GROWING A CHURCH GOD’S WAY
“Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God” (Colossians 2:18-19, NASB, emphasis mine, hf).
Having been a preacher of the gospel for some sixty years, and having served as a local minister for over forty years (but still busy preaching every week), I believe I have some qualifications to address the subject of church growth. Since I am a preacher, I will write primarily from the preacher’s viewpoint. Thus, what I say could be viewed as my philosophy of preaching and church growth.
A preacher of the gospel and a congregation of God’s people should stick with the fundamentals (not to be confused with what we sometimes refer to as “first principles”). The fundamentals of church growth as I perceive them are sound, Biblical, relevant preaching (II Timothy 4:1-5; Titus 2:1); a solid, well-rounded Bible school program (Matthew 28:20; II Timothy 3:16-17); visitation and personal evangelism (Acts 5:42; 20:20); a strong emphasis on helping the poor and needy (Matthew 25:31-46; Galatians 6:10; James 1:27); elders who truly shepherd the flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-3); deacons who zealously serve (1 Timothy 5:13); members who use their individual gifts (abilities) for the building up of the body of Christ (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Peter 4:10-11; Ephesians 4:7-16); and the exercise of both preventive and corrective church discipline (I Thessalonians 4:11; II Thessalonians 3:6; Romans 16:17; I Corinthians 5:9-13), all backed up with a genuine commitment to being the “aroma of Christ” in the community (II Corinthians 2:15-16).
Really I could stop right here because the above says in a nut-shell all that is necessary to grow a church God’s way, but being a preacher I will say a few more words!
While staying with the Biblical message, churches and church leaders should not be afraid to try new, fresh methods and approaches that are relevant to today’s world and its needs. At the same time, they should avoid gimmicks and fads that promise fast growth and “quick fixes.” Otherwise, they will constantly be jumping from one thing to another without ever settling down to the real work before them (and in order for the church to grow, real work is necessary). And while all Christians should be interested in the growth of the church and work for such, the emphasis should not be on being a big church (at least number-wise) but on being a good and faithful church one where the members can “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18), and be equipped to live out the message of Christ in their own lives and to effectively present that message to others. Such a church, I am convinced, will be blessed “with a growth which is from God” (Colossians 2:19, NASB).
Most churches will have problems (major or minor) from time to time. These problems should be identified and dealt with biblically, honestly, realistically, and in love. Just because a “vocal minority” or a “powerful minority” oppose something (or someone), does not mean that the rest of the congregation should give in to it. On the other hand, just because an “influential majority” wants to change things in order to have its way is no reason to change if the change involves doctrine or practice that is contrary to the word of God. No church can grow or please the Lord while catering to such pressure groups.
Churches make a mistake when they keep changing preachers, hoping to find the “right man” (miracle preacher). The congregation may need to look inwardly to itself. Are the elders truly shepherding? Are the deacons sincerely serving? Are the members diligently working? Elders, deacons, teachers, preachers, and members must work together as a team, recognizing that all have both strengths and weaknesses. They need to be forbearing with one another and forgiving of one another (Ephesians 4:1-3, 32).
The congregation’s leaders need to have a vision of the church and its mission. They need to pray, plan, and guide. They need to challenge and motivate the membership, rather than spending their time and energy “putting out brush fires.” All members of the congregation, including its leaders, need to “roll up their sleeves” and become personally involved in the various works of the church. A big part of the leadership of elders, deacons, and ministers is by example.
May God grant His people the vision to see and the desire to do!
Nov. 7-8: Houston Park Church of Christ Men’s Retreat, Selma, AL
Nov. 9: Houston Park Church of Christ, Selma, AL (a.m. service only)
October 28, 2014