Do we agree the goal of a local church is to win their unbelieving neighbors to Christ? But how to we do this? Following are the tried and true methods Jesus taught his apostles who obeyed and, in turn taught them to their flock, making those first believers the most successful church in history.
Churches grow by attraction and promotion. A church must be a witness (Acts 1:8) before she can effectively proclaim her witness. Preaching alone will not build or grow a church. Neither will feeding neighbors. Christ commanded his followers to practice intentional, mutual love among themselves in order to gain the favor and respect of unbelieving neighbors. The apostles grasped this idea, taught it to their flock and were hugely successful. There are many creative ways a local church can do this today.
Churches grow when they show love in practical ways to one another. A fine manual for church growth is found in Acts 2: 42-47. Luke reports how they helped each other, ate with one another and prayed together. The outcome is found In verse 47:
- “…they enjoyed the goodwill of all the people and
- the Lord added to their number daily…”
At least two things had to have occurred for this to happen
- Their leaders taught them practical ways to obey Jesus’ love commandment.
- They met in small groups—how else could they have known each other’s needs?
Churches grow when they show love to neighbors by loving each other. It’s a paradox. We love our neighbors best when we model the gospel of love among ourselves, thereby attracting them to Christianity. Jesus promised that the world will open their hearts to the gospel when his people obey his “love one another” mandate. Random acts of kindness to neighbors is a very good thing for any church to do. But we must not confuse it with a means to make disciples or grow a congregation. When I was in Taiwan I came across many “rice Christians” who faked their faith in Christ so missionaries would continue to provide them with food, clothing, etc. When Catholic priests came by with goodies, they put up crucifixes and pictures of Mary. When evangelicals came around with handouts, they displayed Bibles. Charity to unbelievers didn’t make disciples then and won’t make them now.
Churches grow when our neighbors see our unity. Four times Jesus repeated his prayer for his church, “Father, may they be one that the world may believe.” Chris Christie earned votes this week by pleading for unity in his fragmented party. The church needs to hear that message as well. Without unity, no group can be effective. When church leaders promote mutual care among the flock and work to heal conflicts, morale soars. But the real power to grow a church comes when neighboring congregations unite in common ministry.
MEASURING YOUR CHURCH’S GROWTH QUOTIENT 1) What is your church’s reputation among your neighbors? 2) Do your members actively practice hospitality among themselves? 3) Does the pulpit encourage the “love one another” mandate of Christ? 4) Do your leaders labor to heal rifts between and among members? 5) Does your church work with neighboring congregations in outreach projects?
Lord, forgive our divisions. May we find ways to practice mutual love among ourselves. Give our leaders wisdom to promote love and unity within their own flock and with neighboring congregations.
OUR NEXT POST: Three ways to measure your spiritual maturity.