I know that it’s obvious how I spend some of my time. I preach every week and teach several lessons throughout the week. However, a lot of what I do is behind the scenes and involves a lot of study and thought. However, nothing that I do should be hidden, nor should it be done in isolation. So I thought I’d do some thinking “out loud.”
One of the issues for this body of believers is one that faces every church, all the time: how do we grow? Before we start noodling the answer together, let’s put a few things in order. First, spiritual health is more important than numeric growth (Matthew 7:13-23); however, spiritual health can be measured, to a degree, by the number of people attending and serving. Second, our primary focus for adding people to our body must be through making disciples from among non-Christian people, not recruiting people from other churches. Third, making disciples is every Christian’s job, not just the preacher’s (Matthew 28:18-20). Last, the most effective efforts to make disciples happen outside of the church building and not during church services or programs (Acts 4:31-33; 5:12-14, 42).
With these boundaries in mind, I want to head in the following directions. First, I will continue to preach sermons that will always include at least a summary explanation of the Gospel message – that Jesus died to forgive our sins and rose to give us eternal life – and a call to become a Christian – by believing that Jesus is the Son of God, repenting of sin, confessing Jesus as Lord, and being baptized by immersion for the forgiveness of sins. Second, I will direct my sermons and lessons toward what it means to be a Christian outside the four walls of the church, to make sure that not only is theology the foundation of our faith but that it is practical theology that “works” in everyday life. Third, I will focus more of my time and effort on getting to know people in our community so that I will be more active in sharing the Gospel to non-Christians; I must confess that I have focused too little time on this, and I want to lead by example. Last, I will work with our elders, deacons, and volunteer leaders in other areas to make sure that everything we say and do in our worship services and programs is focused on bringing God glory and bringing non-Christians to Christ.
I share these thoughts with you, first of all, to let you know that I am thinking, in general, but also specifically about where we are and where we are headed. Second, I want to remind those who have been within the church for a while – and not just this church – that things change. The world changes. People change. However, God doesn’t change, neither does his Word change nor his Commission for the church. Third, I want to be open about the fact that, because things change around us, we will have to change what we do or how we do it. Rest assured that I don’t believe the church should change because change is trendy. However, I do think we need to change. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:15, 16, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Opportunities surround us, and we are going to have to change to make the most of those opportunities.
Last, I share my thoughts because we have to be realistic about change. Not only has the world changed around us, but this church body has changed – not just in the last year and half or over the past 3, 5, 10, or even 20 or more years but throughout its life. That’s the nature of a body; it changes as it lives and grows. However, as we live, grow, and change, it’s tempting for us to be nostalgic and long for “the old days.” Unfortunately, the past will always remain the past, and it will never be captured or reproduced, no matter how hard we might want it or how hard we might try. Change happens in the here and now with a hope for a different future while building on and growing out of the past.
So with these thoughts, I tip my hand to reveal what I plan to do in the weeks and months to come, and I hope that you will continue to support me and work with me. It’s my prayer that all of these efforts will help us become healthier as a body. Healthy bodies grow. Of course, we can’t force growth. Paul explains God’s plan for healthy church growth in 1 Corinthians 3:6, 7, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” While I haven’t given out a lot of details (they’re still percolating in my mind), I pledge to plant the seeds of the Gospel, and with the help of our elders, deacons, teachers, and everybody, we will tend what God causes to grow together.