How to build the church

Let’s start with an important declaration: I think we all want the church to grow. The question is, how?

Church growth has become an industry these days with studies and literature all over social media. Those who care about the church might lend some of these an ear. And yet there are cautions to observe, too.

Never surrender biblical truth in order to “spread the net wider.” Sheer numbers of bodies on church pews does not equate spiritual growth. Methods that work in one part of the world, at one time in history or for one person’s talents may not work in another. The Bible, too, is interested in church growth, and we might consult it for guidance in this department.

So what does the church need in order to grow? Do we switch preachers like a pro football franchise until we get the “right one”? Do we pour money into some slick public relations company? Do we scamper around trying to copy the latest method from other congregations that have found a “formula”?

Take a deep breath! Here are some things we can do, attainable by every congregation of the Lord’s people.

We can ensure a converted membership, where Christians “seek first” Christ’s kingdom (Matthew 6:33).

The church will never grow collectively beyond the level of commitment of members individually. Do you care what happens to your congregation? Do you care what happens to its members? Some care enough to point out where others go wrong, but the committed child of God seeks to do his part to make things better.

We can be a praying membership.

Now that is an activity attainable for all, isn’t it? Paul often sought the prayers of his brethren. “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will boldly make known the mystery of the Gospel” (Ephesians 6:19). If you want a better preacher, pray for him. If you want a better congregation, pray for her!

We can be a united membership.

I am always impressed with Paul suggesting to the Corinthians: “Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Corinthians 6:7). Is there ever a principle at stake more important than my petty feelings? What about the reputation of the church in the community? What about the well-being of God’s people, the church?

We can make use of our talents and opportunities.

Paul envisions a church where “each [member] does its part” (Ephesians 4:16). When God wanted to provide salvation for the community of Jerusalem, Ephesus or Tennessee, what did he do? What kind of “growth method” did he adopt? KNAAN News Short wave radio? Bible correspondence from Galilee?

He used a church!

Please, please, read that last line again. He utilized the collective talents and resources of a group of God’s people. As E.M. Bounds declared, “People are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better people.”

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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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