By Shane Kastler
In the late 1800s, London pastor Charles Spurgeon was embroiled in controversy. He had confronted his denomination over the fact that many of them had abandoned the Word of God for modern “church growth” techniques. Rather than faithfully proclaiming truth, many pastors had succumbed to a worldly ambition to boost attendance by telling sinners what they wanted to hear. Rather than what they needed to hear. Spurgeon decried this saying: “If pastors were more focused on understanding theology then they wouldn't be duped by the pretenders who pose as experts.” In Spurgeon's day this came to be known as the “Downgrade Controversy.” In our day this tragedy still exists, especially in the American church.
Many churches today seem to be more obsessed with numbers than they are faithfulness. I frequently hear pastors who will lay out a myriad of statistics that supposedly tell who will get saved and how it will happen. Yet God is not subject to statistical analysis. Such an undue obsession with trying to analyze God ignores what Scripture clearly teaches about His sovereignty over all things, including the salvation of sinners. Statistical analysis means nothing in light of Jesus' words: “The wind blows wherever it wishes, so it is with those born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
So should the church's primary focus be unbelievers? Absolutely not. In fact the church's primary focus should not be believers either. The primary focus should be God and His glorification. The worship service itself should be a regular practice of leading believers to worship their God, since unbelievers have not the ability to worship anyway. The Bible describes them as “dead in their sins” (Ephesians 2:1) Yet believers worship with the hope that if any unbelievers are in their midst God would show them mercy and grant salvation. A church or a worship service designed for unbelievers is a fool's errand that makes a mockery of the church. And even if such a church were blessed with thousands it would be largely meaningless, if the truth isn't being clearly proclaimed.
So don't fall into the church growth trap. Flashy church programs don't change the sinner's heart. Faithful proclamation of the gospel does. Let God be the focus of your Sundays. Then go out into the world taking the gospel with you throughout the week. Don't expect the unbelievers to come to you, when you are called to go to them. Be faithful witnesses who remember God's sovereignty over salvation. God's sovereignty is routinely ignored and sadly even argued against by many in the church today. Don't be one of them. Remember that salvation is of the Lord and is only of the Lord. Reject the modern church growth experts and leadership gurus who have set themselves up as authorities. Trust in God and in His Word; and leave the results to Him.