Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
For us to understand the purpose of the church, we must first find a Biblical foundation on which our beliefs are based.
It is Gods’ will for the church to grow. To grow not just numerically; but first and foremost it is His will for His church to grow spiritually.
If you had a building that would seat 1000 people and that church had multiple services so that each week you had 3000, 4000, 5000 or more total attendance, we would all say “WOW, THAT’S FANTASTIC.” What are they doing that we can do and get the same kind of growth? And it is fantastic that many people are in church, that the church has something going that might be worth duplicating. But let us look a little closer.
Are all those masses of people committed to serving Christ Monday through Saturday?
Have all those people made a genuine commitment to Christ? Have all those people gotten involved in reading their Bibles and praying on a regular basis and seeking to serve God in a greater way?
If all of them are still baby Christians, that Church has a major problem. Is the individual life changed? Are their lives that live different than the week before? And to take this picture a step further, is this a picture of Christ’s church?
Now, lest you think that I am picking on the large mega-churches, let me bring this same scenario down to churches under seventy people which is the size of the majority of churches. Are small churches just biding their time till all the dead-wood pass on? Who will be left? What are these small churches doing for the sake of the Gospel? Are they reaching out beyond the walls of their building, their comfort zone?
Are the majority of these small churches just content to come each week and lip-sync a few words of “Amazing Grace”, mumble some of the words of the Lord’s Prayer, fall asleep halfway through the message and then shake a couple of hands on their way out to the car?.
James 2:26 –For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Ephesians 4:11-16 – And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, 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, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Instead of asking, “What will make our church grow?” we need to ask, “What is keeping ourChurch from growing?” The church is a body, and bodies grow. It is a living organism and living organisms grow. Christ, himself breathed on the disciples and said “Receive ye, the Holy Spirit.” That took place on the Day of Pentecost and the church was birthed. If your child or grandchild did not grow, you would take them to the doctor; and if the doctor didn’t give you a satisfactory answer as to what was wrong, you would immediately take that child to another doctor. If your child was growing physically but was still nursing and slobbering all over the place and not potty-trained you would begin to question what was wrong. Either your parenting skills were terrible, or something was seriously wrong with your child.
I ask you with all the sincerity that I can ask you, what keeps the church from growing? Am I really a Christian? Just because I prayed the sinner’s prayer 40 years ago does not mean I have not lapsed back into sin and do not even realize it. How much time do I spend on my knees? How much time do I pray? How much time do I spend studying my bible? How much do I witness? We must all do all of these things if we are to maintain our love life with the Lord.
You that are married must go out of your way to maintain your marriage. Saying “I do” forty, fifty, ten years ago or even last week does not make a lasting and committed marriage. A marriage demands regular maintenance (the tender affections daily – and even hourly, shown to the other half of the marriage). If that does not happen the marriage will literally die. You may still live together in the same house, but the love, the passion, the relationship that God designed for marriage will die. When God wanted to describe his relationship with the church he used the comparison of a bride and groom. Why was that? Because the relationship between husband and wife is the closest to what our relationship should be with God. Marriage was the first relationship/institution God created – long before government and before the church itself. God described marriage as two forsaking all others and becoming one. The church is the bride of Christ. The church is His. The love affair must grow day by day or it will die.
God asked a question of Adam and Eve in the garden. Is that same question being asked of you on a daily basis? Is God desiring some fellowship but you are busy at other things, too tired or too lazy, unmotivated, or what?
Genesis 3:9 – Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
Could it be the reason you are not involved in daily prayer, daily Bible reading, regular witnessing, and regular attendance at God’s house is that you have fallen out of love with God? Is your love what it was at one time? When you first became a Christian were you constantly pouring through the scriptures or could not possibly miss a single service or bible study of the church? Is that desire still the same?
When Barbara and I first got married I had been by myself for four years and she had been alone for over two years. At the risk of too much personal information I just want to use us as an illustration. Our passion for loving each other was enormous. We could not wait to see each other at the end of the day. We looked forward to weekends when we could spend all day long together. I can unequivocally say that that passion is even greater today than ever. When she was working, I would call her every day at work, not really wanting anything, just to hear her voice. I would run by her work and bring her a Pepsi or take her to lunch. She is always doing things to show her love for me. She loves to surprise me. One Valentine’s Day she hired a barbershop choir to serenade me with a love song after church on Sunday morning. Another year she hired a woman dressed as a pink gorilla who brought me candy and flowers after church on Sunday morning. Passion is much more than just the physical, although it includes that. But the world has degraded love to nothing more than just a physical encounter. God’s design for marriage, while including that physical union, includes so much more.
So it is with being a child of God. Being a Christian is confessing your sins and asking for forgiveness, but it is so much more than that. Do you have that passion to love the Lord more now than when you first became a child of God? Has your love waned and you fall into that category of the lukewarm church described in Revelation 3? Are you cold (backslidden) or hot (on fire) or lukewarm (somewhere in between).
I ask you to grade yourself as to your devotion in several categories – time spent in the Word, time spent in close, intimate prayer with God, time witnessing to others, time helping others in need, time spent in fellowship and worship with other believers. Be honest and upgrade yourself from one week to the next for the next month and compare your closeness to God from week to week. If you do that honestly and faithfully you will sense a change in your life. You will not only sense a change in your life but the church will see a change in you and others and the church as a whole will change and be less self-centered and more devoted to serving God as He tells us to.
Deuteronomy 6:5 – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.