Why do churches grow! Not long ago I wrote a short article on this, giving thought to two points by brother Mont Whitson’s article in 20th Century Christian on “Why Some Churches Grow” (Feb. 1957). I received a reply to that article wherein a brother asked me to consider in a second article the other four points. This article is a result of that request.
To briefly note, in the first article I considered Whitson’s points (1) when there is the spirit of love, unity and understanding people within and without see something to be a part of, (2) the church grows when the members within are willing to work.
The other four points he addressed are (3) when leaders are men of character, reputation, vision and zeal, (4) the local preacher sets a high spiritual tone, (5) the local church plans for the future and (6) the church will grow where God is honored, Christ is preached, and the Holy Spirit plays an important role in the lives of the disciples.
Let us consider, briefly, each.
When leaders are men of character, reputation, vision and zeal. The wisdom of character and reputation are so obvious to the thinking person that little needs to be said. Yet, much needs to be said! The reason for this is because we each know the failings of our own hearts and the life each lives is a direct reflection on one’s own name, family and, most importantly of all, the Lord’s name. If the name is bad what influence is available? When the reputation is intact, then the mind is free and open, unclouded by failings to see what lies ahead. That which is in the heart makes it way out of the heart (cf. Proverbs 4:23).
The local preacher sets a high spiritual tone. This point that brother Whitson made is ambiguous to me. I take from his words that the preacher should be charismatic and nonjudgmental. It is likely I don’t understand him the way he intended to express himself. I would, however, like to take his term “high spiritual tone” to speak about a high spiritual tone in relation to what man considers spiritual. There is a “part” of man that is not material, or incorporated within all the material flesh that gives us form, shape. That part of man is the immaterial, the soul (spirit) of man that seeks for greater things than this life offers. No naturalist can offer any encouraging words along this line, but Jesus can! Thus, a high spiritual tone addresses that which is greater than what is offered in this material realm, a message that speaks to the heart of who (and what) man is.
The local church plans for the future. Without a vision (destination) where is the traveler going? Brother Whitson wrote of the church meeting today’s needs from yesterday’s planning. If there is a meeting of today’s needs tomorrow the church is continually behind. The thrust behind his remark is with regard to the infrastructure of the church. Not only is the church patterned after the New Testament order, but there should also be adequate provisions for Bible classes, teachers, benevolence, mission programs, etc. With these in place the local church gives itself an opportunity to grow spiritually and numerically.
The church will grow where God is honored, Christ is preached, and the Holy Spirit plays an important role in the lives of the disciples. The local church worships an audience of One (God). In this worship there is an exaltation of His word implemented in the lives of those who hear it preached each occasion that it is preached. This includes the saints and the non-saints. The importance of this can’t be missed. All-to-often the people of the audience want their way implemented rather than God’s way. Whatever “good” intention might exist with such a sentiment, it is a bad decision, and God is hardly honored when man presumes on that only which only belongs to the Lord.
It is a challenge for each local congregation to grow numerically; we experience this in east-central Illinois. While our numerical growth pales in comparison to some, our spiritual growth can surely excel.