Random Musings about Life, the Universe, and Everything.
There's truth there, but I wonder how far we can take the analogy. If nature is our model, then all churches will someday die. This conflicts with Justin's other post, "Don't let your church end up on Pinterest." If nature is our model, doesn't that mean that all churches with "end up on Pinterest" someday? And to bring it closer to home, are some pastors actually called to "hospice care"? To pastor a church to its death? I'm not sure what that would look like and I can't see how anyone with a pastor's heart would be comfortable in that role.I'm not saying the analogy is wrong, I think it's right, but I find the final conclusion of the stream of logic quite uncomfortable.
I actually think that the analogy is wrong. The point is not for us to overanalyze the analogy of growth and follow it through maturity and death. The reason to point out that maturity typically ends growth is to show where the analogy fails. The analogy inherent in the terminology comes from us, not from the Bible--the Bible discusses "disciples being added," not the growth of the church.Where I think Justin gets it most right are his itemized points at the end of his post. The problem with fixating on growth is that it leads pastors into schemes for getting more sheep instead of tending to the ones God has already given them. It also breeds discontentment, envy, and self-condemnation when the expected growth does not occur.
I agree with focusing on discipleship instead of growth, of course, but the issue is still "disciples being added." One can be not "fixated" on growth but still be concerned about the lack of "disciples being added." For example, if a pastor is focusing as best he can on "tending his sheep" and discipleship yet seeing his church shrink, how can he not be troubled? How should he prevent the approach of Pinterest?I still wonder if churches actually do have life-cycles. Scripture may not discuss it, but it seems an all too common experience.
I think it's (almost) inarguable that churches do have life cycles--that is, if we're talking about the local church in the US, where churches are organized (and incorporated) like businesses. Businesses also have life cycles, and the local church suffers the same issues that businesses do--the big box store comes in and puts all the mom and pop shops out of business.Someone replied to the Pinterest blog mentioning that in some cases churches have outgrown their buildings and been unable to sell them. But we all know that a lot of churches fail and close their doors as well. Part of that is the fact that fewer and fewer people go to church simply because "that's what nice people do on a Sunday morning." Part of what we're seeing is the visible church being whittled down to the size of the invisible Kingdom--which may not be all bad.