Is the Bible 'Enough' for Church Growth?
- Tuesday, August 05, 2008
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- I have been privileged to pastor a number of wonderful churches filled with godly men and women who love the Lord. I have learned numerous lessons from those with whom I have been privileged to serve. One evening I learned an invaluable lesson about the sufficiency of Scripture from a layman who was my visitation partner.
We were following up with a home visit to a couple who had expressed interest in joining the church. The woman and the man had filled out visitor cards with the same address but with a different last name. The gentleman was not present, and the young lady was a bit nervous during our visit. It was obvious she was concerned about her present living conditions and wanted a little free counseling. My friend indicated that we would be willing to stay as long as necessary to help her deal with issues of concern but that she first needed to answer a few simple questions to help him determine whether we could be of help.
I listened intently as he patiently asked the following three questions:
- Are you certain that you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? She responded "yes."
- Do you believe that the Bible is God's Word and is sufficient for all our needs? Again she responded in the affirmative.
- If I show you truth from God's Word that deals with the issues that concern you, will you obey them immediately and completely?
My friend did not elaborate at this point, but the lady began to exclaim that we wouldn't understand. She pointed to her financial need and loneliness. My friend listened patiently and then started again repeating the three questions.
The implication was obvious. If we pointed her to Scripture which she confessed to be a "sufficient guide," and she refused to obey God's Word, we had no other advice to give her. It would be like going to the doctor and refusing to follow his prescription.
While you might smile in agreement, let me pose a question: "Is the Bible sufficient for church growth and health?"
I'm not suggesting that we don't need to organize for Bible study and outreach. God is not a God of confusion; He works through orderly strategy. But do we really agree with the Apostle Paul that it is "God who gives the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:7)? And if it is God who actually causes true growth, it only makes sense that we find His design for these matters in His Word. We face the temptation of relying too heavily on the next model, method or marketing strategy to grow our church, rather than looking primarily to Scripture for our growth strategy. I believe that if we search the Scriptures and apply their emphases, we will experience the growth and health the Lord desires. Consider these points with me.
God's Word - In Overcoming Spiritual Myopia
As I have indicated in earlier articles, I am convinced that a primary obstacle to church health is our spiritual myopia which generates apathy. Many Christians behave as if the church were established to meet their needs and to keep them comfortable and entertained until Christ returns. I refer to this as the "Love Boat Syndrome." We behave as if the Ship of Zion is the Love Boat. The role of the captain and staff is to entertain and cater to the needs of the passengers while they enjoy a pleasurable cruise to Glory. Everything is fine as long as the food is sufficient, the music restful, the waters calm and no one moves my deck chair. But in reality, the Ship of Zion is a hospital ship and there are no deck chairs on a hospital ship!
So if we are going to cultivate healthy, Kingdom-focused churches, we must challenge this myopic apathy. There is no program and no method which can overcome such apathy. I resolutely believe that nothing changes anyone's mind and attitude except the Word of God applied by the Spirit of God. Thus, the beginning of changing any church must begin with our knowledge of, and obedience to, the Word of God. This singular conviction has been the guiding strategy of the entire Empowering Kingdom Growth focus. All of the EKG materials are designed to be concentrated studies through which God's Word changes the heart ("EKG: The Heartbeat of God"), transforms the thinking ("Eternal Impact"), and provides the resources ("Making Change") through understanding and obedience to God's eternal truth.
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