[forthright] Characteristics of a Growing Church

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthright@...>
Date: Tue, 06 Jun 2006 09:44:24 -0500
Forthright Magazine
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Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: Square One

Characteristics of a Growing Church
by Richard Mansel

A lack of concern for growth in the Lord's body is
unacceptable. "It is simply biblical and
theological nonsense to argue that God is pleased
when churches, year after year and generation
after generation, lose members."/1 To suppose that
Christ came to die for a lackluster vision is
intolerable.

God decided before time began that his church
should grow. We need not spend any time
contemplating whether growth should occur. The
Great Commission has the name of all Christians in
its command to "Go into all the world and preach
the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15, NKJV).

We shall examine three principles that will help
facilitate this noble goal.

First, growth requires conviction. All church
growth must be founded on the unwavering
conviction that the Bible is God's inspired word
and that nothing can alter its message (Psalm
119:89). Jesus said nothing can stop his kingdom
(Matthew 16:18) and that "the word of our God
stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8). For those who are
seeking churches, the "unambiguous declaration of
absolutes" is very appealing in a "world of
relativity."/2

When we express these absolutes, we must do so
with love and concern for souls (Ephesians 4:15).
Speaking the truth is not a mere recitation of
facts or a club to enforce compliance. It is the
process of helping hurting and lost people reach
the destination that will bring them peace with
God and the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38;
Acts 22:16). It is the conviction that souls need
the gospel and an undiluted message of God's grace
and love. That to compromise the truth would be to
doom the lost to a delusion of salvation.

A church of conviction will be resolute in the
"whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). They will
realize that to hide truth from people is to be
dishonest and destructive. To place people's
feelings above their salvation is to express
hatred for their souls that will be judged on the
final day (Hebrews 9:27).    

Second, growth requires caring. Jesus provided a
portrait of God's people that is essentially
forgotten by the majority of Christians (Matthew
25:31-46). To exhibit Christ's love is to feed,
clothe, nurse, and help those who are without. We
are to be the hands of Jesus to those around us
(Mark 6:1,2).

Growing churches will have tender, open hearts and
an active, giving spirit. Hurting people are
everywhere, and they all have souls and sins that
need attention. Jesus fed the multitudes, and when
they came back simply for more food, he taught
them again. When they refused to listen and simply
wanted more food, he let them go (John 6). The
message is not that we should ignore all the needy
because of a few selfish individuals, but that the
voice of truth and the extended hand should be
forever intertwined.

Third, growth requires consensus. For a church to
choose growth, they must be going in the same
direction. They must agree that truth in love will
be their goal and doctrinal compromise their
enemy. A congregation will work toward goals that
they own, meaning those goals that they see as
productive. Leadership must have the support and
energy of the congregation if growth is to occur.
They cannot force it to occur contrary to the
desires of the congregation.

The congregation must decide that they will be
involved, set their fears aside and deliver the
gospel and a helping hand to the community. And
they must decide that they will receive whomever
accepts the gospel call. This is sometimes more
difficult than it sounds. But, it is the Lord's
church, not ours.

__________
1/ C. Peter Wagner, Your Church Can Grow (Ventura:
Regal, 1976), 189.
2/ Thom Ranier, Surprising Insights From the
Unchurched (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 135.

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