MADE FOR GROWTH
T. PIERCE BROWN
In the last several years there have been various efforts made by brethren and organizations to emphasize the need for and methods of attaining church growth. Film strips, videos, tapes, lectures and articles have been produced to assist in this worthy effort. All proper efforts in this resect are to be applauded. God created every living organism to grow, and we may consider the church as a living organism.
However, it is possible to emphasize the wrong things in an effort to increase church growth. There are all kinds of gimmicks, techniques and activities that we may dream up or borrow from some denomination if we merely concentrate on church growth. One reason is that church growth in usually measured in terms of numbers and contributions. So whatever technique we can discover which increase either is considered a good method to stimulate church growth.
In more than 60 years of reading the Bible, I do not recall any statement from God that indicates that we should be primarily concerned about increasing the size or contribution of the local congregation. Almost everywhere the emphasis is on the growth of the individual Christian. It is true that such passages as Acts 4:4, 5:14, 6:7, 9:31 and others show the great numerical growth of the church, but an intensive study will fail to find any emphasis on or program designed for the specific purpose of growing the size of the local congregation. Rather, it always grew because the emphasis was on helping every individual find life in Christ by concentrating on the Lordship and love of Christ.
If one cannot tell the difference in concentrating on how to make the church grown numerically and how to help the individual Christian grown in grace and knowledge (2 Peter3:18), this article will be of little value. A little child who was concentrating on wanting his corn to grow in size might try to make it grow taller by pulling on it. If he did not immediately pull it up by the roots, he might be surprised to find it actually became weaker and died rather than grew faster or stronger. I know of no exception to the rule that when the emphasis is on numerical church growth instead of the spiritual growth of the individual, the church becomes weaker and bears less fruit.
Some practical considerations are therefore in order. First, there can be no growth where there is no life. So there must first be planted in the heart the seed of the Kingdom. Little bright jewels of man’s philosophy have no life, and the tares of false doctrine have the wrong kind of life. Why some of our brethren cannot understand that one cannot sow false doctrine and reap a Christian is beyond my understanding. Christ plainly teaches, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” John8:32. Some of our widely known brethren are teaching, “Ye shall believe error, and you shall be made free anyway.”
Not only does every growing thing need to have life, every living thing must have proper nourishment to grow properly. If a skating party, family life center, fellowship hall or anything else does not provide for more spiritual nourishment for the individual, it will not provide the kind of church growth that pleases God. There is no substitute for a reverent, in-depth study of the meaning and application of God’s word.
In Matthew 6:28, Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin.” How do they grow? They grow simply by doing what God made them to do. If we can find out the purposes for which God made us and live in such a way that we center our lives on fulfilling those purposes, we will grow spiritually and the church will automatically grow numerically without even thinking of a new technique or method.
Are there scriptures that tell us both in broad general terms and in small specific ways the primary purposes for which God made us? An outstanding one is in Acts 17:26-27,”And he made of one every nation of men to dwell upon the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek God, if haply they might feel after Him and find Him.” To seek and find God, which involves knowing and being in fellowship with Him is the first purpose. Then 1 Cor.10:31says, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Those are broad general statements of our purpose. Then every statement that deals with the development of the mind of Christ, striving to win souls and doing service for humanity under God’s direction are specific statements concerning what God’s purpose is for us. If the elders and the congregation cannot prove a direct link between any specific activity or project they have planned and the fulfillment of one of these purposes for which God made us, then that activity should be stopped, for it will not contribute to proper church growth. Remember that we are made for growth. Just doing naturally what God made us for will produce it.