A lack of concern for growth in the Lord’s body is unacceptable. “It is simply biblical and theological nonsense to argue that God is pleased when churches, year after year and generation after generation, lose members.”/1 To suppose that Christ came to die for a lackluster vision is intolerable.
God decided before time began that his church should grow. We need not spend any time contemplating whether growth should occur. The Great Commission has the name of all Christians in its command to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15, NKJV).
We shall examine three principles that will help facilitate this noble goal.
First, growth requires conviction. All church growth must be founded on the unwavering conviction that the Bible is God’s inspired word and that nothing can alter its message (Psalm 119:89). Jesus said nothing can stop his kingdom (Matthew 16:18) and that “the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). For those who are seeking churches, the “unambiguous declaration of absolutes” is very appealing in a “world of relativity.”/2
When we express these absolutes, we must do so with love and concern for souls (Ephesians 4:15). Speaking the truth is not a mere recitation of facts or a club to enforce compliance. It is the process of helping hurting and lost people reach the destination that will bring them peace with God and the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16). It is the conviction that souls need the gospel and an undiluted message of God’s grace and love. That to compromise the truth would be to doom the lost to a delusion of salvation.
A church of conviction will be resolute in the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). They will realize that to hide truth from people is to be dishonest and destructive. To place people’s feelings above their salvation is to express hatred for their souls that will be judged on the final day (Hebrews 9:27).
Second, growth requires caring. Jesus provided a portrait of God’s people that is essentially forgotten by the majority of Christians (Matthew 25:31-46). To exhibit Christ’s love is to feed, clothe, nurse, and help those who are without. We are to be the hands of Jesus to those around us (Mark 6:1,2).
Growing churches will have tender, open hearts and an active, giving spirit. Hurting people are everywhere, and they all have souls and sins that need attention. Jesus fed the multitudes, and when they came back simply for more food, he taught them again. When they refused to listen and simply wanted more food, he let them go (John 6). The message is not that we should ignore all the needy because of a few selfish individuals, but that the voice of truth and the extended hand should be forever intertwined.
Third, growth requires consensus. For a church to choose growth, they must be going in the same direction. They must agree that truth in love will be their goal and doctrinal compromise their enemy. A congregation will work toward goals that they own, meaning those goals that they see as productive. Leadership must have the support and energy of the congregation if growth is to occur. They cannot force it to occur contrary to the desires of the congregation.
The congregation must decide that they will be involved, set their fears aside and deliver the gospel and a helping hand to the community. And they must decide that they will receive whomever accepts the gospel call. This is sometimes more difficult than it sounds. But, it is the Lord’s church, not ours.
1/ C. Peter Wagner, Your Church Can Grow (Ventura: Regal, 1976), 189.
2/ Thom Ranier, Surprising Insights From the Unchurched (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 135.
Christ never intended for his church to be stagnant.