There can be no doubt that the Lord expects every congregation of His people to be active and growing. He told all of the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 2-3) that He was aware of their activity. He began His assessment of each church with the statement, “I know thy works.” We would be seriously mistaken to imagine that He doesn’t make the same observation of all churches today. However, while seeking to be active and growing, there are some errors to avoid:
- Don’t equate increased numbers with real growth. Yes, growth usually means an increase in the physical size of the congregation, but not always. There are instances where the kind of “growing” that God desires will actually result in lower numbers. The rapidly-growing church in Jerusalem actually lost members in the case of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). The church at Corinth was condemned because an immoral brother had not been “taken away from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:2). “Growing” sometimes means losing numbers in order to please God.
- Do not confuse “commotion” with beneficial, God-honoring activity. It seems some brethren think that “keeping things stirred up” is a good thing. Therefore, they constantly are bringing up controversial subjects or suggesting ill-conceived plans that force an unnecessary tumult. These members apparently have missed the analogy of the church to a flock of sheep. Just as sheep do best when kept calm, so also the church. We don’t need or want unnecessary stress and turmoil in the local church.
- Never compromise Bible authority in the name of “doing good.” The religious world at large — and sadly, too many of our own brethren — urge us to consider “how much good is being done” when we challenge them about their unscriptural practices. We must remember Samuel’s famous rebuke to King Saul: “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). Or to put it another way, you aren’t really “doing good” if you aren’t adhering to Bible authority.
- Be careful about assuming that “special programs” are essential in achieving growth. Too many disciples apparently think that nothing is being done if there aren’t specially-organized efforts in behalf of this or that artificially designated group within the congregation. This is particularly evident in regards to “programs for the young people”. However, even denominational “church growth experts” in The Christian Post are proclaiming that “today’s modern concept of youth ministry is a 50-year failed experiment”. Actually, this institutionalized view of activity hurts the real productivity of a congregation by causing members to sit back and wait for someone to “organize” something, rather than using their own initiative to get God’s work done.
- Don’t imagine that the church isn’t growing and active simply because you don’t “see” something happening. Often the most positive work done in a local congregation is done by quiet, humble servants who are simply out there caring for the sick, encouraging the weak, sharing the gospel with others, etc. They’re not trying to make a big “splash” — they’re just doing their best to accomplish all they can. They are not doing their work “to be seen of men” (Matthew 6:1-4).
Active and growing? Yes, we must be! But let’s evaluate our progress as the Lord does, and not as man does. Think!
Adapted from Greg Gwin