Monday 22 October 2012

8 Principles for Churches That Want to Grow, by Mark Driscoll

8 Principles for Churches That Want to Grow, by Mark Driscoll

When it comes to numbers, churches tend to err in one of two ways: They either discount them as unimportant, or they put too much emphasis on them.  The reality is numbers are important, and though they aren’t the only sign of a healthy church, they are an important measure.
For Mars Hill, numbers are a key measure of our health. For us, it’s all about the numbers, if by “numbers” you mean the number of people getting their sins forgiven, getting their lives changed by Jesus and going to heaven instead of hell. We’d like that number to go up. We’re all for that.
When numbers are viewed from this perspective, they are a good thing to desire to see grow. This is why I commend pastors who desire to see the church they pastor grow for the right reasons.

Don't Miss

In my conversations with pastors around the world, many have questions on church growth. So, I thought I’d share eight principles I’ve learned about church growth.

1. Begin with the end in mind and know how large you want to be.

The following is a rough breakdown of reported (which may not be entirely accurate) church attendance. Admittedly, these numbers are a few years old, but, as a general rule, they do give you a rough idea of church-size barriers.
  • Churches with 45 people or fewer = 100,000 churches or 25% of all churches
  • Churches with 75 people or fewer = 200,000 churches or 50% of all churches
  • Churches with 150 people or fewer = 300,000 churches or 75% of all churches
  • Churches with 350 people or fewer = 380,000 churches or 95% of all churches
  • Churches with 800 people or fewer = 392,000 churches or 98% of all churches
  • Churches with 800 people or more = 8,000 churches or 2% of all churches
  • Churches with 2,000 people or more = 870 churches or 0.22% of all churches
  • Churches with 3,000 people or more = 425 churches or 0.11% of all churches
Lyle Schaller, considered one of the best church consultants in the world, states in his book, The Very Large Church, that the two most comfortable church sizes are under 45 people and under 150 people, likely making them two of the hardest thresholds to pass through, in addition to the 800 mark.
In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell states 150 is also the maximum number of people someone can purposefully connect with, which explains why some people do not like bigger churches. It may also explain why John Wesley divided people into groups of about 150, the average hunter-gatherer village is about 150 people, most military units are under 200 and the Hutterites allow their communities to grow no larger than 150.
Understanding group dynamics like this is important in understanding there are significant challenges that come with each phase of church size, and being aware of where you want your church to grow allows you to begin preparing for those growth phases more effectively.

2. The larger the church, the more different it is from other churches of the same theology and tradition.

As a church grows, while the theology remains the same, the organization complexity doesn’t, often requiring new methods of ministry.
Size affects the number of lines of communication, how an organization stacks or does not stack leadership, access to the senior leader and family, etc.
Simply put, church size does matter for how a church is run. Much like a married couple, who some years later find themselves with a dozen children, cannot simply organize their life as they did with their first child—everything must change.
For those wanting to learn more about the dynamics of church size, Tim Keller has a helpful paper, and Larry Osborne has a helpful book called Sticky Teams.

3. Change is inevitable.

You either move forward or backward.
A living church changes differently than a dying church does, but all churches change.
For a church to grow, it must change. It does not need to change in theology, but it will need to change in methodology.
If a church is unwilling to change their methodology to reach and care for more people, then it is guilty of method-idolatry, which is where we confuse unchanging biblical principles with what are supposed to be changing cultural methods.

4. Don’t assign moral judgments to size and change.

People tend to wrongly attach a moral value to church size, which is unholy, unhealthy and unhelpful. This explains why big churches are accused of being uncaring and small churches are accused of not reaching people or being well led or organized.
I pastored Mars Hill when it was small and saw a lot of people saved by Jesus. And, now that Mars Hill is large, I’m certain we take far better care of our people with far better community than we did when we were small.
Many smaller church pastors, especially those who value theology well above ministry philosophy and size, tend to completely overlook or even deny the importance of church size. They will accuse those who care about numbers to be simply pragmatic, as if wanting more people to meet Jesus and grow in grace were a bad thing.
The reality is Jesus works through churches of all sizes, and if he should see fit to bless a church to grow bigger, that is not a bad thing but a good thing.

5. If you want to grow, you need to prepare for common changes now.

Here are few of the changes you’ll face as you grow:
  • You move from managing workers, to leading managers, to leading leaders.
  • Focus shifts from a survival-in-the-present mode to a success-in-the-future mode.
  • Expectations move from informal to formal (elders, deacons and members).
  • You have to grow from making decisions by general consensus to a handful of people making decisions.
  • Communications becomes formal and written rather than informal and oral.
  • People’s roles move from general responsibility to specialized responsibility.
  • The church moves from being one community to being many communities (e.g., multiple services, community groups, etc.).
  • The senior leaders shift their focus from being primarily caregivers to making sure people are being cared for by raising up leaders.
  • The senior leader shifts from working in the organization to working on the organization.
  • The members move from being connected to the pastor to being connected to other leaders.
  • Focus shifts from drawing people through relationship to drawing them through events and dynamic Sunday services.

6. Be humble as a leader to seek the counsel of pastors ahead of you and receive their counsel.

Over the years, I’ve reached out to many godly pastors who oversee larger churches for advice and counsel as Mars Hill has grown.
Their friendship, advice, prayer and service to our church have been much appreciated and priceless. No man is an island, and it’s crucial to seek godly counsel and humbly receive it.

7. Discern between guilt and conviction in seasons of transition.

Developing this discernment is key, as you cannot do what everyone wants you to do and also do exactly what God calls you to do.
As the old adage goes, if you try to please everyone, you please no one.
Proverbs 29:25 says fear of man is a “trap” or a “snare,” depending upon your translation. Fear of man causes us to live for the approval of our tribe and to fear criticism or ostracism from our tribe. Fear of man is a form of idolatry—living to please someone other than Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, when you get to heaven, you’ll give account to Jesus for your decisions and actions as a pastor. Strive to be faithful to Jesus, not to the demands of people.

8. Pray and plan for people to meet Jesus.

As you often get what you pray for, you need to prepare for it.
Mars Hill has been blessed by God to see a great harvest over the years. Like any large harvest, there is much work to do and it is tiring.
As you pray for many people to meet Jesus, also prepare in faithful expectation for the work that will come if Jesus answers your prayer.
The good news is seeing many people meet Jesus, while demanding work, is the best kind of work there is.  

Saturday 6 October 2012

Stats show only ‘tiny’ proportion of UK is gay, lesbian or bisexual

Stats show only ‘tiny’ proportion of UK is gay, lesbian or bisexual

Only 1.5 per cent of people in the UK are gay, lesbian or bisexual according to new official statistics – not the 6 per cent figure the Government usually claims.
The figure comes from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which questioned hundreds of thousands of people in the research.
The ONS found 1.1 per cent said they were gay or lesbian, after speaking to around 545,000 adults.


And after quizzing around 220,000 adults, the ONS found 0.4 per cent who said they were bisexual.
According to the study, 2.4 per cent of adults who live in London said they were gay, lesbian or bisexual.
Responding to the figures, and speaking in light of the Government’s plans to bring in same-sex marriage, Mike Judge of The Christian Institute said: “It is staggering that such a monumental change is being carried out on behalf of a tiny proportion of society.”


Commenting on the new figures, Ben Summerskill of homosexual lobby group Stonewall, commented: “We reckon 6 per cent, the figure the Treasury has used for some time, is a sensible estimate.”
In 2003 the former Labour Government endorsed figures from Stonewall which claimed that between five and seven per cent of the population were homosexuals.
The coalition Government is pushing ahead with its plans to redefine marriage despite much opposition.
A number of Government ministers and MPs want to keep marriage as it is and a nationwide petition against homosexual marriage – organised by the Coalition for Marriage – has been signed by over 600,000 people.

Friday 5 October 2012

Academic study of homosexuality and parenting.

Christianity Today, October, 2012

The Regnerus Affair

The embattled sociologist talks to CT about the controversy over his study of homosexuality and parenting.
The Regnerus Affair
If you want to know how University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus's summer has gone, look no further than The Weekly Standard. On the cover of the conservative magazine's July 30 issue are two hooded henchmen impishly turning the gears on a medieval torture wheel holding Regnerus, sweating beads as he tries to stay in one piece. The cover copy—"Revenge of the Sociologists: The perils of politically incorrect academic research"—hints at the situation sparked by the publication of Regnerus's newest research as well as the broader political discourse over same-sex marriage.
The survey, known as the New Family Structures Study (NFSS), is remarkable in its scope. It's a random national sample, considered "the gold standard" of social science surveys. NFSS measures the economic, relational, political, and psychological effects on adults ages 18 to 39 who grew up in families where the father or mother engaged in homosexual behavior. Despite Regnerus's repeated caution that the NFSS does not account for stable same-sex marriages (since same-sex marriage as such didn't exist when the survey participants were children), he has undergone professional censure. Social Science Research conducted an internal audit on the peer-review process of the NFSS, and the University of Texas at Austin investigated Regnerus following allegations of "scientific misconduct." (The school has since cleared Regnerus of the allegations.) Regnerus agreed to an e-mail interview with Christianity Today associate editor Katelyn Beaty to set the record straight on the NFSS and its many discontents.
Other studies have been done on the well-being of children raised by same-sex couples, with many sociologists concluding there's no real difference between children raised by same-sex couples and those raised by heterosexual couples. Why was the NFSS needed at this time?
Most family scholars had, until recently, consistently affirmed the elevated stability and advantages [for children] of the married, heterosexual, biological, two-parent household, when contrasted with all other family "makes and models." Other types of family arrangements were perceived to fall short—even if not far short—in a variety of developmental domains such as educational achievement, behavior problems, and emotional well-being.
For the children of gay and lesbian Americans, however, social scientists have largely shifted their sentiment. Since 2001, and picking up steam more recently, scholars have been increasingly quick to declare "no differences," and some have even moved to suggest that same-sex parents may be more competent than a man and woman in a traditional family arrangement. Ten years is pretty speedy to overthrow a long-stable paradigm, and frankly, some of us found it a bit suspicious, so we decided to look into it ourselves.
I don't think there is a time-sensitive component to this study, other than it was time to evaluate what had become a rapidly-shifting consensus on the subject.
How does your methodology compare with those used in previous surveys on this topic?
This is the key area of distinction between my study and most others. Almost all studies that came before this one were small and "nonrandom." That is, we have no idea how similar most other studies' research participants are to the general population they seek to study. And with many previous studies, I think it's fair to be skeptical. For example, if you know you're participating in a small study on gay parenting and that it'll make the news and perhaps have political ramifications, I think it's fair for scholars to wonder whether such a study will yield valid, reliable data.
'Ten years is pretty speedy to overthrow a long-stable paradigm, and frankly, some of us found it a bit suspicious, so we decided to look into it ourselves.' - Mark Regnerus
The NFSS, on the other hand, is much larger than most others, and is a random sample of the population of American adults ages 18–39. I focused not on their parents' sexual orientation—after all, it was a quite different era back then—but on their parents' relationship behavior. So I compared how young adults whose mothers or fathers had a same-sex relationship fared when analyzed alongside other types of arrangements, including the traditional, biologically intact married mother and father.
Explain briefly how you identified "lesbian mothers" and "gay fathers" in the study. These are not established same-sex couples who together chose to adopt or use IVF, correct?
If by "established" you mean stable couples present for their child's entire growing-up years: The data allowed for stably-coupled gay or lesbian parents to emerge, but at least in the era I am assessing, it was uncommon. Moreover, so was surrogacy and assisted reproductive technology (ART). These are all pretty expensive, even today. Another scholar writing on this subject notes that "the literature on same-sex-couple parenting has tended to feature studies of the kind of women who can afford ART: white, upper-middle-class women." But that is the media stereotype of gay and lesbian parents, even though data from the National Study of Family Growth reveal that they're less apt to want children than nonwhite gay and lesbian parents. So the types of couples you are referring to could be in the data, although I did not ask the respondents about the circumstances of their own birth.
From other questions—such as whether your biological mother and father were ever married—I can discern an educated guess about their origins. A majority of such respondents were the product of a heterosexual union that eventually disintegrated. Some suggest these were "mixed orientation marriages," but I wouldn't be so quick to presume that. While the etiology of homosexuality is not under study here, questions about my categorizations seem tacitly to raise the subject of who counts as a lesbian mother or gay father, to say nothing of bisexuality. The study is, however, about what its title states: the adult children of parents who have, or have had, same-sex relationships. In hindsight, I wish I would have been even more vigilant than I was in making sure readers always understood this.
What would you say to religious and political groups that promote traditional marriage and want to use the NFSS results to "prove" that parenting by same-sex couples is damaging to children?
I am neither a theologian nor politically oriented, so I wouldn't presume to tell anyone else how to do their jobs. While social science cannot "prove" things, it can describe social reality. What the NFSS does describe is that the young-adult children of men and women who have had same-sex relationships appear more likely to have experienced problems, and in some cases continue to struggle, than those whose biological parents were and are still married. Why exactly this is the case is an important question that should continue to be explored and debated.
What problems in particular do young-adult children of parents who have had same-sex relationships encounter? Emotional, financial, spiritual?
They report a variety of challenges, especially if they witnessed elevated instability in their household. Most of them have seen some [non-parent adults] coming and going. Among other things, they are more apt to report financial and employment difficulties, to finish less schooling, feel more ambivalence about their family experiences while growing up, smoke more, have more run-ins with the law, and report more sexual partners and greater victimization than those children from biologically intact, stable marriages. I didn't include religion or spirituality in the published study.
'The study itself was neither intended to undermine nor to affirm any legal rights about same-sex marriage.' - Mark Regnerus
What are your personal convictions about marriage structures? Do those convictions introduce a bias into your research, as critics of late have charged?
Every researcher has biases. This is why good survey projects assure participants' anonymity and don't hint to their participants how they ought to answer. This helps allow social science to rise above the personal biases of researchers.
You note that every researcher has biases. How are biases informing the internal audit of your research currently being conducted by Social Science Research, specifically the person conducting the audit, sociologist Darren Sherkat? Didn't Sherkat, who supports gay marriage, publicly criticize your research before the start of the audit?
Yes. I won't fight fire with fire here, but that is true. And yet the audit concluded that the publication process for the study was not compromised. Scholars criticize each other all the time, but it seems to be more personal in this territory.
Does your study have anything to contribute to contemporary debates about the legalization and cultural acceptance of same-sex marriage—especially since the NFSS was retrospective?
The study itself was neither intended to undermine nor to affirm any legal rights about same-sex marriage. That said, the NFSS and other solid studies out there are a good source of information for orienting citizens, regardless of their own personal perspectives.
Looking back, do you think it was responsible as a researcher to receive funding for NFSS from the Witherspoon Institute and the National Organization for Marriage (nom)—two groups known for strong stances on traditional marriage?
No funding came from the National Organization for Marriage, but rather from the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation. [Editor's note: Critics of the NFSS have linked Witherspoon and Bradley to nom because Robert P. George, nom's chairman emeritus, has strong ties to the two institutions that helped fund Regnerus's study.] As I've noted in the text of the study and elsewhere, I have always operated without strings from either organization. No funding agency representatives were consulted about research design, survey contents, analyses, or conclusions. Any allegations that the funders might have improperly influenced me are simply false.
How do you understand your calling as a sociologist? What does sociology offer to a broader society that other professions can't?
Among other things, good sociology investigates what culture is, how social structures work, how certain ways of thinking and acting become "normal," how institutions shape our lives, and how social change happens. This may sound abstract and dull, but it's really a fascinating and important way of seeing and thinking about the world and our own lives. Those who apply themselves to wrestling with these kinds of issues often discover how interesting and important sociological analysis can be. And in the process, they often come to understand much more fully their own personal life experiences.