How does the church grow?

by Stan Mitchell

A number of years ago I was talking to a young man about a practice in worship about which I had biblical concerns. Evidently he felt my concerns demonstrated that I was not “interested in evangelism.”

“Don’t you believe,” he concluded his remarks, “That God’s will is that we grow?”

There were several things wrong with his statement. The first was the assumption that this particular unbiblical practice would result in a growing church. He had no way of knowing whether there was a direct correlation between the two.

Just saying (as these kinds of people usually say with utter, blissful confidence) that a certain action will make the church grow is no guarantee that it will do so.

The second problem with his statement was that when numerical growth does occur because of some unbiblical practice, the price we paid for church growth was too great!

The third problem, and the most significant, is that when we build without the authority of Jesus Christ’s direction, we build on the wrong foundation. And as anyone who has built anything knows, the foundation is the most vital part of a structure, physical or spiritual.

“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus,” (1 Corinthians 3:11, ESV).

“On this rock I [Jesus] will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).

As one author observed, the correct foundation makes all the difference:

“Paul does not mean that it would be impossible to construct a new community on a different basis, only that such a community would not be the church” (Barrett, 1 Corinthians, 87)

This is not to say that we shouldn’t utilize thought, prayer, imagination and vision to help reach our communities and help the church to grow. But let us remind ourselves that we are involved in no merely human activity.

We are not building a social organization, a support group or a therapeutic center; we’re building the church of Jesus Christ. And for that, only one foundation can be laid.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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One thought on “How does the church grow?

  1. Good words. Some people want to give themselves too much credit.

    1Cor3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

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