MLK Jr on Church Growth

As the UMC prepares for a decade of navel-gazing and focusing on church growth to reverse the trends, on this MLK Jr day we are to reminded that such a focus on church growth is set in tension with the prophetic words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here’s MLK Jr in his speech “A Knock at Midnight” (audio version here)

An increase in quantity does not automatically bring an increase in quality. A larger membership does not necessarily represent a correspondingly increased commitment to Christ. Almost always the creative, dedicated minority has made the world better.”

Let this be a reminder that while church growth is required and excellent and needed and a result of dedicated discipleship, if we truly embrace the call to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” then disciples are always less in number than the worship attendance, always less in number than the membership, and transformation is done through a dedicated minority not a hyped up, worship-as-a-drug-induced frenzied majority.


Print Friendly and PDF


  1. says

    Rather than criticizing people who are planting churches, that we believe are not committed to Dr. King’s call to justice, and high callings of Jesus Way — how about we put our efforts where our mouths are? Let’s grow some churches and plant some churches that would make Jesus and Dr. King want to say: “Well done! Good and faithful servant.” Let’s grow some churches committed to following Jesus, doing Justice, doing acts of compassion and changing the world.

  2. says

    Yes an increase in quantity does not necessarily mean an increase in quality. But neither does a DECREASE in quantity necessarily mean an increase in quality, (or faithful discipleship). You might be a faithful minority, salt and yeast, or you might just be a mean-spirited people who aren’t outward looking.

  3. Carolyn says

    Every pastor that makes strong statements on Christian social ethics will lose a few members. The American (and Protestant) way is to “vote with your feet” to register disapproval with the pastor. Regardless of worship style, a pastor who delivers a prophetic message will anger some folks. Jesus Christ’s message was ethical, and some who feel convicted won’t want to return because they want to go to church to feel good, and that doesn’t feel good to them. I agree with King, though, that it’s worth losing a disgruntled few to make true disciples.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *