Summary: A healthy church will be a growing church
During Superbowl XXXVII, FedEx ran a commercial that spoofed the movie Castaway. You probably remember the movie. Tom Hanks plays a FedEx worker whose company plane went down, stranding him on a desert island for years.
The Hanks character was assigned the task of looking after a particular package which he safeguarded through his entire ordeal. In the movie, we never learn what was in the package.
In the commercial, looking like the bedraggled Hanks in the movie, the FedEx employee goes up to the door of a suburban home, package in hand. When the lady comes to the door, he explains that he survived five years on a deserted island, and during that whole time he kept this package in order to deliver it to her.
She gives a simple, "Thank you."
But he is curious about what is in the package that he has been protecting for years. He says, "If I may ask, what was in that package after all?"
She opens it and shows him the contents, saying, "Oh, nothing really. Just a satellite telephone, a global positioning device, a compass, a water purifier, and some seeds."
Sometimes we have all the resources that we need if we just open the package.
Church Growth is a hot topic. If you do a search on the internet for church growth resources you will find thousands of companies and organization that promise that they can provide exactly what you need.
• You need a slick web site and we will design that for you.
• You need a whole new image. We’ll help you coordinate all of your communications.
• You need our consultants to help you.
• You need demographic information and a targeted direct marketing campaign.
• You need new audio and video equipment.
• You need our curriculum material. You need our music.
• You need to attend our seminars and buy our tapes.
I need to say that I think there is some real value to some of these offers. We, as a church, need to do things in an intelligent manner. We do need to be concerned about our image.
While it makes sense to use the best tools that we can to spread our message, we are not selling soap and there should be a difference. There is no simple answer.
Everybody wants to be an Act 2:47 Church. 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
The goal should not be church growth, the goal should be church health. A church that attracts new members but is unhealthy does more harm than good. A healthy church will grow naturally.
Growing a healthy church takes time.
There are no short cuts to maturity. It takes years for us to grow to adulthood, and it takes a full season for fruit to mature and ripen. The same is true for the fruit of the Spirit. The development of Christ like character cannot be rushed. Spiritual growth, like physical growth, takes time.
When you try to ripen fruit quickly, it loses its flavor. In America, tomatoes are usually picked green so they won’t bruise during shipping to the stores. Then, before they are sold, these green tomatoes are sprayed with CO2 gas to turn them red instantly. Gassed tomatoes are edible, but they are no match to the flavor of a vine-ripened tomato that is allowed to mature slowly.
Acts 2:42 says that the early church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. The great commission says make disciples.
A big part of the burden for this rests right here. Since I am the one who is generally in the pulpit, making sure that sound and effective teaching takes place in the church every week is my job. It is not that I am somehow gifted with super spirituality or great wisdom. By I am given a responsibility to study and proclaim the eternal truth of God in a way that relates to our world today. You need to know that I take that seriously.
But it isn’t just me. There is more to growing in the understanding of Scripture. There is no substitute within the church for having a solid educational program. It is important that we have good curriculum and dedicated teachers. We need to offer options for different ages, maturity levels, and interests.
But education is not just an organizational effort. The believers, the members of this first church, devoted themselves to learning. We too need to be responsible for taking advantage of opportunities that are offered, and there are resources out there beyond what the church provides. There are good books to read – Linda or I can make suggestions. There are video studies that can be watched at home. You might even consider getting together with a few people in your neighborhood – they don’t all have to be part of this congregation. The point is personal maturity and growth.