con-trar-i-an (noun): a person who opposes or rejects popular opinion; a person who goes against current practices.
Next August, 2019, I will celebrate (or lament) 30 years in pastoral ministry. That’s a long time! I don’t feel like I am that old, but I guess the years don’t lie. Over the years I have read and studied and applied countless “church-growth” techniques. Most of them have left me feeling frustrated and depressed.
Years ago I read a book called, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership. Ironically enough, I heard the author talk at a church growth conference. I was impressed, so I bought the book. It is one of the best books on leadership I have ever read. I liked the idea of taking everything I had learned about leadership and turning it on its head.
Not to long ago, while I was reflecting on my ministry and my years of being pastor, I had the following thought: What if I took everything I learned about church growth and turned it on its head? In actuality, that is what I did 11 years ago when I returned to Franklin, TN to restart a church I had previously pastored. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it and so I came up with 10 contrarian principles for church growth. If I were to write a book, the title and subtitle would be, A Contrarian’s Guide to Church Growth: “A handbook for the rest of us.” My theory is there are a lot of pastors, like me, who are tired of all the books and conferences and experts who tell you 10 ways to grow your church and after implementing those 10 ways your church doesn’t grow. Are there biblical principles about what it means to be a church, that if implemented, will not guarantee numerical growth, and in fact, may stifle if not halt church growth?
So, over the next several blogs, I am going to mention my contrarian church growth principles. And rest assured, I believe in and practice each one.
Contrarian Principle #1: Sunday morning worship should be an after-thought of the church week, not the main focus.
Have you ever stopped to think about all the resources a church spends on Sundays? Have you ever tried to calculate how much money and talents and energy the average church spends for one-hour each week? Is that wise use of our resources? Are we being good stewards of what God has given us? Is this really how God envisioned the church? Could our time, money, and resources be better spent serving the poor, visiting the prisoner, and taking care of the widow?
It’s almost like Sunday mornings are a production that requires incredible talent and teamwork to produce, and the first thing you do Monday morning is evaluate, correct, and story-board for the next Sunday. It’s almost like nothing else matters.
But here is the thing: If you take away from producing a highly energetic, and highly inspirational Sunday (or weekend) worship service, and use your resources on Luke 4:18-19 and Matthew 25:31-46 ministries, you will feel it in a loss of numbers and a shrinking budget.
So, if you are seeking to grow a church, don’t adopt this principle. But if you are seeking a new way to do church (which is really an old way), and if you are dreaming of a fresh anointing of the Spirit’s power, then go ahead, implement this principle. I dare you.