The church of the first century exploded with growth — numerical and spiritual. Should we not be interested in a growing church, too? Not just for the sake of a larger bunch of people meeting on Sunday (like the membership drive of a social club), but for the sake of the souls that are lost without the truth of the Gospel. But how is it done? By a bus ministry or small groups or user friendly services? While these may be helpful, it is important to understand that they really are “gravy” and not “meat”. There are other things, fundamental things, that undergird biblical growth — things we need to be reminded of and do.
Love for each other
In John 13:35 Jesus tells us that the world will know that we are His disciples, if we have love for one another. No matter how compelling a presentation of the Gospel, outsiders will reject it, if love isn’t present. Indeed, weaker members of the Lord’s church will fail to stay, if love is a problem. Neither outsiders or weak members may know Christian doctrine really well, but they know that love is supposed to be part of following Jesus. Being friendly, kind, gentle, forgiving, and polite (yes, polite). It includes solving difficulties the Lord’s way (Matt. 5:23,24 and Matt. 18:15ff). And includes deeds of love and concern (see Romans 12 and 1 Cor. 13). If you haven’t shown love, not only is your soul in danger (1 John 4:20,21), but you stand in the way of the growth of the Kingdom.
Faith in what God can do
A regular fault of God’s people down through the ages has been faith — lack of it. Consider Moses at the burning bush (Exo. 2), David and the census (2 Sam 24), and Israel after the 10 faithless spies came back with a bad report (Num. 13). Think of the amazing things that happened, when men did act in faith — crossed the Red Sea, conquered Canaan, killed giants, were rescued from fiery furnaces, and walked on water! The world will probably never know all the amazing things that never happened, because God’s people lacked faith and refused to “step out of the boat”. When our God becomes “too small”, here is what happens: it displeases the God for whom nothing is impossible, it is a denial before the world (the world sometimes has more faith!), it keeps God’s blessings away, and hamstrings the progress of the church by limiting it to what we can do.
A clear understanding of the message
Because the denominational world has such a fuzzy, and politically correct picture of the Gospel, Christians themselves can sometimes get confused. And this is crucial because the Gospel (God’s Gospel) is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16)!
The biblical Gospel is different from modern denominational messages. Its Jesus is different, its proper response to the Gospel is different, its definition of faith is different, its point of salvation is different, its definition of the saved is different, its understanding of the church is different, and its message about the state of the world is different. And a “different” gospel will fail to save. Men and women fail to be saved and the Kingdom is crippled, all from having a muddled or compromised idea of the message.
A clear understanding of the urgency of our mission
Too many of us are unclear on the importance of Lord’s commission. We “get” the Great Commission — making other disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them again (Matt. 28:18-20). And we “get” that we are to be following Him in word, thought, and deed — a light to the world, set on a hill. The part that we sometimes don’t get is its urgency and importance. It’s not an optional suggestion for the truly religious. People’s souls are on the line. It’s a high calling, and it should be a high priority — a transcendent purpose. Without it, leisure, games, hobbies and other lesser pursuits start to trump a soul going to Heaven.
Zeal and enthusiasm to make the dust fly
Jesus, Revelation 3:19, called the lukewarm Laodicean church to repent and be zealous again; because it is zeal, ignited in hearts touched by the cross, that moves us beyond the mundane, beyond obstacles, and beyond discouragement to the bold “moving of mountains”. Great men of the Bible were moved with faith and zeal: Moses, Joshua, David, Nehemiah, Isaiah, Paul, and (of course) Jesus. Without it the Kingdom stands tepid and cooling.
So, here are the fundamentals of a growing church: love, faith, urgency, message, and zeal. Imagine a church full of such disciples! The numerical and spiritual growth of the church (personally and corporately) would explode!
Are they there in your life?