I've just been praying with my dear old friend Simon. As we were praying he said some interesting and striking things about church growth, multiplication of services and how to stay visionary as churches grow:
1. The temptation with a full church building is to think that we have now fulfilled the vision
2. A full church building allows us to assume that everything is going well simply because of numbers and buzz
3. A full church building actively encourages people to think about success (whatever that means) and vision in terms of having achieved a certain size of group
4. When children are growing parents have to buy clothes a size too large. If they only buy shoes the right size for the moment and don't anticipate that the child's feet will need further room to grow, then the feet will quickly get squashed and deformed. They won't grow properly. Similarly if our structures (and physical space in particular) don't anticipate growth, it should not be a surprise if we don't see it. What we may not appreciate is that under this circumstance the life that is there deforms into an unbiblical shape. Growth, by definition, requires room to grow
I think about our church. A great church, with ministries, good preaching, enthusiastic worship, people who love Jesus and are active witnesses. But 110% full on Sunday morning. And which has therefore temporarily plateaued in terms of growth. The building won't fit any more. If we go to two services, each 50% of the size, we will feel like we are rattling around and neither will have the same buzz for a bit. But it would persuade us that we need to grow. The trouble with having no growth room is that it is all too easy to assume that we don't need to.
Our church was founded 50 years ago. The (extremely) visionary founders clearly thought in terms of 200 people, because that is what they built. From a start of nothing that was quite a vision. The question for us now is how to continue when we have reached the initial vision. One thing is for sure: we will be unfaithful to them and to the Lord if our vision remains for 200 people. What about 400? What about the whole town? But to reach them the structures can't stay the same.
Therefore outreach and numerical growth requires a commitment to put up with perpetual discomfort with church structure for the sake of the gospel. There is simply no alternative.