Caterpillar to Butterfly: Growth In Numbers TO – Growth in networking determines success

From Caterpillar to Cocoon to Butterfly – Part VI

In this series we have been asking the question, “What happens with metamorphosis during the cocoon stage?”  How, structurally, do you get a butterfly from what once was a caterpillar? In my Aug. 20, 2011’s blog, I listed several forms of transformation that I see occurring inside the cocoon of change.   Today we will look at the principle: Physical growth in numbers determines success (caterpillar) TO Networking relationships with the masses determines success (butterfly).

Caterpillar: Church Growth Conferences have become popular where you send your “staff” to learn of new strategies to maximize your resources in an effort to get more people through your door.  We live in a mega-church age where the bigger the church in numbers and facility the more impressive is the attitude.  Although most churches have an average attendance of less than 100, it is always the dream that the church will grow.  Grow in what? Numbers!  Larger churches can offer more services to their members: a bigger children’s ministry, larger youth group with their own facility, a 20-30’s ministry, greater theatrical and musical capabilities, and all kind of unique small groups, support groups, educational groups, etc.  Their church bulletin looks like a phone book of weekly activities. The larger the number of people; the larger the size of the facility and staff.  Success is measured in numbers: either of those attending or the size of the staff. A “church plant” is expected to be a certain size with in a two year period to be considered a success.  Traditional, institutional churches whose numbers are dropping because of cultural changes and an aging population are considered now as failing churches.

Butterfly:  Success in the Social Networking world is determined by how many “friends” you have on Facebook or MySpace, how many “huddles” you have on Google+, how many “hits” you get on your web site, how many “followers” you have on your blog or follow your tweets on Twitter.  To build up a network, you want numbers.  The Internet is all about having the ability to have a large amount of data at your availability. What one has to do is determine what to do with all this data, all this information, and all these contacts in a globalized world of communications.  The future church’s challenge is with how to effectively use all this electronic data, information, contacts, and communications at their disposal without losing an individual’s identity, self worth, or dignity, how to keep and develop the personal face to face intimate friendships and contacts without losing it to the vastness of the internet, or the world, both huge in number.  We have the world at our finger tips now with only the effort of a “click”, but we can not afford to lose the personal one-to-one individual contacts that prove to be so powerful in bringing about changed lives to individuals.

The Differences: Similarities: large numbers of people are important in determining success.  Differences: A mega-church can be a sea of faces, but at least you are seeing faces.  More intimate friendships beyond a hand shake can be made at a personal or small group level.  The danger is that it is easy to hide in large number in order to obtain their services for ones advantage without personally exposing oneself.  Social Networking also faces a sea of “friends”, “huddles”, “hits”, and “followers” that can be on a very shallow social level.  More intimate friendships beyond a “click” can be made only if one leaves the safe confines of their computer which is happening today thanks to the invention of Smart phones.

Implications Today:  People still desire contacts and services no matter if it is in a large facility with a huge choir, professional worship team, theatrical lighting, large screen, perfectly manicured sound system, with powerpoints projected on huge screens, in a highly professional scripted service where one will request a DVD of the service to play on their High Definition or 3D Screen TV at home, or if it is through the internet on their PC, lap top, IPad,  Smart Phone, or reading their Bible through a website or on their Kindle.  We can’t help but admit that the use of technology has impacted both the Old School and New School way of ‘doing church’ all for the purpose of increasing numbers.  One mega-church in my area that utilizes all these technologies claims numbers aren’t important, then automatically talks of their multiple campuses now connecting 20,000 people through technology. They are going to open a “new campus” with a guaranteed audience of 500 the first morning!  Ironically, even though each campus has their own worship team and participants, the pyramidal, hierarchal, C.E.O., Sr. Pastor will be “projected” on a large screen making him “life size” as if he were there to preach to all the campuses at the same time.  One person at the top, with a huge staff under him, addressing the masses at the bottom of the pyramid who are impressed at the size and scope of the pyramid. The corporate American mentality is alive and well in the church of America, so is George Orwell’s “Big Brother” of his “1984” novel more than the church wants to admit.  All the neighboring little family sized churches are fretting, “How can you beat that?”

Conclusion:  We still seem to use numbers to determine success, especially in a data driven world today. Unfortunately with both, one can easily get loss in the masses, in the large numbers.  Individuality is sacrificed for the cause of belonging; personal discipleship is sacrificed for activities and programs; ministry is expected to be done by a professional staff not the pew sitting entertained saints.  It is easy for both camps to get lost in numbers instead of individuals.  Jesus fed at least over 4,000 men not counting women and children twice: impressive, right?  But he discipled only 12 intimately although it is recorded he had many more “followers”.  One to one evangelism is still more effective than massive Crusades.  One to one mentoring is still a more effective pastoral/shepherding tool than a “discipleship course” online.  One to one prayer is powerful. “Where two or more are together, there I am,” Jesus said. Today success would be determined as 2,000 or more together!  Both camps will need to do some serious evaluations of “what” their numbers are really doing for the kingdom of God rather than just boast in numbers.