Ronald Reagan. A new book, which I have not read or seen, argues that Christian nationalism is a reaction to the progressivism of Protestant mainline churches. I believe there is enough blame to go in both directions.

The church growth movement, as practiced, emerged in his “strategizing” phase of the late 20th Century. The author does not say this but the church growth movement is incompatible with the activism phases at work in the church today.

I want to sketch in my own terms briefly where he thinks the church growth movement went sideways. Then we will turn to what he thinks is critical to develop if the church is going to right its course.

To begin with, the fundamental movement sideways was measuring success on the basis of numbers. The bigger the number, the more successful. Furthermore, from the business world discussions of strategy, mission statements, and vision statements entered the church through the church growth movement’s major practitioners. Increasingly, fewer and fewer pastors had theological and biblical expertise and became entrepreneurs and leaders who could fill the seats.

Another fundamental problem that the author finds in the church growth movement was an obsession with methodology, which is the current vogue term for method. Pushing back against old fashioned stale methods led to preoccupation with better methods, which tail began to wag the dog. In other words, get the right method and the right results will follow.

One element of the church growth movement, but by this I mean especially the megachurches that I have been connected to, experienced, read about, or heard about, was what the author calls “toxic positivity.” Negative talk about anything seems to be verboten. Which was one of the reasons when scandals became news that so many in many of these churches did all they could not only to silence the critics but to preserve the reputation of the church. A church that does not recognize the importance of confession and honesty may give way to a positivity that prevents confession when confession is needed.

Of course, we have all recognized that the church growth movement, as it was going sideways, and this sideways action was often done by specific practitioners of the church growth movement’s ideas, was to platform pastors with proven success when success was measured by numbers. So conferences developed at megachurches to reveal to wannabe megachurch pastors how they did the job.

Vaters is aware of the significance of the suburban nature of the church growth movement. He is also aware that the suburban nature of these churches led to ethnocentrism and what I want to call “econo-centrism.” The sideways movement of the church growth movement was planted in suburbs and flourished for only a certain demographic. [SMcK: White folks, middle and upper class. Which is also why that demographic was fertile for a specific kind of political partisanship.]

My experience with pastors in the United States is that the church growth movement, combined as it was with these massive conferences at mostly suburban megachurches, diminished small churches, degraded small church pastors, and led to arrogance on the one side and shame on the other. A number of pastors have told me they quit attending the conferences because they knew in their community the ideas could never be implemented. They were looking for conferences by pastors who pastored people, regardless of the size of the church.

Vaters pleads for “integrity as the new competence.” Integrity, of course, is not really a new version of competence but the alternative, which leads to an entirely different church and culture. He compares the Bigness-Integrity Gap alone these categories.

Bigness: efficiency, leadership, success, hustle, increase, growth, excitement, effectiveness, passion.

Integrity, and here he punts to the fruit of the Spirit, which all OK by me: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

For me, bigness measures numbers with reproducible methods while integrity points at Christoformity. Here’s how Vaters describes integrity:

We need to: 1. Do the right thing, 2. Every time, 3. For a long time, 4. With no agenda.

That’s wise. That’s virtue ethics in a simple formula; his idea of integrity is about character and culture formation.



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         Getaway at The Grahams'
From Freddie Steel - Mercy Gate International
Hello Pastor Phil,
I'm writing on behalf of my wife who has recently taken the position to manage the oversight of Billy and Ruth Graham's home as a sanctuary/getaway for pastors and missionaries.
The home is in beautiful Montreat, North Carolina and sits among a setting that is restful, quiet and heart-warming.  There is no charge for the week's stay.
The only criteria to be met in order to stay in the home of Billy Graham is one must have been in the pastorate for twenty years and does not comfortably have the means to enjoy such a timeof rest and renewal.
I am asking for your assistance in getting the word out.  The next step would be to fill out the application and e-mail it to my wife~ 
Billy's Homeplace was the idea of Daughter, Ruth, and actor Kirk Cameron whom, together, make this wonderful treasure available to the Lord's tired and weary soldiers.
Freddie & Mary Gaye Steel,
Mooresville, NC
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#ReimagineMINISTRY... through Transformational Coaching

6 reasons coaching is the best investment

By Robert E Logan on Jan 04, 2023 
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You are likely doing things very differently than you used to.
Whether your mission is to provide for your family, live into your gifts and talents, and/or make disciples,
even if you do everything differently your mission has stayed the same.
Coaching is more important than ever. For you. And for those you work with.
Here are 6 reasons that coaching may be the most important investment you make this year.

6 Reasons to Invest in Coaching in 2023

1. Change is now a constant

There has always been change, the speed of change—the rate of change—has accelerated dramatically. With so many things constantly in flux, how do you get your bearings?

How can you get perspective? Coaching is an investment in increasing your effectiveness during rapidly changing times. As people are coming out of crisis and looking for their new normal, it’s not the same world out there.

To the degree you can get your bearings, you can help other people get theirs and move forward effectively and confidently into whatever changes come next.  

2. Change is sudden, transition is not

Change can happen suddenly, but our adjustment to that change is what requires time and energy. Transitions move slower.

A volcano can erupt suddenly and without warning, but coping with the damages left in its wake can take years. Regardless of whether the change is good or bad, it takes time to accept it and adjust to it.

Coaching helps you strategically consider how to best adapt to whatever changes are affecting your ministry—as well as how to help your people adjust in healthy ways. As a leader receiving coaching, you can step back to see the forest for the trees—as well as the trees for the forest—so you can implement your action plans wisely, involving the right people and considering the best steps to move things forward.  

3. Fragmentation is a credible threat

We live at the interface of the analog world and the digital world. We have so many devices and programs and apps to structure our lives and ministries that we can get lost in them.

As a leader, you are pulled in different directions, and everyone seems to have access to you all the time. Everything vies for your attention.

If you want your ministry to span generations, you’re going to need to deal with that fragmentation. You’re going to need to cut clearly through all the clutter to maximize your work so it’s laser-focused toward the fulfillment of your calling.

Coaching provides a place to feel centered and focused. A coaching relationship is a place to slow down and see the bright spots and assess the progress in order to gain the perspective necessary to see the windows of opportunity that exist. 

4. In spite of everything, you’re still in the game.

You have hung in there through an unprecedented season of ministry, and you’ve probably taken more than a few hits along the way. The stressors have been significant and the world has become ever more isolating, even as it’s gotten louder and more crowded.

Coaching provides you with the encouragement you need to recognize that you’re really not in this alone—because it can feel like that sometimes. You need to feel like someone has your back and is invested in helping you keep making progress and moving forward. Because you’re still in the game, you need a coach.  

5. Your goal is better over bigger

Sure, you want to grow. But you also want to improve. You want to take the ministry to the next level, not just moving forward, but moving up, outward, and all around. And to do that, you need to not just be a doer of ministry, but a developer of other doers of ministry.

You need to move beyond leading personally into the investment in helping others to lead. That’s what a coach can help you achieve: the next level of magnitude.

You know if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll get the same results. And even if you’re successful right now, you want to go beyond that. You know new barriers will arise that you’ll need to tackle, new opportunities will arise that you need to be prepared to meet. Coaching helps you shift and reset your course before you hit your ceiling and plateau. Maximize your learning and stay ahead of the curve with coaching. 

6. You want to do less with greater impact

No one can do everything. You know you need to zero in on the few really important things that will make a difference. But do you really know what those few things are? And when you do know, how can you free up the time and energy to really dig in and work on them? The important things are rarely the urgent things. Coaching helps you sort your priorities, determine what will provide you with the most leverage, and then free up the time and energy you need to get the work done. It’s an investment in helping you use your limited energy in the most strategic way possible to release ministry. 

Get excellent coaching

Even if you’re already getting coaching, take this time to reevaluate. The new year is a good time to focus your coaching agenda to maximize your own development as a leader and also to maximize the potential of your ministry. Take stock. Do you need to reproduce what you’re trying to work on? Are you working on the one thing that will really make the greatest difference? 

Bob and Gary are currently taking on new coaching clients. Whether you are looking for coaching or a coach-mentor you can work with some of the best! Contact us to learn more.

Invest in excellent coach training

With coaching, people can move from surviving to thriving. Ministry is more than just about keeping your head above water. Take leadership to the next level.

Take your people development to the next level. You’re not just running a program—you’re biggest investment is in the development of people. In doing so, you’re increasing the capacity to fulfill the mission. 


Upcoming Coaching Training Opportunities

Jan 2023- The Coaching Excellence Cohort

You are seeing some traction in your coaching ministry but feel like if your skills were more honed, you could be more effective. The Coaching Excellence Cohort is an investment in growing your effectiveness as a coach. It combines assessment with one-on-one mentoring and group webinars. Learn how to get $500 off tuition HERE.

April 2023- The Christian Coaching Essentials Cohort

Learn and practice the coaching essentials with Bob and Gary. This cohort is designed to give you a solid foundation in coaching principles and get you coaching with confidence. Learn more HERE.


Your situation is unique. That is why we offer several roads to becoming a coach and becoming the best coach you can be. Check out our GrowthTracks to find the best fit for you.

Cover Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash

Photo by Edge2Edge Media on Unsplash

The post 6 reasons coaching is the best investment appeared first on Christian Coaching Tools.


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