If a church is not growing as it should the congregation should go to the Word of God for the treatment and cure for the ailment. Instead, too often, as long as the church is making and spending money there is no evaluation, no check up, and no worries about the true condition of the body.
If the church was your body wouldn’t you want to know if there was a deadly disease present, even if your body was dressed in nice clothes driving a nice car and being envied by other people? And yet so many churches are not truly growing. They are expanding, getting obese when it comes to budgets, bodies, and buildings, but there is no maturity, no stability, and no depth. And no one is concerned because as long as we are entertained and as long as we feel good about church then there is no need to change how we are doing anything. As long as our needs are met then we are content. Frightening, isn’t it?
So what is this cycle? What does a healthy, growing church look like and live like? A healthy growing church will:
Evangelists, and indeed all believers, preach the gospel at every opportunity. This is how the lost are saved and how people are added to the church. It is how the cycle of growth begins, with new birth, with re-creation, with the conversion of sinners. If there is no evangelism in and out of the church then the church really cannot claim to be a church for the church exists to exalt and worship and serve God while taking the gospel to the world.
Do you evangelize? Does your church? This does not mean that an evangelistic sermon at church means that we have met the obligation you know. It means that there is to be a way of life, a walk, an attitude of evangelism in everything that we do. If we are not constantly thinking about how to witness to those who need to hear the gospel, if we are not burdened for the lost, then perhaps we need to ask ourselves if we even understand the gospel ourselves.
Pastor-teachers and mature believers teach and equip the new and growing converts in the church, making disciples of them as they mature and learn and grow. Is the church body being equipped? It is being nurtured to maturity?
Too many sermons are preached that do not equip. They inform. They teach. They convict. They motivate. They inspire. They challenge. But do they equip? Do the sermons preached by your pastor feed you, nourish you, and equip you when it comes to bearing fruit, overcoming sin, and glorifying God?
We should be disturbed by the number of people we meet that claim to know Christ and yet live like the world. You would never know they were a follower of Christ unless they told you and were adamant that this was not a joke! But this is a symptom of a greater problem. People in our pews are not being equipped. Listen to this carefully – too many people in our churches do not know how to live the Christian life. All they know is what God can do for them. Their faith is focused on what God can do or has done for them instead of what they can do and should do for Him. Their faith is about fixing their marriage, their kids, their finances, or some other problem that needs attention. God to them is not a Sovereign Master, He is spare tire to be used when we have a blow out on the highway of life.
This kind of selfish faith is not saving faith. It is evidence of a church that is not being equipped. Equipping the saints is the basic duty of every pastor and an unequipped church is evidence that someone isn’t doing his job.
New converts learn to esteem others by doing the work of ministry and service, imitating older more mature believers. If a person claims to be a Christian for any length of time and their focus is still on themselves instead of on others then not only have they not been equipped, but they are quite ignorant of God’s Word and His purposes for the church.
The Christian life, if presented truthfully, is a life of suffering, sacrifice, and service. At first glance we think these are all bad and demeaning things. But in truth, it is a privilege and honor to suffer for Christ. It is a duty to sacrifice for God and each other. And it is an requirement that we serve each other if we are truly His children. After all, God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
How do we esteem others? Does our attitude and actions and words about others demonstrate that we are being equipped at church or do they identify a need for repentance and renewal in our faith?
A church that does not suffer, sacrifice, and serve is not growing.
A church that is really growing is a church comprised of people who are obedient to the Word of God, that is, they look and act like saints instead of sinners (not that they are perfect, but they imitate Christ).
Too often today people think the church should be full of sinners – meaning people who actively sin often. Yes we are sinners. Yes we will sin. But sin should not be tolerated or excused. It should be forsaken, confessed, and repented of immediately.
In reality, a church that is growing is a church that looks more and more like Jesus. They are being sanctified. Transformed. Revived.
If a church claims to be growing and cites numbers as proof then we really should just dismiss their claim. The Bible tells us more about the numbers of those who left Jesus than of those who followed. Beside that, growth is not about numbers. It is about faithful obedience, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, and building the Body up.
Now remember where we started on this point in our cycle? The church is built and grows and matures so that it can:
So here we have the cycle of church growth.