You want your church to grow right? I mean, no one plants a church in order for it to not grow. That wouldn't make a lot of sense. But here is a question we should be asking – what do we mean by growth? And perhaps a follow up question – why do we want to grow?
You see, both of those questions are crucial actually. To grow is not necessarily a good thing. Cancer grows. Despair can grow. Debt can grow. So, to consider the first question, what do we mean by growth? Or what do we want to grow?
What most people mean by it is to grow numerically. For a church to have more people in it one month than they did the last month. That can be good, provided the church is good. But are numbers the only thing we should be thinking about? Shouldn't we also consider other metrics for growth? Metrics like: more victory over sin, more Bible reading, more heartfelt singing, more understanding of the gospel, more love between believers, more invitations for dinner, more encouragement notes given, more sharing the gospel with the lost, more earnest prayer requests, more love for God? The answer is yes! Of course we should. And in those ways we really want to grow.
But what about numbers? Do we want more people in our church? And I believe the answer to that should also be a hearty "yes, of course!" But we want to take care that we grow the right way. And in this I believe that God has really blessed our church already. I didn't plant Redeemer out of a desire to shuffle the deck of everyone's church attendance in Kelowna. As in, it has never been the goal to simply pull disaffected parishioners from their churches. No, as we held our first few services as a church, we looked out over the Okanagan Valley with a desire to reach the lost and the spiritually impoverished. There are countless souls who are lost, who have no church, who have no faith – we want to reach them with the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ. And there are thousands of others who are already believers but have been wilting under false teaching, poor teaching, and unhealthy church leadership.
In the last two years especially, many have been burned by the lockdowns and the slavish compliance of so many churches to those mandates. Whether believers or not, many looked to the church and found her doors shuttered and unwelcoming. We make it our aim to reach all of these people for Christ and to open our doors wide to invite the multitudes in.
So yes, we want to keep growing. We want to see more and more people come to faith in Christ and come to live the Christian life well in the context of a healthy local church. But let us ask the second question now – Why? Why do we want to grow?
There are many pitfalls here. One could want to grow for reasons of personal or corporate pride. I want to be the greatest, or We want to be the greatest. This struggle is not foreign to disciples of Jesus Christ. Do you remember what the twelve disciples were arguing about on the way to Capernaum? "they had argued with one another about who was the greatest" (Mark 9:34). Quite the discussion to be having in the backseat when Jesus is just up ahead. Or even as Paul describes the church at Corinth – "each one of you says, 'I follow Paul,' or 'I follow Apollos,' or 'I follow Cephas,' or 'I follow Christ.'" (1 Corinthians 1:12). They began to chase after certain teachers, competing with one another. Paul again writes about this to the Philippians – "Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will" (Philippians 1:15-18). And yet Paul even rejoices that in this competition Christ is still proclaimed.
So, we ought to watch out for such pride and pettiness. Yet, like Paul, let us not shy away from proclaiming Christ. We would be happy if every gospel-preaching church grew in Kelowna tenfold and yet we didn't. If that happens, I will be the first to join Paul in praising the Lord for such revival. We only want Christ to be proclaimed – by us or by others. And yet like an eager farmer wanting his trees to bear fruit, or like an athlete who wants to win the race, or like a soldier who wants to win the war, we want to see great results. And that is okay. Faithfulness first – but it is good to want to see the faithful work grow.
We want to experience what the church in the book of Acts experienced, as "the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:47)." We want to see the power of the gospel at work in saving the lost, indeed in saving many. The more the merrier! Propelled by the Great Commission we want to do our part to advance the gospel in this world. We hope to see greater things yet. We intend on growing as a church. We are asking God to bless us, and we are trusting him to grow our church in His time and in His way. After all, we may plant or we may water, but only God can make it grow (1 Corinthians 3:6).
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