President of International Church Growth Ministry, Dr. Francis Bola Akin John has faulted Bishop David Oyedepo’s Church growth parameter while also describing the recent sack of pastors in the Living Faith Church as too hasty.
Dr. Akin-John who has been teaching church growth since 1992 told Church Times in an interview that it is wrong to limit church growth to numerical growth.
He said, “If what the church is looking for is numerical growth, then one year is too short in the life of a pastor to determine whether he is fruitful or not.”
According to him, a pastor should be given at least three years to prove his calling on the field.
Beyond that, Akin-John stated that the church has a responsibility to train and retrain the pastors before concluding that they are unfruitful.
“It takes years of training to develop character and integrity in a pastor. They ought to have been exposed to a lot of training. You can’t sack people under one year because they are not winning souls. That is too hasty,” he said.
The church growth expert also took a swipe at the sacked pastors saying, “If they are genuine ministers of the gospel, they will not seek employment with such stringent condition of meeting target. If somebody employs you and builds a place for you; the person will do budget for you. It is the church that will determine how you run. Invariably, the church will put pressure on you to meet up with the certain expectations”
He reasoned further churches in rural areas should be missionary endeavours where money and number should not be a priority.
“In church growth financial growth is just one of the many indices to growth. But it is not even the most important of all the growth indices. What is crucial for us in church growth is the spiritual growth of members. That is why we emphasize discipleship.”
Giving examples of those who meet challenges on the mission field, he said, “The story is told of CH Spurgeon who preached in India for 7 years without a soul. Soul-winning is not as easy as we make it to look because it is the holy spirit that saves people. Our own is to preach the gospel. There are times God will want to test the sincerity of the heart of the pastor before committing souls to their care.”
He faulted those using the parable of the talent to justify the sack of those pastors. “as I said earlier, those pastors have their fault too because they see pastoring as a job, not a calling. But it will not be proper to use the parable of talent to justify their sack. The parable of the talent is about a lifetime of fruitlessness. And God is the businessman in that parable who gave people talent.
“He is coming back at the end of the age or the end of our lives to ask what we have done with the talent he gave us. And he is the one who determines fruitfulness, not us. So, the parable of the talent has nothing to do with the pastors being sacked from their assignments.”
Rather than sack the pastors, Akin-John suggested they ought to have been retrained. “Sack is not the option. They should have been withdrawn from the field and retrained. The church should then pray to know what God says about them.
“We have to be careful to do God’s business in his own way and not our way. We can’t base our assessment only on the physical result. If we do, some pastors will resort to some other ways of achieving church growth so as to gain favour with the leadership. And the pastor may well just be sending the people to hell.”