There is deep rooted misunderstanding, call it fear or mistrust even, when it comes to the secular worlds view of the christian church, and church growth. This especially prevalent in the media and how it reports on the church.
I am going to attempt to disect this a little, try to shed a bit of light on it. I have no hard data for what I am about to write, just my own thoughts and observations. I may be wrong about a few things but possibly not. you may perceive them as wrong, maybe until you take the time to give it some serious thought. So I am going to start with the secular view, draw some analogies and then bring my conclusion.
So let's begin. I think the problem, or a large part of it, is found in language. The language that is written and spoken. What do I mean by that? Well not english or french obviously. I mean the secular terminology, where growth is expressed or thought of in terms of equity and assets. Some of the language used, is in words like; cap, limit, ceiling. Anything that is built by way of a facility, is according to space, population density and projected or prescribed need.
Think about building a Golf Course. How many members do you need? Well as many as can tee off in winter (because of the shorter days). Plus maybe 20% to allow for absences. Then there are weekday members, same limit rules apply. Now it is a matter of economy, what does it cost to administrate that number of members. So you can see, there is a limit, yet there will never be a shortage of people wanting to play. However, there is still a limit of how many people, in groups of four, can tee off and play 18 holes of golf, if they all play well and quickly.
Now think about the movies. The Cinema complex does this a bit better. Again they are limited by; size, space, available parking etc. They know, in times of high demand, how many sessions they can run, on multiple screens in one day. The movie could be running on 4 screens, with staggered start times to accomodate demand, and they can start earlier and finsh later if they need to. It all just depends on the season and length of the film.
Speaking of films, the secular approach is perhaps best described in the phrase "If you build it they will come". This approach is born out of creating a need, rather than responding to one.
Now we come to the church. Everything is now different, some of the rules will still apply, but some are the opposite. We are still restricted somewhat by space and logistics, but like the cinema, we can run to multiple sessions. When they no longer suffice, it's time to look for a new or extra facility.
The language of the church is shaped by an eternal mindset, numbers without limit. There is no membership cap. The approach is not if we build, but we have to build, because they are already coming.
So when the secular mind sees the church growing and expanding, they see the new buildings as assets and equity. Therefor they respond with, wait for it...."It's all about the money"
The truth is it's not. It's about people, (which the secular mind views as a customer base). It's about eternal principles, a soul that is either rescued or lost for eternity. We can't say come back next week, or session full. There is only the now, because who knows if they will ever have another now. The movie will run tomorrow, or wait for the DVD. the golf Course will be open all week for public play. But eternity may start after the next heartbeat.
When demand exceeds capacity, you have no choice, you have to build.
OK I will concede one point here. Yes, there are some, especially in America, who set themselves up in ministry as an income stream, and they teach (hammer) the prosperity doctrine for their own ends. And this is where a lot of the criticism is aimed. But that is not the true doctrine of the christian church.The story of Babel is a poignant reminder of what happens when humanity builds to promote and exalt itself. The true doctrine puts others ahead of self, even to the point of our own personal loss. It builds to serve the needs of humanity, not the needs of a few elite humans. And certainly not for personal monetary gain.