The closer you are to retirement the more you think about putting together a retirement plan. But if you’re 20 and come into a windfall of cash, it’s unlikely all of that money is going into a TFSA. Picturing ourselves in the distant future doesn’t come naturally.
Churches struggle in a similar way. We lack vision that extends beyond 3-5 years. Lead pastors can act like politicians, we hold enough direction for a term and little beyond. What we rarely see is vision casting that extends into generations.
In a previous post, I challenged traditional church metrics of ABCs in favour of just the Bs—counting baptisms with specific testimonies. My broad assertion based on anecdotal evidence (and counting a few myself) is the average large church at best baptizes around 1% of their congregation a year (so a church of 3000 will baptize 30). The number of people in those baptisms that account for the ‘never church’, however, is maybe 10% of 1% (so 3 people out of 3000). To me that’s low when we consider the resourcing a church of 3000 is blessed with.
Regardless of my accuracy (use your own church as the measurement, it probably won’t differ much) there’s is a silver lining.
The early church is often a reference point for the contemporary church. We strive for the growth that early church experienced over the course of 300 years. Certainly a worthy goal. A meagre few thousands at the start growing beyond thirty million by the end.
Have you ever done the math of how much that early church grew per year? If you do the math backwards the number may surprise you.
It’s about 3%.
That’s it. 3% of new believer growth a year. A church of 33 adds one person a year. Does that seem within reach? Does your church even see one person “come to faith” a year?
Although it’s easy to criticize the lack of growth in contemporary churches, some are big enough to have enough babies in a year to hit the number, this is a specific kind growth. Not church transfer growth or births, rather genuine conversion growth. 3% seems attainable, but there’s one caveat, we need patience that span centuries to see the affects of this multiplying movement.
How far does your church vision go? Does it extend into centuries?
It doesn’t. But it does consider the here and now, and right now the numbers are perhaps zero in terms of new conversions per year, or under 3%. So close, but yet so far. It means the church that can baptize about 1% of their members needs to triple that number to hit early church numbers. Or the church that’s baptizing 1% where a 1/10th of that 1% are people not born into a Christian household–they’ll have to see a 30-fold increase.
Sounds like a challenge, but it puts into perspective both the longevity we need and the possibility early church growth is achievable in the here and now. The former is in fact an opportunity, in a post-Christendom world, we need longer timeframes to live out the gospel in the neighbourhood anyways.
This post is based on an excerpt from the forthcoming book by Rohadi, tentatively titled, Adventures to Save a Dying Church. To learn more about visit www.rohadi.com.