As the campus pastor of a fairly new campus, one of the things I am constantly watching is the growth of our congregation. Some may say that it's not about the numbers, that we shouldn't be so concerned with numbers. The way I see it, numbers is one way we can measure what's going on. If we hold steady, then are we really making any progress? But if numbers are increasing, then something is happening. It just can't stop there. Are the individuals joining our church growing spiritually? Are they developing into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ?
As I was reading in the book of Acts the other day, I came across this verse
“So the church...had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it multiplied.” - Acts 9:31
I started to think about what was going on here. I began to realize a couple of things about growing a church. Church growth is not something that happens because of me or you. We can plan, we can put systems in place, we can put guest parking signs in the parking lot and flags by the road. These things in and of themselves will not cause a church to grow.
According to Acts 9:31, (and I realize that the Bible has more to say about church growth than just this one verse) there are two things that we can learn about church growth:
1) Walk in the fear of the Lord -
What is the fear of the Lord? Simply put, it means that you have a holy reverence for God. All respect and honor and glory to goes God, in everything you do. Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 1 Peter 1:14-15 says “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”
We must learn to walk in the fear of the Lord - in other words, live like a follower of Jesus Christ...don’t be a wimpy Christian.
Here's a practical example. What do you do when an inappropriate scene comes on during a movie or a TV show? Do you "grin and bear it"? Or do you grab the remote and skip it? Have you ever had the nerve to stand up and walk out of a movie? Wimpy Christians try to pretend nothing happened. Those who walk in the fear of the Lord will take radical steps to eliminate any appearance of evil.
I'm not talking about being legalistic. I'm talking about honoring and glorifying my Creator in everything that I do and say. Walk in the fear of the Lord - live like a follower of Jesus Christ...don’t be a wimpy Christian.
Acts 9:31 goes on to say
2) Walk in the comfort of the Holy Spirit -
What comes to your mind when you read that word "comfort"? Sit back, relax? Enjoy your stay? A nice day at the beach with an ice cold pina colada? We seem to have this idea that God has called us to a life of comfort. The comfort of the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with you feeling comfortable about your life or your circumstance. Acts 1:8 says “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The comfort of the Holy Spirit means that while we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, we can move forward boldly, with strength and courage, leaning on, dependant on, the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us. Phil. 4:13 says “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Jesus promised in Luke 12:11-12 “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
We must learn to walk in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ last words to his disciples before he left this earth were “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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
We want our church to grow. We want to see people’s lives transformed. We want to see people who are living far from God come into a life changing and eternal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That is why we exist as a church!
If we want to see that happen, then it starts with each one of us. It starts with you. It starts with me. Walk in the fear of the Lord. Walk in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Then - and only then - will the flags, the signs, the music, the preaching make any difference.