Wellsprings Church is a family integrated church and every year we have been in existence we have seen a steady growth of families committing to our fellowship. Of those that have come, especially in the past couple of years, nearly all have come from other churches. Because of this, it would be easy for us to become the target of the negative criticism that our church has grown simply by attracting people from other churches.
It usually goes something like this: “Wellsprings really isn’t an effective church in terms of reaching the lost. Most of their growth has just been people coming from other churches, not growth from new converts.”
While such a statement has an element of truth (most of our families have come from other churches – though not in the area), is it possible that it is grossly misguided and it’s negative implication of not being evangelistic untrue?
I would like to present a couple of points for consideration. First, years of research has proven that many of those who fill church pews every Sunday are really not saved. That is, they do not profess a faith in Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior and their lives do not bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:8). They may go to church every Sunday, they may participate in church activities, but according to Scripture, this isn’t saving faith.
This fact makes distinguishing church growth, growth between new converts and transfers, a difficult task. If a person is a regular attendee at one church but really isn’t saved, then attends another church and gives his life to Christ, what kind of growth do we classify this as? Is that person a new convert, or is it just transfer growth? Beyond that, how do we consider those who may attend a church and are saved, but their faith is, at best, immature, then they transfer to another church and begin to really experience spiritual growth and maturity?
Of course, Wellsprings could be in this very situation. We could have attendees that are not really saved. We could also have members that are saved but not growing. We hope not, and we have adopted a model that we believe makes it difficult for unsaved people to just hide out in church or saved people just to sit back and not grow.
My point is that I believe we have to rethink our position regarding people who transfer churches. I don’t want to endorse “church shopping.” In fact, I would highly recommend Joshua Harris’ book, “Stop Dating The Church.” Still, I want to challenge our thinking when it comes to growth that is the result of people transferring from one church to another.
Second, the fact that a church may experience a significant amount of transfer growth does not mean that the church is not evangelistic. One’s definition of being evangelistic certainly plays into consideration here. At Wellsprings, we believe that we have experienced growth because we place significant value on husbands evangelizing their families. Many may not believe that this is true evangelism, but perhaps that is why the church in America is losing the next generation at an alarming rate! But that is not the only line of evangelism we believe in. We also believe we must reach the lost outside of our families.
As with one’s definition of “evangelistic”, one’s perspective on how best to accomplish this plays a role. Two factors come to my thinking. One, numbers are tricky. Again, research has proven that even in large crusades a significant number of those that come forward to receive Christ experience a false conversion. Churches that boast large numbers doesn’t necessarily mean that they are converting the lost. Two, time is a factor. How do you gauge evangelical effectiveness? Is it just numbers? What about impact on a culture?
Wellsprings has a long term vision. We focus on those entering our doors today, but we don’t lose sight on how we will impact the culture over the next 50 years! Doing so affects the way we approach church. We are cognizant of today. We believe we should be actively sharing the gospel with the lost. What we are NOT, is we are not about how fast we can grow numerically – we are about living to the glory of God in a corrupt and perverted world. REALLY living for God! Real conversion, real sanctification, real faith. We believe that this kind of church can really change a culture.
At Wellsprings, our hope is that even as our fellowship grows numerically, more importantly, we will grow deep in our love for and obedience to Christ, and that this will result in an effective witness to the lost in our community – effective meaning that many will come to Christ!