Friday, June 06, 2008

Growing Churches

Growing churches are usually characterized by a number of vital qualities:

First, healthy and growing churches are unconditionally committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and to His Word. They are not distracted by the fads of the day, nor are they given to self-centered pursuits. They realize that gimmicks and cosmetics don't build sound churches. The world will not beat a path to their door simply because they have a better gimmick. Growing churches are built upon the rock, which does not move and is not shifting like sand. They are committed to the one true gospel and hold firm to the teaching of the Scripture, realizing that without God there can be no real growth. They realize that only the gospel can save, and they see no reason to dilute it. They see no value in turning the church into a country club. They know that God gives the increase.

Second, growing churches are healthy and active. They are not lazy, nor do they pass the time from week to week keeping house. They grow by training and by intention and by hard work. They take the Great Commission seriously. They are not waiting for some other congregation to come and help them. Their beauty arises not from pretentious marketing but from the wholesomeness of their souls. They live what they believe.

Third, healthy and growing churches are devoted to praying. They pray for the lost to open their hearts. They pray for open doors for the word (Col. 4:2-4). They pray for their preachers. They pray for opportunities to speak the truth. They pray in victory and in sorrow.

Fourth, healthy and growing churches are outward focused but uncompromising. They are not caught up in the quagmire of fickle religious experience. They do not wake up each Monday wondering what they have to do to outdo the day before. They realize that long-term, loving relationships may have special times but cannot survive on mountaintop experiences alone. They live on daily kindness and blessing. They live on grace and peace and love.

Fifth, healthy and growing churches know how to love and forgive; but they realize that true spiritual healing cannot take place without the correction of repentance. They know it is vain to give medicine to kill pain but leave the leg broken. They also realize that talking grace apart from repentance accomplishes nothing.

Sixth, healthy and growing churches are committed to teaching and preaching the gospel message wherever and whenever there is an opportunity. They have not hidden the gospel in the church building, hoping some lost seeker will someday come to his senses and wander in. They have gone out to the hedges and roads, persuading those in need to come to Jesus.

Seventh, healthy and growing churches have committed leaders. They have elders and preachers who believe in loving and working to bring in the lost. They are men who know how to feed others spiritually and give them the divine help they need. They are men who follow-up with the new converts and with the weak. They have counted the sheep again and again. They have bandaged the injured and cleaned the wounds. They have labored into the night to keep the wolves away.

May God be with those laborers, who having known the love and grace of God, are willing to work in the field in good times and bad. And may the Lord help us see the urgency of our calling.



Matthew said...

Great advice and post. I have been thinking about doing my dissertation on attitudes that produce growth within congregation. You are really good at this work in growing churches. Thank you.

Phil Sanders said...

thanks, Matthew. You are a great friend. The church is blessed to have you as a minister

Terry said...

I liked your advise about praying and demonstrating kindness everyday. Very good post, brother!

dell kimberly said...

Thanks, emphasis and timing are everything. Continue to preach Jesus.

Anonymous said...

The more time I spend in ministry (especially ministry in a post-Christian culture), the more I realize how important prayer is. It is interesting to read not only how much the new Christians, as recorded in Acts, prayed but also to read the content of their prayers.

In Acts 4.23-31 Peter and John received strict orders to stop preaching about Jesus. After returning to their new Christian community, the body of believers began praying. Their prayer addressed God as "Sovereign Lord" who has created everything. It is their belief in the creative power of God that serves as the basis for petitioning God to 1) enable his people to preach bodly and 2) to perform signs and wonders.

There are two things this passage should remind us of. First, prayer is of first importance. It reminds us that the spreading of the gospel is dependent upon God. We simply participate in the work that God is doing and accomplishing through us, his people. Second, if God has created everything (which we believe he has done) then God who is Sovereign Lord is capable of enabling his people to preach bodly and perform signs and wonders that accompany the preaching of the gospel. If we want to preach more bodly, let us petition God in prayer for boldness. Let us not limit our Soveriegn Lord when it comes to signs and wonders. What ever those look like, do we have the audacious faith to ask God to perform signs and wonders?

In my experience, when faced with challenges to the mission of the church, Christians have been eager to respond with the notion of "what can we do to solve the problem of rise to the challenge?" This passage in Acts reminds us that we can only ask "what can we do?" as a participative response to the question "What can God do?" The passage reminds us that before we seek to respond, we must ask God in prayer to respond.

Good Post!


Donnie Bates said...

All your posts are good, Phil, but this one is exceptional. Thank you and God bless you for your good work.