Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Programs and Growth


And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:47

The first church is rarely talked about anymore.  Sure, we talk about how Jesus gave His Holy Spirit to them on the day of Pentecost.  We talk about them all speaking in tongues because that is mysterious and interests us.  But what about the growth of the first church?  I can’t think of a single church that isn’t concerned today about its growth in numbers, and yet, the first church’s example isn’t used as an example.  And yet, in one day 120 people grew to over 3,000.  Do you know another church that has a 2500% growth rate – in one day?

Our efforts are good.  We develop program after program to get the people in.  We organize special dinners, song services, ice cream socials, children’s programs, youth events, activities aimed at mothers, activities aimed at young couples, activities upon activities, and advertise them everywhere we can.  Yet time and time again, the programs we create may bring people to church for a short season, but then they’re gone. 

So the question comes, what are we doing wrong?

The answer lies in Acts 2:47.  Read it (at the top), and ask yourself, who added them? 

John 6:44 says No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”  DRAW as used in this verse comes from the Greek word “Helco”, which means ‘to draw by inward power, lead, impel’. Each and every soul that comes to God in salvation must be drawn inwardly, led by Him, impelled by Him.  We cannot change a person’s heart.  No fancy words, no sad or sentimental stories, no scare tactics will work.  God has to do it. 

I’m not saying programs in church are wrong.  That’s not the point.  The point is I think we may have missed step one.  We forget to pray the most important pray of all, which is simply a heartfelt “Father, draw them, and save them.”  We pray that their lives be turned around, pray that they become humble, pray that their addictions leave them, that they become better parents, that they are healed, that they change their ways, but we’ve forgotten to pray for God to inwardly lead them.  We can get them there, but without His work in their hearts, they’re not staying.  Without His work in their hearts, it was nothing more than a way to occupy their day.

And maybe, just maybe, our motives are wrong.  It’s not about how many we can pack into a building, and about how big our membership role can get.  Jesus isn’t concerned with whether our church membership grows.  Jesus wants to grow the Body of Christ through soul being saved.  He didn’t come to build mega churches, but to seek and to save.  In fact, when the number of the crowd following him got too big, He went elsewhere. 

Instead of looking at the attendance numbers as a means of growth, what if we were to turn our eyes to the growth of souls?  If that was how we judged our churches, how many more would be added to the “walking dead” list?   

Jesus looking out at one of the largest crowds that had gathered to hear him had compassion on them and said to his disciples in Matthew 9:37-38, The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore PRAY THE LORD OF THE HARVEST TO SEND out laborers into His harvest.”  Again, He has to send the laborers into the harvest.  Not everyone is equipped to preach or teach.  The Lord has to send them.  Our part is to pray.  Never underestimate how powerful prayer can be when it is in agreement with God’s plan.  

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