The Gospel and Church GrowthJanuary 24, 2013 Pastoral Word
The Gospel and Church Growth
by Pastor David
Healthy churches are growing churches. The desire for a church to grow is a normal, noble intention. For instance, Jesus said He would build His church (Matt. 16:18), the apostles preached and prayed hard as the church began, and Paul instructed the Thessalonians to pray that the word of the Lord would spread rapidly (2 Thess. 3:1). Regrettably, we do not always define “growth” the way God does, nor do we instinctively stay true to how He intends to grow His church.
The flood of church growth strategies continues to flash across our world, promising “success” and “find the secret other growing churches already know”. Rick Warren recently announced that he was going to re-launch the Purpose Driven Church, saying he wanted to rewrite the book and make a concentrated push to put out a program that would be appealing to churches again. Christianity Today disagreed with his decision. Their reason had nothing to do with theology or philosophy. Instead, they opined that re-worked growth strategies simply aren’t marketable. What is needed, the writer stated, was fresh, new ideas and innovative strategies. The thirst for the “new” and the “next” has pushed our religious fads to having an all-time low shelf life. Whether on the movement side, like the rapid acceleration of the seeker sensitive movement followed by the even faster pendulum swing and then implosion of the emergent movement, or the product side, like WWJD (do you even remember those bracelets?), the Prayer of Jabez, and the 40 days of--everything, American evangelicalism is suffering in a wash of the temporary and the trivial. But in reality, a right desire for growing churches gone astray is nothing new to us. Consider the following quote from a different generation, but with the right solution. Like usual, Spurgeon transcends his own time and speaks with power to us as well as to his original hearers (a longevity instructive all on its own about what makes true relevance).
“Are you afraid that preaching the gospel will not win souls? Are you despondent as to success in God’s way? Is this why you pine for clever oratory? Is this why you must have music, and architecture, and flowers and millinery? After all, is it by might and power, and not by the Spirit of God? It is even so in the opinion of many.
Brethren beloved, there are many things which I might allow to other worshippers which I have denied myself in conducting the worship of this congregation. I have long worked out before your very eyes the experiment of the unaided attractiveness of the gospel of Jesus. Our service is severely plain. No man ever comes hither to gratify his eye with art, or his ear with music. I have set before you, these many years, nothing but Christ crucified, and the simplicity of the gospel; yet where will you find such a crowd as this gathered together this morning? Where will you find such a multitude as this meeting Sabbath after Sabbath, for five-and-thirty years? I have shown you nothing but the cross, the cross without flowers of oratory, the cross without diamonds of ecclesiastical rank, the cross without the buttress of boastful science. It is abundantly sufficient to attract men first to itself, and afterwards to eternal life!
In this house we have proved successfully, these many years, this great truth, that the gospel plainly preached will gain an audience, convert sinners, and build up and sustain a church. We beseech the people of God to mark that there is no need to try doubtful expedients and questionable methods. God will save by the gospel still: only let it be the gospel in its purity. This grand old sword will cleave a man’s chine [i.e., spine], and split a rock in halves.
How is it that it does so little of its old conquering work? I will tell you. Do you see the scabbard of artistic work, so wonderfully elaborated? Full many keep the sword in this scabbard, and therefore its edge never gets to its work. Pull off that scabbard. Fling that fine sheath to Hades, and then see how, in the Lord’s hands, that glorious two-handed sword will mow down fields of men as mowers level the grass with their scythes.
There is no need to go down to Egypt for help. To invite the devil to help Christ is shameful. Please God, we shall see prosperity yet, when the church of God is resolved never to seek it except in God’s own way.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1888, vol. 34, p. 563