Summary: Are are the Biblical evidences that a church is growing as it should?
In this passage, Paul speaks about growing the church. We have looked to verses 11 and 12, where he tells us the essentials of church growth - gifted leadership (v. 11) and committed membership (v. 12).
Then in verse 13, we noted the essence of church growth - unity.
Specifically, a growing church will be unified in belief - they will have their priorities arranged in Biblical order. They will be unified in experience - as they move forward in response to the call of God, they will learn together how to discern God’s voice and follow his
leadership. And they will be unified in attitude and action - they will be like Christ in their attitude and actions - seeing to reach out to people by meeting them where they are.
Now today, we will conclude our consideration of this passage by
looking to verses 14-16, where Paul tells us about the evidences of church growth. Paul mentions three evidences that a church is growing as God would have it to grow. Each of these evidences is a result of the three-fold unity described by Paul in verse 13. A growing church is
1. God’s people living stable lives - v. 14
As a congregation progresses toward unity in belief, members’ lives will become more and more steadfast and stable. Founded on God’s Word and built by prayer, the people will grow in their understanding of God’s truth and will develop convictions which will keep them from trouble.
Here is where gifted leadership is so important.
A growing church must have a pastor who proclaims, as Paul put it, “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). But not only must the pastor declare God’s Word, the people must do God’s Word (James 1:22).
However, it seems that too many churches today are filled with those who are “always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). Consequently, too many pastors have taken the approach of the experienced tennis coach.
A tennis professional was giving a lesson to a new student of the game. After watching the student take several swings at the tennis ball, he began to suggest ways in which the strokes might be improved.
But each time a suggestion was made, the student would interrupt with his own version of what was wrong and how to correct it.
After several such interruptions, the "Pro" began to nod his head in agreement. When the lesson ended, a woman who had been watching said to the Pro: “Why did you go along with that arrogant man’s stupid suggestions?” The old “Pro” smilingly replied, “I learned a long time ago that it is a waste of time to try to sell answers to a person who just wants to buy echoes.”
“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” - 2 Timothy 4:1-4 (NASB)
Some pastors, to their shame, have made the same decision as the
Tennis Pro. They are preaching echoes to people who just want their ears “tickled” with what they want to hear, rather than offering the
answers people need to hear by preaching God’s truth.
To keep the people from being tossed to and fro by every wind of
doctrine, the pastor must declare the whole counsel of God and the people must do the whole counsel of God! As we do, we will progress toward a unity of belief and our church will be one characterized by God’s people living stable lives.
2. God’s people bearing a loving witness - v. 15
We have said that a growing church will not only be progressing
toward a unity of belief but a unity in experience - becoming more and more familiar with the ways of God - How He leads and how He speaks - so that we might effectively cooperate with God in His redemptive mission.
As we learn to do this, we will, as a congregation, “speak the truth in love” and bear a loving witness to a lost world. This is our primary purpose as a people.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” - 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)