by: Rev. Ed Schneider

Let me state clearly that if any Christian congregation and the majority of their membership is not consistently and genuinely looking for opportunities to share how good God is through the life, death, and mission of Jesus they are drastically eluding a foundational principle and purpose of their very existence. If a local congregation, much less a denomination, has determined “church growth” is not only a biblical requirement but also an essential means toward practical survival, then they must deal with some tough questions regarding what to do, why they haven’t done it already, and what specific corrective actions and commitments may be necessary to complete the spiritual task a head of them.

 Here are six important realities that can and will help your congregational body come to understand as not only essential but TRULY “do-able.”

  •  Honesty: [2 Cor:3:1-6]

Honesty1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you? 2 You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 3 clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.  4 And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit;  for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. There must be a firm commitment to the “integrity” of the primary mission of the church.  Common beliefs and goals are essential.  In a rather significant way, it must be understood that if each Christian leader as well as the majority of the congregation is not on the same page or moving in the same direction regarding what they are doing and why they are doing it, there can be no hope of integrity of mission.  If a group of souls have decided upon the “what” and “why” of their purpose of existing and then move in another direction of focus then most assuredly their corporate integrity has to be in jeopardy of outright failure.

  •  Vision: [Hosea 4:6; Rev 21:1-4]

Vision6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. 1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” The Bible says, “My people are destroyed…” They are “destroyed” because of a lack of knowledge…or understanding….or clarity of thought and the ability to focus on the foundations of their relationship with God and the mission He has set before them.  That was true then and it is true today.  Assuming church folk can agree on the “what” and “why” of a divinely directed mission, there needs to follow a vibrant, intentional, strategic, and aggressive vision (where do we need to go to energetically fulfill God’s kingdom building goals) with a plan-of-action attached to that understanding.  You must have a preplanned strategic vision and it’s agreed upon tactics on how to arrive at your goals.

  •  Empowerment: [Acts 9:32-42]

Sections 3 & 4 are two sides of the same coin. One goes hand-in-hand with the other. If the environment is put into place…if identifying leadership has been successful…and if the prayerful understanding of God direction is firm, the training to specifically has been laid, and tools have been given… then one can legitimately say “empowerment” has been established. Lay leadership must be identified, encouraged, trained, and empowered to take decisive action for the cause of Christ.  One of the more frustrating realities of failing churches is they are filled with timid, fearful, and non-committed Christians who are constantly making excuses about why they can not do something or feel inept or inadequately prepared to approach or accomplish the mission of the church.  The church has an important and primary role in providing an environment for discipleship growth and leadership development.  When we fail to take this responsibility seriously we greatly contribute to the eventual collapse of local congregations.

  •  Decisive Action: [Eph 5:25-27; Phil 2:14-15; 2Thes 1:4-10]

action25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, 5 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; 6 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe,because our testimony among you was believed. For the most part, when a leader(s) has been “empowered” to accomplish a specific direction then a level of trust is required. One trust has been initially secured then it must follow that the “decision making process” has to be systematically intentionally decentralized if forward movement and issues of empowerment and urgency are going to be addressed honestly.  With the exception of larger congregational issues, organizational or group decisions have to quickly move away from the stagnant and crippling affect of assumptive monolithic authoritarianism.  Quit waiting around for someone else or some other group to jump in to get the job done.   As long as you are working in the same direction and for the same purpose – somebody please make a decision and move forward.

  •  Relationships: [John 15:9-17]

relationships9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. 17 These things I command you, that you love one another. The main reason why any person joins a local congregation has little to do with the choir, the carpet, the denomination, or the preacher.  In the vast majority of instances, people will decide to join a local church based on a personal relationship or contact with someone who already is connected with the location.  The word “love” in the above scripture is taken from the Greek word “agape.” Agape does not mean warm & fuzzy hugs. It does not mean an affectionate personal connection based liking someone. Agape ONLY MEANS self-sacrifice. The mature Christian sacrifices their “wants” for another’s “needs.” Personal and intentional sacrifice for the benefit of others….over and above your personal desires for comfort and personal validation is the primary understanding of the New Testament definition of AGAPE.   Personal evangelism, mission, and generic church growth is to begin and end with relationship building that is sincere, loving, passionate and not contrived or manipulative.

  •  Transformation Location: [Jer. 7:24; Matt 16:9; Prov. 4:23; Matt 5:8]

24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 23 above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. 5 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Every healthy Christian location will be ultimately known as either a location that changes the circumstances of people’s lives or it doesn’t. It will be primarily experienced in the practical reality of how well it puts into practice “changing the hearts” of those who have been touched by its understanding of a graceful, powerful, and life altering God.  Transforming the human “heart” is a constant biblical theme and it is one of those rudimentary requirements of a healthy and growing church “open in the name of Christ.” Beloved, providing an environment that is foundationally based on transforming lives, empowering families, and uplifting others who are need while powerfully and passionately displaying our faith in a God who is not only able but willing to reach down into a 3-day-old grave and bring back to life that which was assumed to be dead is what we are called to proclaim and demonstrate.  I don’t know about you, but that sounds like really Good News. Beloved, let’s get to work showing others we actually believed that massage. FINAL THOUGHTS Our bibles clearly, directly, and without exception describe a New Testament, post-Pentecost, church as being remarkably diverse in language, culture, color, education, and social status.  When we combine our Lord’s New Testament mandates in the following passages a very clear message comes to light.

  • Luke 4:16-23 {get your bible’s out and prayerfully read this text} (No excuses! Fill up my church with all kinds of people and from every section and segment of the community being served)
  • Matthew 28:16-20 {get your bible’s out and prayerfully read this text}  (being proactive in carrying the good news of God’s love in the life and mission of Christ to everyone, every where, and in all circumstances SO THAT after they are part of the faith they can in turn learn the ways of Christ)

We receive our foundational responsibility as a “local” body of believers NOT as a denomination. Other people receive our foundational connection to the God we claim NOT from the local congregation but rather from each one of us as we PERSONALLY interact with people in the daily course of our life. Our Lord would not have called to us “make disciples of all nations” if there were no interaction of equality and commonalty of one’s “walk of faith.”  Our Lord would not have called to his faithful followers to “fill up His house” if he was not going to supply that which is needed to get the job done. Both making disciples and filling up the house of God can absolutely be accomplished. However, as believers in a God who at His very core is a God of RESURRECTION POWER we can not accomplish these two mandates without honestly expressing genuine,11858507 transparent, and at some level, “risky” relationships with others who we may not currently know. We may even be called to get to know people that under the normal parts of our daily lives would not interact with in a real and tangible way.

Walking with someone spiritually, when we provide a sincere and honest mentoring and coaching to someone who might not have another outlet of sharing life’s realities we do a Christ-like thing.  When we share in the joys of another their journey of faith both people truly experience one of the greatest privileges any Christian can have. When we find the value in the integrity of sharing our lives with others under the love and empowerment of God…BECAUSE OF OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST…we gain as much or more than they do. When we walk with others as they gain new and broader insights to the ways of God, everyone is blessed and God is immensely pleased. When we are actively sharing Christ, when we are proactively doing whatever is necessary to fill up His house, we are standing firmly inside the will of God. This is exactly the kind of Christian expression of God’s love it takes to rebirth a local congregation.

There are two questions that will need to be honestly answered at this point.

  • Are you willing to commit to this journey?
  • Are you willing to learn new things that will prompt not just the local church’s growth…but yours as well?
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