One need not be a Christian to observe truths about the way organizations work. Those true observations are what I mean by “common” (not neutral). They are true because they are observations about the nature of God’s general process, even if they are not acknowledged as such. When I speak of the “sacred” I mean that which is intentionally devoted to the service of Christ’s kingdom considered narrowly as the church, which is the external manifestation of the kingdom of God on the earth and the minister of they keys of the kingdom. Reading Martin Hedman’s latest thoughtful post, which reflects on the way Peter Drucker’s insights should and shouldn’t be used and how strategic planning should be done by a confessionally Reformed church (are you reading his posts Brandon?), I was impressed with the contrast between Martin’s critical appropriation of Drucker, with the priority he gives to God’s Word and the Reformed confessions, and the shallow and even shoddy way the so-called “church growth” lit makes use of insights by secular (i.e., writers whose interest is not in advancing the mission of the church but rather the interests of business—thus I’m not using “secular” pejoratively). I was reading that lit back in the late 80s and early 90s. Because I didn’t know then how to distinguish the two kingdoms (because I missed this point in Calvin) and because I was desperate for my congregation to grow numerically I didn’t ask too many questions.
I tried to make conservative use of their pragmatism. What I realize now is that often times their use of secular writers served to make the church more like the world than it did actually to advance the mission of the church: preaching the pure gospel purely, of administering the two divinely ordained sacraments purely, and of administering discipline.
Now, the church growth gurus never advertised this result. What they advertised was numerical growth in the congregation. In other words, what was really being offered was a way to minimize the antithesis between belief and unbelief, between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light in order to make non-Christians feel “comfortable” in church so that they would stay or come back next week all to the end, ostensibly, of reaching them with the gospel. When exactly this bait and switch was to happen was not always made clear nor was it always clear what “the gospel” is.
Martin is quite right. Do we want “church growth”? Yes! We want to see sinners brought to a knowledge of their sins and to saving faith in Savior. We want to see them become disciples, members of the Christ-confessing covenant community. We want to see them grow in grace but, as Martin says, that “won’t happen with clever ideas derived from a flawed strategic planning process.”