Over the last few years the term “church growth” has fallen by the way side and now the buzz is church health or vitality or church revitalization?
Does the Lord of the church expect His church to grow?
1 Corinthians 3:6, says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” (NASB)
Biblically there are two sides of church growth: the human side, Paul and Apollos faithfully planting and watering the seed, and the spiritual side, God causing the growth! Churches can be similar in their methodologies, programs, and demographics, yet one will grow and one will decline or plateau. Why?
One answer, according to this verse, is the sovereignty of God. He chooses where and when He will bless His church and how He will cause it to experience numerical growth. Unlike our human ability, God is able to see the character and heart of every church.
I believe there is a strong connection with growing churches and the twin elements of prayer and faith. Acts 11:21 says, “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord” (NASB). When a church possesses a positive, Christ-like attitude and a vision of reaching others with the Gospel, a Great Commission mentality, that church is poised for growth and God’s touch. Such churches by their spiritual “attitude” and “maturity” are positioned to experience God’s blessings and growth. Their members pray, believe, ask, and expect God to bless.
I’ve also noticed that churches that are “outward focused” with their resources and energy and not “inward focused,” seem to always be moving forward. On the other hand, stingy churches who refuse to spend some of their energy and resources outside their own four walls usually spiral downward in attendance and effectiveness. One of the blessings of our recent “Find It Here” emphasis is that it got churches outside the four walls into their communities, door to door.
I like what Eddie Gibbs says in his book, Church Next:
The church will need to be turned inside out in order to bring those outside in. It will not suffice to simply invite the seeker to come to us to hear the gospel on our turf. Instead the church will have to be the church in the world – gathering for worship in order to go out in mission.” [Eddie Gibbs. Church Next: Quantum Changes in How We Do Ministry. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 236]
The early church was turned inside out and they changed their world! The Book of Acts records this interesting phrase: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (2:47). I’ve discovered in my study of the Book of Acts that this phrase and parallel verses concerning growth are numerous. That verse denotes God’s activity, “the Lord added,” which is parallel with the 1 Corinthians passage “but God was causing the growth.” For a great study of what the early church did look at verses 42-46 of Acts chapter two. These detail what the early church was actually doing¬, their methodology, ¬to be in a position to experience the rapid growth that transformed their world.
So back to my question…Is church growth biblical?
Could it happen today? Could it happen in your church? Can 1 Corinthians 3: 6 still be experienced by our churches?
I think the answer is YES! What to do you think?