First, a caveat: I know there are times when transfer church growth is necessary and right. We need to be serving in a church near where we live, and we need to be in a church that preaches the gospel. It makes sense to me to move our membership to reach those goals. Nevertheless, transfer growth can be a problem. Here’s why:
- It can lull a church to sleep evangelistically. That can happen when people seem to be joining the church regularly. The congregation is pleased with the growth, whether or not non-believers are turning to Christ.
- It can leave a false impression that God is working. He might be doing something mighty, but it’s also possible that the church is just “swapping sheep.”
- It can come from an unhealthy consumerism. We sometimes treat church like a shopping mall – there are a lot of stores to enter, and we go to the one that most interests us right now.
- It can create a “trade route” for continually unhappy people. That’s also a product of consumerism. People who come to our church unhappy often leave it unhappy, too.
- It can encourage ungodly competition. When we’re all fishing for the same Christian fish – as opposed to fishing for lost people – we almost have to do better than the next guy to keep the crowd.
- It can turn churches inward. When continual transfer growth happens, somebody rightly must minister to the new members. We often end up spending so much energy ministering to believers that we have little left for non-believers.
- It doesn’t require brokenness. Encouraging other believers to join a church is much different than being gut-level broken over non-believing neighbors. The former requires only a conversation; the latter demands a burden.
- Handled wrongly, it can encourage ignoring damaged relationships. Transfer growth can allow a believer to leave a church because he’s frustrated or angry without dealing with problems or seeking reconciliation. This sin lingers until the anger becomes apparent elsewhere.
- It can maintain the “Christian bubble.” Many believers cocoon themselves among other believers rather than reach out to the lost world. Congregations that grow primarily by transfer growth only make the bubble bigger.
- It likely doesn’t alarm the enemy. I’m not sure he gets too stressed by churches that grow without threatening his hold on people he has blinded (2 Cor 4:3-4).
Again, I know there are legitimate reasons for transfer growth. Let’s not forget the dangers, though.
What are your thoughts?