When considering this question, it is also important to work with a clear definition of “the church.” As our Lutheran Confessions remind us, the church on earth is “the people of God gathered around his Word and Sacraments.” Atonement Lutheran Church is then one flock of God’s fold. We are “members of the body of Christ” (1 Cor 12:12-13) who gather together corporately, as one body of believers, on Sunday morning to hear God’s Word and receive his Sacraments.
If a Christian congregation is defined as a group of believers in Christ gathered around the Word of God and the Sacraments, then a congregation is growing when people are being connected to Christ and the universal church through the Word of God and the Sacraments. A Christian congregation is growing when the members of the congregation are continuing to grow in Christ through the presence of God’s Spirit active through his Word and Sacraments.
That is to say that “church growth” is not just numerical growth. Church growth is also members of the church growing in their Christian faith. In recent years, particularly among Christian denominations in the United States, there has been a great amount of emphasis put on the numerical growth of congregations. This type of approach is undoubtedly influenced by the business world which defines success and growth in terms of numerical, measurable goals—“How much and how many?”