The whole “if it’s healthy it grows” thing….


A recently established church growth consulting business is fired up about getting you fired up to get your people fired up about growing your church.

One of the recurring phrases on the website is healthy things grow or healthy organisms grow. To this guy’s credit he at least takes the next step in qualifying that tagline by talking about “healthy growth.” 

Upon reading this, I was transported back to my days on staff at megachurches. Full disclosure: I have nothing against megachurches. Love them…when they’re healthy from the top down. Same is true for church at any size. 

I recall sitting in multiple staff meetings and hearing the mantra, “Healthy things grow. Healthy things grow. Healthy things grow.” Now you say it…


this tree grew

Also, cancer grows–is it healthy?

(That borders on making too little of those suffering under the oppressive hand of cancer.)

Righteous indignation. That’s what I felt in those moments. I say righteous so as to distract from the fact that, more often than not, I harbored a sinful spirit towards those espousing this half-truth.

Two questions I have that come to mind.

1. What constitutes healthy?

2. Should we assume that if a church grows it’s because of health?

When healthy is used to describe a church that should grow are we talking she barely passed her physical or she is an Olympic hopeful?

There are certainly various levels of healthy when speaking of the human body, so what about the church body? What markers are we mapping to determine the condition of the church?

I would submit that in a majority of cases, the primary diagnostic factor is whether the church is and has been growing. A simple syllogism for this:

Premise 1: If a church grows, then that church is healthy

Premise 2Church X has grown

Conclusion: Church X is healthy. (Classical education rules!)

This isn’t to disregard other factors such as community outreach, missions involvement, care for the poor, etc. Primarily, though, the aforementioned formulation is adopted.

Let’s move on to question 2. Is all church growth healthy? After all, unhealthy things–flesh-eating organisms, rumors, diseases, mold–grow. In similar fashion, unhealthy churches can grow.

For instance:

  • Church staffs can experience significant internal discord while the overall numbers of the church increase.
  • The primary leaders can be unhealthy in any number of ways and the overall church numbers increase.
  • The church body, though more rare, can be unhealthy and numbers increase, at least for a while.
  • A church that teaches false doctrine and embraces heresy can grow.

Did you know that a church that gives out ipads, ipods,  cars, sporting event tickets, guns, houses can grow, too?

Why bother writing this post?

Therapy, perhaps. But also to encourage church staff or others who hear the growth mantra and are either frustrated or unfazed. I’d encourage you to respectfully (privately) press against this prevalent proposition. Do it without talking to other staff or church members first. These are mistakes I made. I let my suspicion breed disrespect. It grew.

I’ll do a follow-up post with a working response to how we can talk about growth, numbers, and health. 

Happy New Year!


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