There have been many discussions over on another blog about the future of Calvary Chapel. Much of it is very good and very edifying… and some of it is absolutely mind-blowing in a “…did that guy actually say that?” sort of way.

One of the recent discussions revolves around the question, “What if your church never experiences numerical growth?” Good question. There are several factors involved in examining the question before answering it:

  • What is the character of the people the Lord brings to you to minister to? Are they naturally itinerant?
    • This is an important one for us here on the Lakeshore, as the Lord has drawn together a wonderful group of people who for whatever reason are either unemployed or barely employed. As a consequence, there is a lot of “shuffling” as new people come in, but “older” people then move on due to job reasons, etc.
  • What is the actual point of the question itself?
    • Where in the Bible is numerical growth a sine qua non indicator of a church’s health?
      • Many of those arguing for numerical growth cite Acts, but then smack those who in turn cite Jeremiah & others as counter-examples upside the rhetorical head
      • Jeremiah & Noah were OT historical examples. Acts 2 is a NT historical examples.
        • We do not form our doctrine from historical passages – that’s part of the mistake of Pentecostals who insist that since “everybody” who was Spirit baptized in Acts spoke with tongues, that everybody should speak with tongues. Same class of error.
      • But where in the didactic passages – the Epistles – do we find that numerical growth is a vital sign RE: a church’s health that we need to obsess about?
    • Etc.

Bottom line: If you are called to a ministry, you are called to be faithful to that ministry, no matter what the outcome.

If we are shepherds and not hirelings, we won’t bail on the flock that God has set us over if they stop fulfilling or never do fulfill our expectations.

Especially extrabiblical ones.

Over and over and over again, I see shepherds being exhorted to faithful service to the Lord and to His kids.

Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. [I Corinthians 4:2]

Faithfulness is the watchword. Ironically, “fruitfulness” isn’t even in the equation. I believe, of course, that if you are faithful you will be fruitful, but not necessarily in the way some hubristically insist. But bottom-line: the obedience is mine; the results are His.

And I really do pray for those men who have bought into any other concept; if my faithfulness in ministering is tied to anything other than “this is what the Lord has called me to, and this is where I stay until He moves me on; God help me, I can do no other,” then I’m in for a very bumpy ride.

Which brings us to the title of this post.

In one of the comments I read:

”Just preach the word” is a mantra for some, but it is not enough (how many churches have you visited where the pastor faithfully preaches the word and the church isn’t growing?

I cannot begin to describe the sadness I felt upon reading this. I hope it’s still the minority opinion in our movement… but I am beginning to fear that it is an outlook that’s gaining steam.

And if it is – if this sentiment has become our implicit philosophy, then to answer the question as to what is the future of Calvary Chapel, I fear greatly that the outlook is very, very bleak, indeed.