Church Growth; October 31, 2018

Ephesians 4:15-16 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Around the time I was in seminary, and for several years thereafter, Church Growth Seminars were quite the thing. The best ones honestly sought how to implement this passage, but many of them devolved into chasing the latest fad. Growth and reproduction are part of the definition of a living organism, but if the focus is exclusively on physical growth, there is a strong tendency to forget what the purpose of the Church is in the first place. The moment we forget we are the Body of Christ, existing completely for His utility and pleasure, we lose our reason for existence. We tend to focus on organization, when a body is an organism. As such, every part has a function and is an outgrowth of the whole. Just in these two verses we have the expressions “in all things” and “every supporting ligament” and “each part.” No part of the body is immaterial and unimportant. We are all too prone to forget that. Conversely, no part is to be over impressed with its own importance. Many church leaders have fallen when they have forgotten that they were nothing without the rest of their church. It all comes back to the Headship of Christ. Protestant churches proclaim “the priesthood of the believer,” but that comes down to the fact that each of us has personal access to the Head, as well as personal accountability to Him. Many churches grow largely by absorbing believers from other churches. That is indeed numerical growth of that local church, but it is not growth of the total Body of Christ without people repenting and believing so that they are born again. For that to happen, indeed each part must do its work.

This is something I have known in theory for a long time, but I’ve not been very good at putting it into practice. My tendency has been to do everything myself, and by myself, and that has not been good at all. Because I am able to do each of the functions required in the local congregation doesn’t mean that I am actually supposed to do them all, except in particular emergencies. I think I would have greatly benefited from someone telling me to cut it out, but as an independent congregation we didn’t have an accountability structure in place. I’m not sure I would have listened, anyway! I have long stressed “speaking the truth in love,” but that has been from the standpoint of me doing the speaking. I need more “hearing the truth in love!” I am realizing that even at 70 I have plenty of room and need to grow, and my failure to do so has kept this church from growing. As our Verse for the Year proclaims, nothing is too difficult for God, (Jeremiah 23:27) so I am to look forward to how He is going to change me and this church, for His glory.

Father, thank You for this reminder and encouragement. I pray that each person, each member of this church, would indeed fulfill exactly the functions You intend for them, not usurping those of someone else but being bound together in love, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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