Monday, October 3, 2011

Share the Journey - Church Growth

Because we have been called to share the Christian life together as an expression of the grace and love that God has poured into a our lives through His Son Jesus, the Church becomes central the life of the Believer.

The Church is the community of faith that is formed by the gathering of those who have a common faith in the Risen Savior. We who believe are bound by a common confession, a common faith, a common baptism, and a common Spirit.

It is through this community of faith that we are called to exercise the gifts and talents that God has given us. Together, we work to further God's Kingdom in this world and it is together that what is produced is greater than the sum of its parts. The Church is referred to in scripture as the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ. Both reveal an intimacy between the Savior and the Redeemed, and a special bond between the Redeemed themselves. Each individual brings something unique to the Body that enables the Body to function properly under the guidance and Lordship of the Head, Jesus Christ.

So, yes, the Church is special and nothing will ever change that. In the Old Testament God's presence was known through His temple and the Holy of Holies. Today, God's presence is most realized in His Church. This is an important fact when we think about how many churches gather in worship, praise and service regularly.

But, if the Church is what scripture says it is, why are there so many problems?

1. People are involved. We must remember that we ALL needed and continue to need grace from God. Therefore, we need to give grace to one another. None of us is perfect and never will be. The church is the glorious body of Christ that is redeemed by the power of the cross. Redeemed from Sin. This side of Heaven, the Church will never reach perfection.

2. More importantly, I believe that many of today's problems exist because we have misunderstood how God has ordained church growth. Ephesians 4:15-16 is helpful. It says:

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (ESV)

According to this, Paul says that the Church is to grow. So while we may never be perfect, we will continually grow. We will grow in Spiritual maturity and depth and in obedience and service to look like the one who started it all, Jesus Christ. It is about Him. And when this happens, the Church functions as a body "when each part is working properly" it "makes the body grow so that it builds ITSELF up in love." 

Church growth is not about sitting and waiting for God to mysteriously make more people show up because he espoused a particular theme, musical style, or preaching style. Part of my responsibility as an individual believer is to give my talents to help make the church "BUILD ITSELF UP IN LOVE." 

You get that? God has already given the Church everything it needs to grow. It simply needs to obey. When the Church glorifies the name of Jesus, obeys Him and serves, it will build itself up. This is where you come in. Your purpose as a Christian will be found in helping expand the Kingdom of God through the Body of Christ. If you can't serve the church as it serves the purposes of the Kingdom, then you are detached from the head. 

A healthy church doesn't wait for God to make it grow, it makes itself grow. It grows because each person is obeying God individually which will ALWAYS bring them to serve alongside other Christians. Their efforts work together and the church becomes an unstoppable force in the world. Jesus promised it. 

He said "Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not overcome it." 

So, do you want purpose in your life? Are you an active member of a local body of believers? Is your church following the Great Commission? Is it following the Great Commission for real? Not just hoping God will send someone to "get saved" but that your church does what it can to take the Light into the darkness? If you are not serving God through a church or your church is not obeying God's command to make disciples, then you have lost your purpose. 

Follow God's plan for your life and His Church and you will rise Above Reality.

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