Churches that Don’t Grow

March 29, 2006 by

Great post by Mark Wilson at Revitalize Your Church:

  • Percentage of McDonald’s franchises that did not sell a hamburger last year: 0%
  • Percentage of Ace Hardware stores that did not sell a hammer last year: 0%
  • Percentage of Salvation Army outlets that did not help a needy person last year: 0%
  • Percentage of state universities that did not educate a student last year: 0%
  • Percentage of airlines that did not fly a plane last year: 0%
  • Percentage of WalMarts that did not sell merchandise last year: 0%

Now I know this may cause a knee jerk reaction… Christ isn’t a product, the church is a holy place not a supermarket, etc. I get that. But maybe, just maybe, it’s time the church take its “business” as seriously as any other organization does.

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Michael Buckingham

With the goal of making the church the most creative place on the planet, Michael founded Holy Cow Creative, the church’s creativity and design studio. He is the former creative director for the Center for Church Communication and Church Marketing Sucks, and is currently the experience pastor at Victory World Church in Atlanta.
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17 Responses to “Churches that Don’t Grow”

  • Ryan
    March 29, 2006

    Maybe … but the argument from this statistic is less strong if you don’t assume that the church’s “business” is receiving members by profession of faith.

  • Nathan Smith
    March 29, 2006

    Ryan: That’s true, except for the fact it IS the church’s “business” to make disciples of Christ. If not, we’re just a self-sustaining country club, and we’re just wasting our time and money. If that’s the case, I’ll just sleep in on Sunday instead, thanks.
    Michael: I went to a mainly United Methodist seminary, and applaud you for having the guts to blog about this. I got to see first-hand just how legalistic many of the UMC practices are, and how much we pat ourselves on the back for adhering to church tradition, as opposed to actually preaching the Biblical gospel.

  • RC of strangeculture
    March 29, 2006

    Nathan thank you for your comments so that I didn’t have to direct similar comments to Ryan.
    –RC of

  • Jesse J. Anderson
    March 29, 2006

    Hmm, yah I agree with what he’s trying to say but I think the model is a pretty weak one. Comparing the selling of a single hamburger versus convincing someone to make a huge life-altering decision?
    That’s like saying the average McDonald’s sold WAAYY more more hamburgers than the average car-dealership sold cars.

  • A Bob's Life
    March 29, 2006

    What Is Our Business?

    Church Marketing Sucks talks about non-growth in churches. The post compares the work that churches are supposed to be doing. It’s an interesting look at what we do (or not). Of course, churches are supposed to be about a lot more than just ev…

  • Elizaphanian
    March 30, 2006

    Making disciples is not the same as making converts. A church can succeed tremendously in discipleship making without having a single extra convert all year – and will be fulfilling our Lord’s commands thereby.
    But it’s a very thought-provoking list.

  • Anthony D. Coppedge
    March 30, 2006

    Elizaphanian wrote:
    “Making disciples is not the same as making converts.”
    I agree with that, but it’s not an either/or proposition – it’s both/and.
    We are to make disciples (succeed tremendously in discipleship), but that discipleship isn’t truly succeeding unless those disciples are making converts! It’s not “either we make disciples OR we make converts” – it’s “we make disciples AND we make converts!”
    How can someone have a full year of “successful discipleship” and not be about the business of living out the Great Commission? That doesn’t jive.
    As to the stats above – don’t take them so literally. I don’t think anyone from CMS really thinks we should be trying to compare life-changing salvation to a $.99 Big Mac. But the point they make is very simple and very obvious: If you’re not making NEW disciples, what the heck ARE you doing all year long?
    – Anthony

  • Sam Andress
    March 30, 2006

    mmmm…except the church global and local is not an organization like any other? They don’t have the same purpose, they don’t function on the same rules, and churches contrary to corporations are NOT SELLING GOD. Jesus never made it easy for people to follow him in a Hellenistic culture…would he make it easy for consumeristic-materialistic-idolotrous 21st century Americans?
    Besides what if God thinks your marketing campaign SUCKS!

  • s. zeilenga
    March 30, 2006

    But if we assume that making one convert would knock a church out of that 43% statistic then we are looking at a little under half of churches as not making a single convert. We aren’t talking of churches who made under 100, we are saying a church that didn’t see on person come to the Lord in a whole year. Statistics or not, that is not healthy.
    But unfortunately that statistic is also a reflection of us all. We should all be trying to knock out that 43%. MacDonalds doesn’t have a clause in their company telling customers they have to go tell the world about cheeseburgers…

  • Chris
    March 30, 2006

    Does the stat mean that no one was influenced to make a decision for Christ in the 43% of UM churches?
    Does the stat mean that no one made a decision for Christ as a direct result of these UM churchgoers’ witness or counsel?
    Does the stat mean that no children who were too young to become members made a decision for Christ at these churches in 2004?
    Every one of the 43% of the UM churches cited in the article could have been responsible for dozens of conversions (directly or indirectly–some sow, others harvest), but none of them resulted specifically in membership (as opposed to new or continued attendance).
    Which is not to say there aren’t lifeless UM (or any other denomination’s) congregations. But think of it this way: How many McDonald’s/Burger King’s/Wendy’s persuaded diners who had never eaten a burger before to eat only their brand in 2004? How many airlines persuaded new air travelers over the age of 18 to reject any other brand/method of transportation? How many WalMart shoppers bought everything they needed all year long only at Wallyworld? I think the UMC stats would look better by comparison, and fortunately UM church leadership is seeing the need to do even better in the future.

  • Todd Ramsey
    March 30, 2006

    Aside from selling a product that people want, those organizations are meeting people where they are, something that churches have not been the best at.
    While catering to today’s consumer-driven society can be dangerous and potentially shallow, not recognizing where seekers are is significantly more dangerous and shallow.

  • Jane
    March 30, 2006

    Until the UM and most other denominational churches turn their focus onto Jesus, and off numbers, they are going to continue to dry up and die. The United States is full of revival among bodies of beleivers who are seeking Him, rather than seeking financial support for their institutional hierarchy.

  • Sr. Mary Hasta
    March 30, 2006

    Jane, I’d argue that those who are ‘focused’ on Jesus and are growing are just as concerned about financial support as any other church.
    I think this article is definately something to think about. However, I also must look at my own life: this year I moved to a new state and have begun supporting two parishes with my prayers, presence, gifts and service (take the girl out of Methodisim, et cetera), but I have not stood in front of either of those parishes and made a ‘profession of faith’ or petition for membership or anything else (beyond a pledge card for a ridiculously meager amound, I may not be a ‘real nun’, but I sure get paid like one). So, I would not be counted in such a percentage cited above, but I’m still a member of these communities.

  • Aaron
    March 31, 2006

    I am sick (and tired) of hearing people say “well ya know it’s not about the numbers”. That is a defeatist attitude. You would never hear the promoter of a concert say “well, the stadium was only half full but those people sure did have a good time and thats all that counts.
    I gladly tell people about our rapidly growing church and take offense to anyone who suggests that we are doing anything other than sharing the message of Jesus Christ to bring them in.
    When you start to think of it as each time the number gets bigger there are that many more people who will spend eternity in paradise and not in torment, it becomes very much about the numbers.
    However being that we are all a part of the body and each part serves a different purpose. I don’t think a church is complete without having people who’s desire is to cast the net and bring in the the lost as well as people who’s desire is to teach and disciple the new christians. You need some fishermen and some disciplers. That is what causes friction in a lot of churches.
    The disciplers call the fishermen shallow and the fishermen call the disciplers legalistic or hung up on the details. We really should all learn to work together.

  • nuff blogged
    March 31, 2006

    How’s Business?

    Church Marketing Sucks posted something interesting this week:
    * Percentage of McDonald’s franchises that did not sell a hamburger last year: 0%
    * Percentage of Ace Hardware stores that did not sell a hammer last year: 0%
    * Percenta…

  • suck off
    October 9, 2009

    Funny how y’all church goes gather here to have your stupid nit-picking conversations about rather worthless crap. Good to know y’all don’t have lives..I thought for a minute I’d missed out on something…. but again… it’s all about marketing, numbers, and getting just one more person into your box of rules…. so I am happy about the life I lead and grateful I don’t have these WORRIES you people have… geesh.

  • James (Not "The" James)
    January 28, 2010

    The world’s largest commercial real estate company has started a division just to sell churches – tells you something…

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