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Church Growth

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  • Rev Mark Gilstrap
    Last October I sent a posting to both ORTHODOX and Orthodox-Synod about Trying to understand the attraction of protestant megachurches. I submit the
    Message 1 of 5 , Jun 3, 2001
      Last October I sent a posting to both ORTHODOX
      and Orthodox-Synod about "Trying to understand
      the attraction" of protestant megachurches. I
      submit the following as a follow-up. It evokes
      the memory of a man here in Tulsa (a friend of
      Bob Tallick) who says "if you had a nice church
      with onion domes I would come." As Dcn David
      James has pointed out here before, if such people
      would only come *and* contribute, there could
      easily be such a church. Is that what makes the
      difference with the protestants - they tithe?
      On Memorial Day I listened to my brother list the
      budget lines in his Methodist church. It is mind
      boggling.

      In part, in October, I said:

      My insufficiency in dealing with questions regarding
      how one relates to those who do not understand Orthodoxy
      (including heterodox spouses of the Orthodox) led me to
      want to understand where they're coming from - to seek
      understanding by learning more about the new evangelical
      protestant mega-church phenomenon. It seems that everyone
      I meet thinks in terms of numbers being a sign of a
      religion's "success" and viability; and conversely, of
      Orthodoxy (small numbers) as pitiable. [...]

      I decided I couldn't understand what the attraction
      of these protestant mega-churches is without some
      first hand experience. I decided to watch a show on
      a new TV station this afternoon... (coming from my
      brother's Methodist church)

      I did not succeed in understanding. Today I
      ran across a similar old posting. I hope it
      stimulates some discussion on this important
      topic.

      Date: Tue, 11 Jan 1994 13:43:51 MST
      Sender: ORTHODOX@...
      From: Rebekah Moser <kmoser@...>
      Subject: Church Growth

      Our local paper recently had a long article on how many of the local churches
      were growing (due to Boise's large population growth) and how they were going
      about attracting new members. There was a large picture of a man wearing a
      sweatsuit and a coach's cap jogging down the center aisle of the church to
      cheer his "team" on. The church was divided into two teams with prizes for
      the team who could bring the most visitors to church. I grew up Protestant
      where such things were considered normal, but after having been Orthodox for
      16 years, seeing a picture of such a thing was very shocking to me. The idea
      seemed so alien to what I perceive to be the dignity and sacredness of a
      church service. The question that immediately comes to mind is, "What are
      people being attracted to, exactly?" There is a great danger here that the
      largest church could in fact be the one with the snazziest service
      organization, most theatrics, most appealing music, etc., etc. The effort to
      gain new members could easily degenerate into a contest to provide the most
      exciting service.

      What do we as Orthodox do to bring in new people? I have heard many times
      that we need to work harder to cater to American society. Without getting
      caught in the trap mentioned above, what is acceptable? Should increasing
      sheer numbers really be our goal? A church full of a thousand people who
      all "feel good" and "love this place" but have no idea or interest in the
      depth of spirituality available within the Orthodox church does not strike
      me as a reasonable goal at all.

      In the past I have likened our spiritual struggle to physical exercise. The
      church gives us guidelines to help us grow in our spiritual lives. For
      example, fasting is not done for the sake of outward appearance, but that we
      may deny Satan (man does not live by bread alone) and affirm our dependence on
      God. A health club that decided physical exercise was too tough for the
      majority of people and got rid of its weight machines, and brought in a big
      screen TV for the hot tub room so more people would come to have fun would
      quickly turn into nothing more than a social club. It would be a fun place to
      go, but should no longer be called a health club, because it isn't doing
      anything to improve your physical health. Furthermore, those who had
      initially
      joined to improve their physical condition would be deprived of the
      availability of the equipment and instruction to do so. If we make changes to
      our services - make them shorter, bring in an orchestra for the music, let
      anybody go to communion regardless of preparation - would we be doing anything
      different than the health club that had ceased to be a health club?

      For me, the Orthodox church is not a casual relationship to be easily cast
      aside in favor of someplace down the block that has more creature comforts
      or excitement to offer. I am here because of the depth of spirituality and
      guidance it offers me in my own spiritual struggle. The commitment is on
      the level of marriage - permanent and permeating every area of my life.
      Jesus told people to take up their cross and follow him. He never said that
      it would be easy. He didn't offer to go rent a cart and horse to carry
      people's crosses for them so more people would come.

      Is it appropriate to think of the church as a place for people who are serious
      about improving their spiritual lives? What place is there for those who
      are not as serious? I've heard many times that "So and so would come if only
      you had pews and the services weren't so long." To my ears that equates to
      "I'd go to the health club if only they had a hot tub and served beer." If
      you
      don't want to improve your spiritual health, why would you want to go to
      church in the first place? I could go on forever, but I will stop here and
      simply request opinions on the above discussion. I have many mixed feelings
      about the issue of growth - we should be growing, but do we have to lose
      something important in that process? Are we alienating people we shouldn't
      be?
      How does your parish deal with such things?

      Rebekah Moser
    • catherine elaine sullivan
      I would never want to see Orthodox result to crazy come-ons to get parishioners. BUT, I do think there are things we need to be sure we do. For example, with
      Message 2 of 5 , Jun 4, 2001
        I would never want to see Orthodox result to crazy come-ons to get
        parishioners. BUT, I do think there are things we need to be sure we do. For
        example, with the first parish I joined I complained that to visit the first
        time I had to drive all the way to the church to find out what time the liturgy
        was- there was no phone listed. The priest told me it was in HIS name- now how
        many newcomers would know THAT, and how many would persevere the way I did- a
        25 mile round trip just to read a sign. (They did change that situation, I am
        glad to say.) We need to be accessible. We should post phone numbers, and
        list out churches in the phone book and in the paper. No frills, just who we
        are. Then, we need to make sure to appear welcoming to the newcomer. Invite
        him/her to coffee hour. Speak to newcomers and help them if they can't follow
        the liturgy. If they come back frequently, try to involve them in things. We
        have to stop being invisible, and we must forget the idea that being friendly
        and welcoming is too "Protestant" for us. If we do these things and preach the
        truth of Orthodoxy, people will come! Our parish is small, but grows by about
        10% each year!
        --- Rev Mark Gilstrap <fr.mark@...> wrote:
        > Last October I sent a posting to both ORTHODOX
        > and Orthodox-Synod about "Trying to understand
        > the attraction" of protestant megachurches. I
        > submit the following as a follow-up. It evokes
        > the memory of a man here in Tulsa (a friend of
        > Bob Tallick) who says "if you had a nice church
        > with onion domes I would come." As Dcn David
        > James has pointed out here before, if such people
        > would only come *and* contribute, there could
        > easily be such a church. Is that what makes the
        > difference with the protestants - they tithe?
        > On Memorial Day I listened to my brother list the
        > budget lines in his Methodist church. It is mind
        > boggling.
        >
        > In part, in October, I said:
        >
        > My insufficiency in dealing with questions regarding
        > how one relates to those who do not understand Orthodoxy
        > (including heterodox spouses of the Orthodox) led me to
        > want to understand where they're coming from - to seek
        > understanding by learning more about the new evangelical
        > protestant mega-church phenomenon. It seems that everyone
        > I meet thinks in terms of numbers being a sign of a
        > religion's "success" and viability; and conversely, of
        > Orthodoxy (small numbers) as pitiable. [...]
        >
        > I decided I couldn't understand what the attraction
        > of these protestant mega-churches is without some
        > first hand experience. I decided to watch a show on
        > a new TV station this afternoon... (coming from my
        > brother's Methodist church)
        >
        > I did not succeed in understanding. Today I
        > ran across a similar old posting. I hope it
        > stimulates some discussion on this important
        > topic.
        >
        > Date: Tue, 11 Jan 1994 13:43:51 MST
        > Sender: ORTHODOX@...
        > From: Rebekah Moser <kmoser@...>
        > Subject: Church Growth
        >
        > Our local paper recently had a long article on how many of the local churches
        > were growing (due to Boise's large population growth) and how they were going
        > about attracting new members. There was a large picture of a man wearing a
        > sweatsuit and a coach's cap jogging down the center aisle of the church to
        > cheer his "team" on. The church was divided into two teams with prizes for
        > the team who could bring the most visitors to church. I grew up Protestant
        > where such things were considered normal, but after having been Orthodox for
        > 16 years, seeing a picture of such a thing was very shocking to me. The idea
        > seemed so alien to what I perceive to be the dignity and sacredness of a
        > church service. The question that immediately comes to mind is, "What are
        > people being attracted to, exactly?" There is a great danger here that the
        > largest church could in fact be the one with the snazziest service
        > organization, most theatrics, most appealing music, etc., etc. The effort to
        > gain new members could easily degenerate into a contest to provide the most
        > exciting service.
        >
        > What do we as Orthodox do to bring in new people? I have heard many times
        > that we need to work harder to cater to American society. Without getting
        > caught in the trap mentioned above, what is acceptable? Should increasing
        > sheer numbers really be our goal? A church full of a thousand people who
        > all "feel good" and "love this place" but have no idea or interest in the
        > depth of spirituality available within the Orthodox church does not strike
        > me as a reasonable goal at all.
        >
        > In the past I have likened our spiritual struggle to physical exercise. The
        > church gives us guidelines to help us grow in our spiritual lives. For
        > example, fasting is not done for the sake of outward appearance, but that we
        > may deny Satan (man does not live by bread alone) and affirm our dependence
        > on
        > God. A health club that decided physical exercise was too tough for the
        > majority of people and got rid of its weight machines, and brought in a big
        > screen TV for the hot tub room so more people would come to have fun would
        > quickly turn into nothing more than a social club. It would be a fun place
        > to
        > go, but should no longer be called a health club, because it isn't doing
        > anything to improve your physical health. Furthermore, those who had
        > initially
        > joined to improve their physical condition would be deprived of the
        > availability of the equipment and instruction to do so. If we make changes
        > to
        > our services - make them shorter, bring in an orchestra for the music, let
        > anybody go to communion regardless of preparation - would we be doing
        > anything
        > different than the health club that had ceased to be a health club?
        >
        > For me, the Orthodox church is not a casual relationship to be easily cast
        > aside in favor of someplace down the block that has more creature comforts
        > or excitement to offer. I am here because of the depth of spirituality and
        > guidance it offers me in my own spiritual struggle. The commitment is on
        > the level of marriage - permanent and permeating every area of my life.
        > Jesus told people to take up their cross and follow him. He never said that
        > it would be easy. He didn't offer to go rent a cart and horse to carry
        > people's crosses for them so more people would come.
        >
        > Is it appropriate to think of the church as a place for people who are
        > serious
        > about improving their spiritual lives? What place is there for those who
        > are not as serious? I've heard many times that "So and so would come if only
        > you had pews and the services weren't so long." To my ears that equates to
        > "I'd go to the health club if only they had a hot tub and served beer." If
        > you
        > don't want to improve your spiritual health, why would you want to go to
        > church in the first place? I could go on forever, but I will stop here and
        > simply request opinions on the above discussion. I have many mixed feelings
        > about the issue of growth - we should be growing, but do we have to lose
        > something important in that process? Are we alienating people we shouldn't
        > be?
        > How does your parish deal with such things?
        >
        > Rebekah Moser
        >
        >


        =====
        Catherine
      • Loreneli
        Just a thought , on the accesable point... most newspapers will publish press releases free of charge.. So why now issue a weekly press release, say every
        Message 3 of 5 , Jun 8, 2001
          Just a thought , on the accesable point...

          most newspapers will publish press releases free of charge.. So why now issue a weekly press release, say every thursday?


          IC XC

          Loren


          ----- Original Message -----
          From: catherine elaine sullivan
          To: orthodox-synod@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Monday, June 04, 2001 9:14 AM
          Subject: Re: [orthodox-synod] Church Growth


          I would never want to see Orthodox result to crazy come-ons to get
          parishioners. BUT, I do think there are things we need to be sure we do. For
          example, with the first parish I joined I complained that to visit the first
          time I had to drive all the way to the church to find out what time the liturgy
          was- there was no phone listed. The priest told me it was in HIS name- now how
          many newcomers would know THAT, and how many would persevere the way I did- a
          25 mile round trip just to read a sign. (They did change that situation, I am
          glad to say.) We need to be accessible. We should post phone numbers, and
          list out churches in the phone book and in the paper. No frills, just who we
          are. Then, we need to make sure to appear welcoming to the newcomer. Invite
          him/her to coffee hour. Speak to newcomers and help them if they can't follow
          the liturgy. If they come back frequently, try to involve them in things. We
          have to stop being invisible, and we must forget the idea that being friendly
          and welcoming is too "Protestant" for us. If we do these things and preach the
          truth of Orthodoxy, people will come! Our parish is small, but grows by about
          10% each year!
          --- Rev Mark Gilstrap <fr.mark@...> wrote:
          > Last October I sent a posting to both ORTHODOX
          > and Orthodox-Synod about "Trying to understand
          > the attraction" of protestant megachurches. I
          > submit the following as a follow-up. It evokes
          > the memory of a man here in Tulsa (a friend of
          > Bob Tallick) who says "if you had a nice church
          > with onion domes I would come." As Dcn David
          > James has pointed out here before, if such people
          > would only come *and* contribute, there could
          > easily be such a church. Is that what makes the
          > difference with the protestants - they tithe?
          > On Memorial Day I listened to my brother list the
          > budget lines in his Methodist church. It is mind
          > boggling.
          >
          > In part, in October, I said:
          >
          > My insufficiency in dealing with questions regarding
          > how one relates to those who do not understand Orthodoxy
          > (including heterodox spouses of the Orthodox) led me to
          > want to understand where they're coming from - to seek
          > understanding by learning more about the new evangelical
          > protestant mega-church phenomenon. It seems that everyone
          > I meet thinks in terms of numbers being a sign of a
          > religion's "success" and viability; and conversely, of
          > Orthodoxy (small numbers) as pitiable. [...]
          >
          > I decided I couldn't understand what the attraction
          > of these protestant mega-churches is without some
          > first hand experience. I decided to watch a show on
          > a new TV station this afternoon... (coming from my
          > brother's Methodist church)
          >
          > I did not succeed in understanding. Today I
          > ran across a similar old posting. I hope it
          > stimulates some discussion on this important
          > topic.
          >
          > Date: Tue, 11 Jan 1994 13:43:51 MST
          > Sender: ORTHODOX@...
          > From: Rebekah Moser <kmoser@...>
          > Subject: Church Growth
          >
          > Our local paper recently had a long article on how many of the local churches
          > were growing (due to Boise's large population growth) and how they were going
          > about attracting new members. There was a large picture of a man wearing a
          > sweatsuit and a coach's cap jogging down the center aisle of the church to
          > cheer his "team" on. The church was divided into two teams with prizes for
          > the team who could bring the most visitors to church. I grew up Protestant
          > where such things were considered normal, but after having been Orthodox for
          > 16 years, seeing a picture of such a thing was very shocking to me. The idea
          > seemed so alien to what I perceive to be the dignity and sacredness of a
          > church service. The question that immediately comes to mind is, "What are
          > people being attracted to, exactly?" There is a great danger here that the
          > largest church could in fact be the one with the snazziest service
          > organization, most theatrics, most appealing music, etc., etc. The effort to
          > gain new members could easily degenerate into a contest to provide the most
          > exciting service.
          >
          > What do we as Orthodox do to bring in new people? I have heard many times
          > that we need to work harder to cater to American society. Without getting
          > caught in the trap mentioned above, what is acceptable? Should increasing
          > sheer numbers really be our goal? A church full of a thousand people who
          > all "feel good" and "love this place" but have no idea or interest in the
          > depth of spirituality available within the Orthodox church does not strike
          > me as a reasonable goal at all.
          >
          > In the past I have likened our spiritual struggle to physical exercise. The
          > church gives us guidelines to help us grow in our spiritual lives. For
          > example, fasting is not done for the sake of outward appearance, but that we
          > may deny Satan (man does not live by bread alone) and affirm our dependence
          > on
          > God. A health club that decided physical exercise was too tough for the
          > majority of people and got rid of its weight machines, and brought in a big
          > screen TV for the hot tub room so more people would come to have fun would
          > quickly turn into nothing more than a social club. It would be a fun place
          > to
          > go, but should no longer be called a health club, because it isn't doing
          > anything to improve your physical health. Furthermore, those who had
          > initially
          > joined to improve their physical condition would be deprived of the
          > availability of the equipment and instruction to do so. If we make changes
          > to
          > our services - make them shorter, bring in an orchestra for the music, let
          > anybody go to communion regardless of preparation - would we be doing
          > anything
          > different than the health club that had ceased to be a health club?
          >
          > For me, the Orthodox church is not a casual relationship to be easily cast
          > aside in favor of someplace down the block that has more creature comforts
          > or excitement to offer. I am here because of the depth of spirituality and
          > guidance it offers me in my own spiritual struggle. The commitment is on
          > the level of marriage - permanent and permeating every area of my life.
          > Jesus told people to take up their cross and follow him. He never said that
          > it would be easy. He didn't offer to go rent a cart and horse to carry
          > people's crosses for them so more people would come.
          >
          > Is it appropriate to think of the church as a place for people who are
          > serious
          > about improving their spiritual lives? What place is there for those who
          > are not as serious? I've heard many times that "So and so would come if only
          > you had pews and the services weren't so long." To my ears that equates to
          > "I'd go to the health club if only they had a hot tub and served beer." If
          > you
          > don't want to improve your spiritual health, why would you want to go to
          > church in the first place? I could go on forever, but I will stop here and
          > simply request opinions on the above discussion. I have many mixed feelings
          > about the issue of growth - we should be growing, but do we have to lose
          > something important in that process? Are we alienating people we shouldn't
          > be?
          > How does your parish deal with such things?
          >
          > Rebekah Moser
          >
          >


          =====
          Catherine

          Yahoo! Groups Sponsor



          Archives located at http://www.egroups.com/group/orthodox-synod



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          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • blehr@bigfoot.com
          ... When I was exploring Orthodoxy several years ago, there were no nearby parishes for me to attend (nearest church that held regular services was about 6
          Message 4 of 5 , Jun 10, 2001
            --- In orthodox-synod@y..., Rev Mark Gilstrap <fr.mark@s...> wrote:
            >
            > I decided I couldn't understand what the attraction
            > of these protestant mega-churches is without some
            > first hand experience. I decided to watch a show on
            > a new TV station this afternoon... (coming from my
            > brother's Methodist church)

            When I was exploring Orthodoxy several years ago, there were no
            nearby parishes for me to attend (nearest church that held regular
            services was about 6 hours away). Most of my info came from reading
            what others had to say on the various lists, in books, etc. It was
            helpful in providing some understanding. However, the biggest piece
            of sound advice I received over and over again was to "come and see."
            In other words, I was completely unable to get a full picture of
            what Orthodoxy was "really" like unless I was actually there to
            participate in the service.

            Now that I am Orthodox, I would say the same thing is true for anyone
            interested in understanding how a Protestant church with a "church
            growth" mindset really works, you have to attend one. A tv show
            isn't enough. Why? Because the edited program won't show you the
            friendly greeting that you will receive when you walk in the door; it
            won't show you the literature that the greeters/doorkeepers provide
            for you to help you understand the service; it won't show the coffee
            hour where friendly people come to welcome you, invite you into their
            homes for lunch, and encourage you to visit their weekly home Bible
            study; it also won't show you the infrastructure of the church,
            whereby a totally unchurched person can be brought to church (perhaps
            by a friend), encouraged to become part of a faith-building course,
            come to faith and Christ, become baptized, and become involved in
            various ministries of the local parish. The show also won't reveal
            how that one-time unchurched person in many cases ends up being
            involved in some sort of lay ministry, whereby the things he/she is
            learning is now being used by God through the local church to help
            other unchurched people come to know Christ as well.

            Ok, enough rambling. And to be honest, you actually wouldn't see all
            this happening from just one visit to a Protestant church either.
            But it does happen. That's the point. The church that is serious
            about real church growth (Protestant or Orthodox) does NOT simply
            focus on numbers (although it may have been at one time, and still is
            in some circles). But the primary concern in such churches is really
            on the concept of "church health." The concern is "how do we take a
            person from a totally unchurched background, get them into the
            church, help then learn about the faith, get them
            baptised/chrismated, help them continue to grow in their faith, help
            them discover their own spiritual giftings, and then provide an
            opportunity for them to be involved in some sort of local church
            ministry?" They in turn invite their unchurched friends, and the
            cycle continues. That's what real church growth is all about.

            Subdeacon Brian (Vincent) Lehr
            (moderator of the ortho-growth discussion list)
          • catherine elaine sullivan
            Good for you- sometimes converts have to come into Orthodoxy DESPITE the reception (or lack thereof) they receive from the people in the parish! ... =====
            Message 5 of 5 , Jun 13, 2001
              Good for you- sometimes converts have to come into Orthodoxy DESPITE the
              reception (or lack thereof) they receive from the people in the parish!
              --- blehr@... wrote:
              > --- In orthodox-synod@y..., Rev Mark Gilstrap <fr.mark@s...> wrote:
              > >
              > > I decided I couldn't understand what the attraction
              > > of these protestant mega-churches is without some
              > > first hand experience. I decided to watch a show on
              > > a new TV station this afternoon... (coming from my
              > > brother's Methodist church)
              >
              > When I was exploring Orthodoxy several years ago, there were no
              > nearby parishes for me to attend (nearest church that held regular
              > services was about 6 hours away). Most of my info came from reading
              > what others had to say on the various lists, in books, etc. It was
              > helpful in providing some understanding. However, the biggest piece
              > of sound advice I received over and over again was to "come and see."
              > In other words, I was completely unable to get a full picture of
              > what Orthodoxy was "really" like unless I was actually there to
              > participate in the service.
              >
              > Now that I am Orthodox, I would say the same thing is true for anyone
              > interested in understanding how a Protestant church with a "church
              > growth" mindset really works, you have to attend one. A tv show
              > isn't enough. Why? Because the edited program won't show you the
              > friendly greeting that you will receive when you walk in the door; it
              > won't show you the literature that the greeters/doorkeepers provide
              > for you to help you understand the service; it won't show the coffee
              > hour where friendly people come to welcome you, invite you into their
              > homes for lunch, and encourage you to visit their weekly home Bible
              > study; it also won't show you the infrastructure of the church,
              > whereby a totally unchurched person can be brought to church (perhaps
              > by a friend), encouraged to become part of a faith-building course,
              > come to faith and Christ, become baptized, and become involved in
              > various ministries of the local parish. The show also won't reveal
              > how that one-time unchurched person in many cases ends up being
              > involved in some sort of lay ministry, whereby the things he/she is
              > learning is now being used by God through the local church to help
              > other unchurched people come to know Christ as well.
              >
              > Ok, enough rambling. And to be honest, you actually wouldn't see all
              > this happening from just one visit to a Protestant church either.
              > But it does happen. That's the point. The church that is serious
              > about real church growth (Protestant or Orthodox) does NOT simply
              > focus on numbers (although it may have been at one time, and still is
              > in some circles). But the primary concern in such churches is really
              > on the concept of "church health." The concern is "how do we take a
              > person from a totally unchurched background, get them into the
              > church, help then learn about the faith, get them
              > baptised/chrismated, help them continue to grow in their faith, help
              > them discover their own spiritual giftings, and then provide an
              > opportunity for them to be involved in some sort of local church
              > ministry?" They in turn invite their unchurched friends, and the
              > cycle continues. That's what real church growth is all about.
              >
              > Subdeacon Brian (Vincent) Lehr
              > (moderator of the ortho-growth discussion list)
              >
              >


              =====
              Catherine
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