Churches that Grow
“What is growth?” It is important to distinguish between growth and just increasing in numbers. A church may increase in size while it is growing weaker. There are at least three aspects to true growth:
Number one is growth in the spiritual understanding of the members. 2 Peter 3:18, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” If growth is not with respect to God, it is not growth! The devil has the many on his side; but real growth comes from God’s blessing.
1 Peter 2:2, “like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,” ... The purpose of growth is first spiritual, to secure our own salvation, and to strengthen our souls and to get nearer to our lord! Eph 4:15, “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ.”
Number two is to have an increase in conversions. See Acts 6:1, 7; 12:24; and 16:5. This is what we usually mean by growth, but admittedly there is not enough of this growth. And, there is a difference between a true conversion to Christ and just convincing someone to be with the congregation.
Number three is to have a growth or increase in service - in what the members are doing in the work of the Lord. True growth has stagnated in many churches because the membership waits for the elders, deacons and preacher to do whatever needs doing. The purpose of all kinds of teachers in the church is explained in Eph 4:12: -“for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” the work of all teachers is to equip the saints for the work of service and the ultimate end of that work of service is the building up (edification) -the growth! Our Lord said that the greatest is the servant of all (Mark 9:33-35). In order to grow personally or collectively, we must grow in service!
How is this growth achieved? What are the qualities of congregations that are truly growing? What does it take to grow?
(1) There must be strong Bible teaching. Teaching both sinners and saints is essential. Matt 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” We must teach all men because all men and women are sinners and need the Savior!
Matt 28:20; “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” After baptism, there are things for the Christians to observe that must be taught: sound doctrine, scriptural worship, and how to live the Christian life.
Rom 1:16 tells us that the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one. Obviously it must be zealously taught in order for others to be converted. Acts 8:4: “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.” There was Church growth because the gospel was being preached by Christians and people were being converted to Christ.
In 1 Cor. 2:1-5, Paul emphasizes the power of plain gospel preaching over the teachings of the wisdom and philosophies of men. The expression in 2 Tim. 4:2 to “reprove, rebuke, exhort” emphasizes the need for the negative as well as the positive in good strong Gospel preaching. Sound preaching is essential to positive spiritual growth. Sound preaching involves the entirety of the Bible message- “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:20, 27, 31-32) because it is the “word of His grace, which is able to build you up.”
(2) For any church to grow, it will require totally committed disciples! Our Lord did not promise an easy way (Luke 14:26-27). The commitment of Christ over family, and even one’s own life is a dedicated commitment. No one is more committed than one who is “faithful unto death” (Rev 2:10). One’s commitment puts Christ first about all the excuses we might make (Matt 8:19-22).
(3) The members must reflect their happy moral lives to the world. Happy! And Moral! Some err by trying to be Christians without His standard of morality. Others try to be moral; but they do not seem to be happy about it.
Morality is attractive to people of the world. Happiness is often attractive to those same people. They need to see both to be drawn to hear the gospel! So let us do all things, including appearing as lights in the world, without grumbling (Phil 2:14-16). Let us keep our behavior excellent among the Gentiles so that they might glorify God (1 Peter 2:11-12). See also 1 Peter 3:1 and 16).
It takes only one ungodly member to ruin the good influences of many others. And it only takes one grumpy member to ruin the happy influence of the remainder.
(4) The church will grow if the world sees in that church a warm, caring “family-type” love and affection exists. Jesus said that men would know His disciples by their love one for another (John 13:34-35). So let us love in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18-19). Often the kindly deeds of the saints have done more to influence people to seek the truth than many excellent sermons. The sermon lived and observed is often far more effective than the sermon preached!
(5) For a church to grow, it needs peace within.... along with the commitment to growth.
A kingdom divided cannot succeed (Luke 11:17). The opposite is the house united in love and peace! Nothing is more obvious, more a blessing, encouraging or edifying than “maintaining the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). We are admonished to be found in peace, spotless and blameless (2 Peter 3:14). Peace is one vital key to the good life (1 Peter 3:10-12).
Make peace with God today. Come to Jesus (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38)!