The conversation usually starts out with a concern for the church’s growth, or at least it seems so: “The church will never grow,” they will begin, “unless we change …” It’s the usual list — expanded roles for women in public worship, introduction of instrumental music, teaching that baptism is optional, and so on. If only we could change the church’s stand on these things, people will begin to pour into our church building. One person said it this way: “But isn’t it the Lord’s will that the church grow?”
This always raises questions in my mind. For a start, what church growth studies are they looking at? I know of no church growth study in the galaxy that shows that when churches soften their conviction they begin to grow.
In fact, church growth studies tend to demonstrate the opposite: those churches that surrender conviction in order to throw the net over a wider group of lifestyles and beliefs do not grow! Look at the so-called “major” protestant religions, their big, cavernous, empty places of worship, and you will know what I mean. Churches that stand for something, that demand allegiance of their members, repentance, and Bible learning, lifestyle changes and involvement — they grow! Yes. The church growth studies show that!
Now I have known churches (within our own brotherhood) that have been so negative they have not grown. Every Sunday a minister stands and rages about other churches, condemning them to eternal punishment, emphasizing all the things that cannot be done. An obsession with church politics will not make a church grow, but, and beloved, note this, a stand on the Bible is not negative, it is life giving.
And I have also known churches that say, in effect: “We may be small, but boy are we pure!” Being pure is no excuse for failing to reach out, to do evangelism of some kind.
But there is a more fundamental question. Is it really our job to “grow” (is that grammatical?) the church? You recall the words of Paul: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6). It’s not God’s will that we grow the church; it’s his will that we be faithful to him. Live the life he requires, preach the message he gives us, stand for the truth “once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 1:3).