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Monday, July 11, 2011

The secret to church growth

Discussing church growth is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago, or even 2,000 years ago. Peter admonished us, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). If individual Christians grow as they should, it is not unreasonable to expect churches of which they are a part to grow as well. If not why not? Admittedly churches are not growing at the same pace as that which was experienced in the first part of the last century. The soil is not the same, and the laborers seem to be fewer in number. That does not mean, however, that growth is not possible, or that it is not expected by our Father in heaven. I have been preaching for more than four decades, and I have been blessed to work with congregations that experienced growth in number, others great growth in maturity, and others in both numbers and maturity; the later is the desired type of growth. One congregation in a neighboring city of Tarrant County, Texas has grown in number at an incredible rate over the past thirty years—but I think I can say without fear of contradiction that they have not grown spiritually; in fact, they have completely outgrown their usefulness to the cause of our Lord through compromise of the truth and abandonment of the God-given pattern. I have also witnessed some good, sound, and godly congregations grow in numbers, as well as spirituality, in spite of their "location" and the "soil" with which they have to work. I have come to the conclusion that there are at least five factors that contribute to a successful growth of a congregation.

First, a congregation must have a burning compassion for the lost. A casual approach to evangelism in the absence of deep compassion for the lost souls of men will not produce a significant growth rate; in fact it may actually cause a congregation to diminish is size as members grow old and die from natural causes, or move away to some other city or locale. On the other hand, those congregations who love the souls of men, and who seek to provide salvation in the way and manner prescribed in God's word will have doors opened for teaching and preaching the word.

Second, a congregation must plan. A church that meets today's needs tomorrow will always be behind the proverbial eight ball. I have learned one thing in my lifetime, mostly from experience—it is that it is easier to stay up with the challenges that come our way than it is to catch up once we get behind. Planning will help us in this area. Plans must be set and sought after. Once achieved, new plans must be in the making, or better yet, in place and ready for implementation.

Third, a congregation must possess a spirit of love and unity among the members. Visitors to a congregation are often impressed by the friendliness of a congregation—either its presence or its absence. Who in his right mind would want to become a part of a congregation that bickers and argues at every turn? To ask is to answer. Jesus told us, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35).

Fourth, a congregation must have leaders who are leaders indeed. When "little men" oversee the work of the church we can only expect little results or no results at all. But when the leaders have great vision, strength, zeal, and a determination to do what is right, in the right way, and for the right purpose, the inevitable result will be growth. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges we face in our generation is the lack (or complete absence) of good leaders. God give us men who will LEAD!

Fifth, a congregation must have faith. They must trust in the Lord and depend upon the Father to "give the increase" if we will be about the Father's business. Too often we approach our evangelistic efforts with a ho-hum attitude. Brethren—our Gospel meetings, Bible classes, worship services, available tracts, correspondence courses are tools in our hand to get the precious seed into the hearts of men. We MUST have faith in the power of the gospel to touch and change the hearts of men. To believe otherwise will spell only defeat and disappointment.

Sixth, a congregation must love and honor God's word in their worship, their lives, and their teaching. It might have been good to place this qualification at the beginning of our list, for if we dishonor God's word, all of the above is for naught. It makes little difference the leadership capabilities of our shepherds, the love and kindly spirit we might express to one another, our zeal and compassion for the lost, or what plans we have before us—if we deviate from God's word, we will not only lose our own soul, but take our converts with us into an eternity of separation from our Father.

I believe growth is possible! Not because of any "magical" formula that we at Handley might be able to conjure up—but because an inspired apostle encouraged us that if we plant the seed, God will give the increase. I believe that! Don't you?

by Tom Wacaster

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