Finding a Place of Peace in Growing a Church

I love the concept of “The Stockdale Paradox”….

You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.

AND at the same time…

You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

Very similar to the concept of the prophetic voice, The Stockdale Paradox (a) grounds us in what is and (b) pulls us with hope to what can be.

So what is?

What is is that church growth is HARD.  There are few statistics out there that paint a rosy picture.  A recent article on the largest evangelical denomination, one centered firmly in the Southern “Bible Belt”, the Southern Baptist Convention, recently noted the following

  1. Last year, the SBC baptized about 295,000 people, down from about 305,000 baptisms in 2014.
  2. 2015 was the 9th year out of 11 that the SBC reported declining baptisms
  3. At the same time, SBC pastors planted almost 300 new churches, bringing the total number of SBC churches to about 46,800.
  4. Church membership dropped by about 204,000 people to 15.3 million, and average weekly attendance dropped by about 97,000 people to 5.6 million.
What is an equal reality is that some churches within denominations like the SBC are finding a way forward.  Every city has a least a few congregations that have hit on a formula that allows them to serve people and serve God in healthy, sustainable ways.  A few I have enjoyed in person or online are Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, North Point in Atlanta, and Watermark in Dallas.  All give reason to hope.
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The challenge is that these models grow out of deeply talented pastoral leadership, leadership able to both build viable structures and preach.  Not an easy combination.  And one that frankly leaves me often feeling bereft at my limitations.
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The Stockdale Paradox would say even those limitations are part of what is.
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The hope of NewChurch LIVE thriving is likewise a part of what is.
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It seems we can find peace there.  A peace in living with reality and with hope. And peace in living with those we love. Serving as best we can.  With reality and hope much closer than we might imagine.
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