Archive for Growth

The Ability to Finish Well

When Christians reach spiritual maturity, they will no longer be like children – confused, constantly fussing, and captivated by every false teacher that attracts them with “a new view.”  Instead, they will “speak the truth in love and will grow up in all things into Him who is our head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:13-15). It is from our head, the Lord Jesus Christ, that the whole body fits together! Even though He is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, His life and ministry to this world continues through every joint of His body (Hebrews 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). He has given to each of us a work of faith. How do we determine this work? As we serve the Lord and observe and receive ministry from others, our own gifts begin to become clear. We see our spiritual strengths and weaknesses in others.

If our gift is Bible teaching, we will observe this gift in others and the Holy Spirit will impress on us the desire to teach.

If our gift is mercy, we will see this gift in others and desire to do the same.

If our gift is helps, we will have the overwhelming desire to help with all the tasks of the church – without being asked. In the process we will teach others what it means to help the body of Christ and we will encourage others with the same gift to become involved.

If our gift is faith, we have the desire to trust God to do what He says He will do. In the process we train others the value of living by faith, and alert others who have this gift. 

If our gift is administration, we become God’s efficiency experts – not in a demanding way but with gentleness and grace. 

If our gift is evangelism, we have the overwhelming desire to share the gospel with the lost and by example teach others to share the message. 

If our work of faith is encouragement, we find joy by encouraging others, and by doing so, we teach others how to encourage. This works equally well with young people. God is the Great Genius, is He not!

As we give and receive these grace works, the church will grow both spiritually and numerically in direct proportion to the quality of the work of each (Ephesians 4:16). This should shout to us God’s prescription for the spiritual growth of the church. Missing is the exclusive role of a pastor to equip the flock alone. Missing are human schemes, gimmicks, or motivational methods of every sort to get the crowd and keep it. Missing is “the show.” Missing are the performers and the audience coming to watch them perform. Every member of the body of Christ will grow based upon the spiritual contribution of every other member in the body. We have all been uniquely gifted to do our part.

The result will be unity of the faith and a strong knowledge of the Son of God. Folks will begin to like each other, and then to love each other. Children of God will grow in knowledge of His Person, His life, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and His return to establish His kingdom. The character of Jesus Christ will pulsate through the body (Ephesians 4:13). We will all come to understand what it means to learn and live by faith within the community of believers (2 Corinthians 5:7). We will all become spiritually mature, strong in Biblical doctrine, and productive.

The body of Christ is alive and well on the earth, but it must be nurtured. Jesus Christ continues His ministry to His body through His body. His body grows—spiritually and numerically—as a direct result of the ministry that every believer performs. When every part does its share, the body matures and grows in love. That is the purpose of every believer’s faith work. This has been God’s prescription for growth in the church since Pentecost. Jesus Christ continues to build His body the same way. There is no other method of church growth taught in the Bible. Peter went one final step showing us the value of knowing and using our giftedness.

Peter’s letter was written at a time when the body of Christ was under great persecution. The church had received word that the Roman authorities had discovered their location. The soldiers were probably on their way. The little flock felt that there was a real possibility that they were going to die. Very similar to anticipating a worldwide pandemic! Peter’s words to them were extremely important, maybe his last.  Notice carefully what he said. He told them first to pray. I get that!  Then to express their love and respect for one another. I get that too!  But finally, he said, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Peter is saying that God had given to each a spiritual work of faith. Finish well (1 Peter 4:7–11). Wow!  Stay safe and stay tuned.

Formula for Church Growth

Some of the most famous words spoken by Jesus Christ are “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Some of the most important words penned by Paul are “Now you are the body of Christ and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:27). So what?  As an individual part of Christ’s body, we are on this earth to help build His church. We are not talking about a physical building made of wood and steel, lined with soft carpet laced with padded pews, with stained glass windows, and of course, the steeple on top. We are talking of a building made of people. We are here on this earth to be used by God to build His people building. God did not leave us here for the task without the proper equipment. Oh no! As Jesus ascended back into heaven, He gave gifted people to the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). It was not Paul’s desire here to mention all the gifted. He was teaching why the gifted. He gave each His specific purpose – and there can be no mistake.

Here is his major point. “We are here to equip the saints for the work of ministry for the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). This is clear! Let’s elaborate on this for a moment. The word equip means “to train or to prepare.” How are we equipped to equip? The Bible is eerily silent on information concerning seminaries or Bible colleges. Well then, who teaches the teachers?  The Bible is not silent on this one. God gave us His Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. Does it really say“all truth?” Yep! (John 16:13-14). He obviously does not mean all truth as in the arts and sciences, but all truth concerning the Bible.

There are many passages that instruct the church to take the gospel into the world, share the gospel, then bring believers to a local assembly to be trained.  Don’t get me wrong! Bible colleges and seminaries have been used of God in very significant ways – my own life included – but only because the church has long since stopped doing a major work of the church. The local church is the school of the Holy Spirit, just as the desert in Arabia was for Paul.  The local church is designed to train Christians. Notice, we are to equip the saints for the work of ministry.

Work is the Greek word ergon. It implies energy being used. Ministry is the word diakinos. It means “to serve.” Paul was not speaking specifically of elders, pastors, or deacons but of the special contribution of every member of the body. Every Christian has a work of faith to do, and they are to be trained in the local church to do it.

Note that the ultimate goal of God’s gifted people is to edify the body. Edify is a combination word made up of oiko, “to build,” and dome, the “top or roof.” Together, the word means “build from the ground floor all the way to the top.” We are to grow believers from spiritual infancy – up to spiritual maturity.

Spiritual maturity is to be measured against the stature of the fullness of Christ. The characteristics of our lives are to reflect the characteristics of His life – love, compassion, servanthood – serving the body.  How will we know when this is being achieved? When church members no longer act like children – fussing, fighting, throwing temper tantrums over little things – just like the world. When we are no longer tossed here and there by every wind of teaching that blows our way. When we are no longer taken prisoner by deceitful teachers and fabricated teaching led by Satan to corrupt our Lord’s ministry (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). Appealing? Yes! Moving compassionate words? Yes! But deadly. We are to be trained until we are solid in what we know to be true – true to the gospel, true to the Bible, true to the doctrines of grace. And we stand firm in them. When we learn to speak the truth in love (not in a condescending way) and grow up in all things into Christ (become mature in Christ).

Here is God’s no-spin formula for church growth: “Speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ. From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies.” Please note the words “grow up” and “every joint supplies.”  There are to be no perpetual bystanders or spectators. And now this is it: “According to the effective working by which every part (please note – every part) does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:14–16). In summary, every believer knowing their part and faithfully doing their part will always result in growth. It is my opinion that we have totally abandoned this formula and the church of Jesus Christ is reaping the result. We now are left with the entertainers and the entertained. Stay safe and stay tuned.