Promoting Church Growth
It has long been my conviction that before the church can grow as God designed it should Christians must give the services of the church their attendance. To my mind Hebrews 10:25 places responsibility upon Christians to attend the services of the church on the Lord's day. Yet, the Lord's day services are not usually all the services conducted by the congregation in a given community. When brethren plan other meetings of the church that are designed to edify the saved, teach the untaught, and to worship and serve God it becomes the duty of all in that community, unless providentially hindered, to take advantage of all the blessings of those services. Surely, the church will grow when all Christians whole-heartedly participate in the program of the church. For example, the Bible study on Lord's day morning is an invitation to all individual Christians to meet together and study the scriptures for their own edification and instruction. Yet in most churches nothing like all attend this phase of service. The mid-week meeting is designed to fill in a need in the lives and hearts of Christians in the midst of the week. What a blessing it is for Christian men and women amidst their labors and worries to stop in the midst of the week to teach and study the word of God; to pray unto their Father and to sing His praise in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. All this amounts to growth in a congregation when Christians attend faithfully all of them. When Christians love the church and the work and service rendered by the church, and when they know their duty to God in the matter, they will not only attend the services of the Lord's day, but will, as they have opportunity, attend the other services of the church.
Efficient leadership also contributes to church growth. We need men who are not just church leaders in name. We need men who bear the title and who can actually direct the energies of the local church along scriptural lines. The church will never grow any higher than its leadership, unless it be an exception. Emphasis needs to be placed today upon the matter of developing competent men to serve the church in the matter of directing it and giving it a real vision of unselfish and scriptural service. I know of no greater need today in the church. We might ought to start encouraging our young men to develop into elders and deacons for awhile. Often churches are held short of their capabilities and their growth woefully retarded because of lack of ability upon the part of elders to employ all the energies of every member of the church allotted to their charge. Conditions of this kind have contributed toward a dissatisfied membership in many congregations. And, to me, it is just as damaging to retard the progress of the church within its scriptural bounds, as it is to throw open the door to innovation. God not only prohibits us in the matter of going beyond what is written, but he invites us to do our full duty as Christians. Brethren, it is a mistake to expect the full exercise of the membership of a congregation when its leaders are shortsighted.
Uncompromising Belief And Practice
There is no room for compromise in the Lord's church. Growth that comes about upon principles that have been sacrificed is a false growth. It goes for naught. The world is sick of the spirit of politics and false diplomacy in the field of religion. In the plea of speaking where the Bible speaks and keeping our mouths shut where nothing is revealed, there is no room for compromise in matters of belief and practice. The church that labors under the false notion that it can influence men for Christ by compromising principles of faith and practice will live to see either the spirit of compromise stifle the program of Christianity, or it will attract no attention from the serious thinking individuals where it serves. If what the Christian believes is in the New Testament, and if it is not he has no business holding to it, there can be no compromise. The day the church desires to exchange what is said in the Bible for the deceptive notions and fashions of the day, that is the day that congregation ought to come to an end, or repent and return to the letter and spirit of the New Testament scriptures. When the truth is faithfully preached and lived by all in he church it will contribute to church growth. Think how rapidly the church grew during the days of the New Testament. The apostles and all the faithful pulled no punches nor did they try to cover up the truth of God with false diplomacy. Look again at the progress made during the days of the restoration movement when the sword was unsheathed and all comers were met on the field of religious discussion. It is a matter of record that the church grew more than ten times faster than all the sectarian world combined. Brethren, the nature and disposition of men have not changed any, even though their customs have. If the plain truth of God preached and lived by Christians won for them it will win for us.
Having A Program And Plan
It is a matter of common knowledge that a business, regardless of its nature, will not run itself. I have known of newspaper stands where all the fellow did was to keep his wares before the reading public and went on his way trusting his patrons to leave their coins when they took his papers. But even so, he had the matter and responsibility of keeping his racks filled and taking the money left by his reading customers. Our own government has been most severely criticized of recent date because it has no definite plan or program. The home must operate, if it operates efficiently, along a prescribed course. So it is with the church. It will not run by itself. There must be a program and a plan. Even though we have a plan it should be flexible enough to allow for emergencies, but when the emergency is met, there should be a return to the original program. Great responsibility lies on the shoulders of elders and deacons at this point in providing the church with a blue print of the work that is to be attempted. When the plan has been suggested and outlined to the church and accepted by them every thing should be done to work out the matters pointed out to the church. When there is no understanding between church leaders and the membership of the congregation there is confusion and dismay and the result is nothing of a very definite nature is ever accomplished. This applies in its work in its own community, in its evangelistic efforts in other sections, and even in the matter of preaching the gospel in other lands. Even while we are laying plans for the growth of the church let us not become so married to the idea of a program that we lose sight of remaining entirely scriptural.
"Continue steadfastly in prayer, watching therein with thanksgiving; withal praying for us also, that God may open unto us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds; that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak." (Col. 4:2-4) We must work as if all depended upon us, and then season our efforts with prayer as if all depended upon God. We must have His help. He promises to give it.