The audio of the sermon I preached yesterday morning at the Duncan Church of Christ in Duncan, SC. It focuses on the biblical pattern for church growth.
“We’re not growing as a church like we should!”
“It seems like we’re LOSING members instead of GAINING members!”
“Remember the good old days back in the 50’s/60’s/70’s/80’s when we were averaging 300-500 on Sundays? Man, I wish we could be like that now…”
Have you been a part of this conversation in the church lobby or fellowship hall lately? Have you heard talk like this from the pulpit lately? Sat in on elders and deacons meetings in which these points were raised with concern?
Has talk like this prompted you to look at the man in the pulpit and think, “It’s time to get a new preacher”? I mean, if there’s a lack of growth in numbers in the church it’s obviously HIS fault alone, right? After all, HE’S the evangelist of our congregation, right? That’s what we PAY him to do!
Want to know what God thinks?
Here’s the Scripture of the Day:
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
Here’s the mistake we make. We read passages like that, and automatically think of the man in the pulpit and the man in the pulpit alone. After all, HE’S “the preacher,” not me.
But consider this…
…And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles…Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.
Acts 8:1, 4
For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
1 Thessalonians 1:8
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…
…Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9
In the Acts passage, who was going about preaching the Word? The disciples who were scattered, which would be the entire Jerusalem church…except for the apostles (who, incidentally, probably would have filled the “pulpit preacher” positions there.) NOTE: THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH WERE PREACHING, NOT JUST THOSE IN CHURCH OFFICE POSITIONS.
In the Thessalonians passage, who is Paul talking to? Contextually, the entire church at Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:1). What was he commending them for? Only the fact that God’s Word had sounded forth from them everywhere, so that he and his fellow missionaries didn’t need to do a thing in that region. Do you think that would have happened if the only evangelizing was done by one or two men in that church?
In the Matthew and Mark passages, Jesus is giving that command to evangelize the entire world to his apostles, true…but notice Matthew 28:20, where he tells them to teach those whom they converted “to observe all that I have commanded you.” Would that include the command he had just given them, the one about making disciples of all nations and proclaiming the gospel to all creation? Hmm…
Look again at the 1 Peter passage. He’s talking to all Christians in general (“To those who are elect” – 1:1). He calls Christians God’s chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, and his own people…for what reason? Why did God make us Christians? “…that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” God made the man in your pulpit a Christian to proclaim his excellencies to others, yes…but that’s why he made you a Christian too.
Are you living up to your responsibility? When was the last time you talked about the gospel of Christ with your next-door neighbor, your co-worker, your friend who’s an atheist or agnostic or Muslim? When was the last time you invited someone to come to church with you? When was the last time you initiated a discussion about the Bible with someone other than your preacher or a fellow Christian?
Church of Christ, go back and see what our brethren were doing in the “glory days” of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. They were a lot more evangelistic than we are now. And that’s why they were growing…because personal evangelism was and is a God-given responsibility that was accepted by each of them, from elders all the way down to new converts…not just something they “passed the buck” on to the man in the pulpit.
Any pulpit preacher worth his hire will be very evangelistic. However, he’s just one man. In all probability, he’s new to the area if you compare the amount of time he’s lived there to how long you’ve lived there. For that reason you probably know more non-Christians in the community than he does, and know them better than he does too. At the very least, you could be inviting them to come to worship with you and listen to his sermons. You could introduce them to him, or he to them. You could encourage both your preacher and your non-Christian friend to have Bible studies together. Are you doing that?
And if you are a Christian like God wants you to be, you study God’s Word everyday (Ps. 1:1-3) and take advantage of every opportunity to come to church and listen attentively to the messages from God’s Word your preacher preaches (Heb. 10:24-25; Acts 17:11). That means you are growing in your knowledge like God wants you to do (2 Pet. 1:5-8; 3:18). That means that you yourself are equipped, perhaps more equipped than you realize, to initiate Bible studies and discussions about salvation with the non-Christians in your life. Are you doing that?
You know what God tells pulpit preachers to do? Not only preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:2), but also set the proper example to all other Christians…you (1 Tim. 4:12). Here’s the thing, though. Examples are useless if they are not followed. Think about that.
Read that Romans passage above one more time…
Did you read it? Okay. Let me ask you this.
Do you want every person you know to be saved?
Because if they are going to be saved, someone is going to have to preach the gospel to them. Someone is going to have to at the very least bring a knowledgeable, godly preacher into contact with them.
So, do you want them to be saved? Do you?
Do you want your church to grow? Do you?
What are YOU doing about it?
At the end of 2013, I was the guest editor for the last issue of the Carolina Messenger for that year. I decided to devote that issue to the theme of church leadership. This is the editorial I wrote introducing the theme of the issue.