For the past four weeks we have been discussing the disciplines of Church! We’ve seen that a church at prayer, a church in mission, and a church that is pursuing the purposes of God are all important because these disciplines will allow us to move in the direction that God is wanting us to move. There are two more disciplines we will discuss before we are done. The discipline of a Growing Church and the discipline of a Church with Vision. Today we will focus on the Discipline of a Growing Church.
GROWTH IN THE CHURCH IS ALWAYS TWO FOLD
A Church must grow in two very important areas. There must be Spiritual Growth and Numerical Growth. I must say that one always follows the other to a degree.
What does it mean to grow Spiritually? Well, It means that we are becoming more and more like Jesus everyday! And this doesn’t happen by accident! it is something we are mindfully doing on a daily basis. Although I really wish it did happen by accident. That is to say that spiritual maturity and growth just happen. BUT IT NEVER HAS BEEN THAT WAY!
Spiritual Growth comes as we allow God to move and direct our lives. It comes as a mindful, willful act. It is deliberate, not by accident or chance. The only thing that naturally comes to us as human beings is the fact that we have a spiritual bent to sin. That’s called iniquity in the bible. And like anything else in life that is worth doing, it takes effort, time, training, and desire!
Larry Bird, one of the greatest basketball players of all time had a gift, but he grew in that gift as he practiced countless hours toward improving himself! Even when he was at the top of his game he still got up every morning and shot 500 baskets. Did you know that he studied the game plans and memorized them and then went out on the court for hours each day to practice the game plans? He was good, but he knew that unless he put in the effort, his natural talent would be useless! He had to be ready to face the other team and execute the game plan perfectly with the talent that he had.
There is no way I can hit on everything that we can do to grow spiritually in one short class, but in these two bible passages, we find the disciplines that every Godly man must follow if we are to grow Spiritually.
‘As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions ? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. ‘ Ephesians 4:1-16
1. First Discipline:
“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
This is a prayer of his for the people in Ephesus to become the men and women God created them to be. They are to be bound together by love and the unity of the Spirit. They are to be continually growing, no longer being infants in the faith! One of the key dangers of remaining infants in the Lord is that we can so easily be lead astray from the truth.
Paul is saying God has given leadership gifts to the church… Eph 4:11-14 “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
Do you know what is destroying much of modern Christianity today? It’s rebellion in the church! Rebellion in the church is when people choose not to follow the leaders that God has placed over us. Not that we are to be led blindly by the church leaders but that we are to follow them with discernment based on the Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Rebellion takes on lots of faces and we have seen them all if we are honest with ourselves. Non attendance, lack of participation in the life of the church, lack of communication, these are all ways that rebellion shows itself in a church.
The discipline here is to listen and move and grow with your church. That’s exactly what was happening in the early church from the beginning!
2. Second Discipline
– Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Let me be brutally honest now. There is no way that we can become like someone we don’t know, or don’t know very well. Have you ever liked and admired someone so much that you began to act and be like that person? You can’t do that unless you know that person. The only way to do that is to be around them and know them and copy them. That’s how we become more like Christ! We do this as we are around Him, knowing Him and copying Him. We do this through our prayer life, our Bible study and day to day living asking ourselves the age old question, “What would Jesus Do?”
And you know what? We have a bonus in this relationship. The Holy Spirit who will lead us and direct us and allow us to experience the presence of Jesus Christ.
Spiritual Growth = Numerical Growth
IF WE ARE GROWING SPIRITUALLY THEN WE WILL ALSO BE GROWING NUMERICALLY. As we get excited about our Lord, our Faith and our Church, we will want others to come and become a part of that!
Have you ever been a part of a group that you were not really very excited about? Chances are you have. How many of your friends or family did you invite to join that group? Not many right! Contrast that to being a part of a group that is exciting and where things are happening! You want all your friends and family there because of that! Well, that is exactly what was happening in the early church in Jerusalem.
Acts 2:46-47 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Notice something here! It wasn’t Jesus who was in the streets, sharing the Good News. It wasn’t the professional clergy (there were none) and it wasn’t the Evangelism Committee (they didn’t have one of those either). I can assure you that it wasn’t good publicity or a name singer! What was it? IT WAS THE PEOPLE OF GOD ON THE MOVE INVITING IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND PEOPLE WERE BEING SAVED!
Does this work today?
You bet it does! God is on the move today. His Spirit is moving in ways never before seen in modern history. The church is being called into obedience under His Lordship. More people are coming to Christ now than ever before and the question is this:
ARE YOU GROWING AND EXCITED ABOUT YOUR FAITH?
ARE YOU INVITING AND SHARING THE GOOD NEWS WE HAVE?