1. In Holland, Michigan we lived on a street which is part of Tulip Lane. In the fall, city workers planted thousands of tulip bulbs along the boulevard in the middle of our street. In the spring these bulbs would shoot upward out of the ground. To see those plants made us think about how, in a month, we would have thousands of beautiful flowers along the street - a seemingly endless, colourful bouquet of flowers. The life in these plants has been there all winter, but now that we can see the plants we evidence of that life.
2. Growth also provides evidence of life in the church. We are alive through the power of the Holy Spirit. Growth lets us see that life. Most of us would agree that growth is vital to the life of the church. More importantly, Jesus commanded the church to grow.
3. Why then is there such a wide variety of opinion about church growth? If I would put my notes to the side and ask each one of you to tell us what direction church growth should take, how would you respond? PAUSE. What direction should church growth take? Each of you might respond somewhat differently. I wouldn’t expect all of you to agree. Many experts and church leaders don’t. For the sake of unity we might even try to stay away from growth. If we can’t agree on how to do something, we reason that it might be better not to do anything at all.
4. Many opinions on the direction which church growth should take centre upon one of three views:
a. One view is that the church should be concerned about growing upwards. The purpose of the church is to glorify God and to strengthen its relationship with Him. Then, we, as a church will sense His presence in our midst. By diligently studying His word we will learn how to live holy lives. We must reach upward to God and glorify Him in all that we do. The church is to teach sound doctrine, preach the word and spend much time in prayer. Then we will grow spiritually.
b. A second view considers the need to grow within. What we need is more fellowship. We need to build a sharing, loving community. Our concern should be for our fellow church members. W need not only to worship together, but to have potluck dinners and golf tournaments together. We need to grow within and create a community of caringand loving individuals.
c. A third view is that the direction of church growth must be to reach out to the world of unbelievers and to win them to Christ. We must look at the community around the church. We must proclaim the gospel to them. Evangelism is the answer, And not only proclaim the word, but also in reaching out to meet their needs. Open our arms to the elderly by providing meals. Start a drop-in centre for youth. Start new churches in areas were we can proclaim the gospel to the unchurched. This will provide the numerical growth which the church needs..
5. Grow upward, grow within or grow out? Which view is correct? Should we growth seek spiritual growth, community growth or numerical growth. On which of these must we concentrate to enable the church of Jesus Christ to grow? Should First Reformed Church in Canada be concerned withgrowing upward, growing within or growhing out?
6. As a child I came from Holland with my parents in 1952. As strangers in a new land with a new language, I saw the Dutch immigrants share a common faith and a common heritage. That caused them to depend upon God and upon each other. As more immigrants came, we could see numerical growth. Same here in Chatham. And while we can still remain proud of that heritage, we need to be realistic. Times have changed. My generation is as much Canadian as it is Dutch. The Reformed Church in Canada, including Chatham is at a point in its history at which it has to examine itself and set its priorities to enable it to grow. Great to see non-Dutch deacon ordained but to believe that it took over 48 years for this to happen.
7. What are our priorities? What kind of growth are we seeking? The elders (and consistory) responsible for growth at our church. Told to nurture lambs, sheep. Jesus told John and tells you "feed my sheep". I believe the next three years, (time new elders and deacons will serve will be crucial to our health and growth and our existence itself). I’ve seen much to indicate a readiness to grow. Probably soon have consistory retreat to talk about. We have seen three views as to the direction which church growth should take.