Momentum Thinking

Church Growth At Any Price?
The collapse of Enron has been one of the big financial headlines for months. With two top executives currently on trial, the discussion of this corporate disaster has again heated up. What exactly caused this once-major player to stumble?
Robert Bruner is dean of the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia. In an article in “U.S. News & World Report” (May 15, 2006), Bruner was asked his opinion of what went wrong. Bruner replied, “At the core of Enron’s collapse was what I’d call momentum thinking, which is the intense focus on delivering a steady percentage rate of increase in earnings per share, quarter by quarter, year after year. We can think of this almost as growth at any price. It resulted in a bet-the-farm kind of management of the company.”
An attitude of “growth at any price” contributed greatly to the demise of a major corporation, Bruner suggests. It may also help explain why some congregations of the Lord’s church appear to be stumbling.
Let no one suggest that church growth is an unscriptural concept. Jesus commanded his followers to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19, NKJV). If more Christians took this commission more seriously, how much larger would the Lord’s church be? Only God knows the answers to such questions, but does anyone doubt that the church would multiply if we obeyed Jesus?
But what is our ultimate vision as we go about this “business” of growing the Lord’s church? Is it our ambition to become the largest church in town? Does the thought of being regarded as a mega-church motivate us? If so, we may have fallen prey to momentum thinking. And in our drive to become that big church, are we sacrificing sacred principles in order to be more appealing?
If the church is to remain the church of Christ, it must always be “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). “Buy the truth, and do not sell it” (Proverbs 23:23) is a principle still in effect. (The fact that God embedded this statement in Scripture implies that we will be tempted to elevate other things above truth.) There is something more important than church growth, and that is remaining true to the teachings of God’s word.
Every congregation of the church of Jesus Christ should seek to grow in numbers, as well as in knowledge and in service. But some things must never change along the way. One of those changeless ideals is obeying Paul’s apostolic command to “Preach the word!” (2 Timothy 4:2)
May our momentum carry us closer to God, not from Him.

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