The church has stopped growing. Why is that? For every church in that situation, and there are far too many, the specific answer requires a painfully honest self-examination to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. But here is one factor that is not often considered. The flock stops growing because the sheep stop growing.
What are some of the tell-tale indicators of Christian growth and maturity? Growing means increasing in our knowledge of, love for, service to, and sweet delight in, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Knowledge We are exhorted to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18 Knowing God as He has revealed Himself in the Word is the foundation for the entire Christian life. Understanding the person and the work of Jesus Christ is the fuel that powers the engine of the Christian life. For the church to grow, her members must grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior.
Love ‘To know me is to love me.’ That aphorism is supremely true of God. Perhaps, it is only true of God. God is love and to truly know him is to enter into that unfathomable love. You don’t know God until you are overwhelmed by his grace, love, and mercy in Jesus Christ. We cannot rightly serve a God that we secretly hate. Knowledge of God leads to love and love inspires service.
Service “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15 It is not legalism to serve a God you love. Love is the fulfillment of the law. Service is the expression of our love for the Savior. Christians learn from their King to give themselves away in loving service to others. When the knowledge of the love of God in the gospel gives new life to a dead soul, the inevitable outcome is sacrificial service.
Delight I say, sacrificial service because that is what it looks like to others. But to those who serve it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. It is not so much a required duty, and a soul-satisfying delight to serve such a loving King. To be like Jesus, to be transformed by his love and filled with the knowledge of God is to know the delight of serving God.
The pathway to Christian maturity is paved by the knowledge of His great love and fueled by delighting in His service.
Many find personal devotions a dry, unfulfilling, and elusive duty. Worship is important, of course, but they just can’t find the time or the heart for it. Service, yes, I should but I have kids and commitments and where does the time go. Delight in God? Delight in service? I just don’t understand.
If that is true, and it is, striving for Christian maturity can be called a battle, but why do I call it easy? Knowing the love of God in Christ makes obedience a delight and the Christian life easy.
Will power alone doesn’t even help Will! It is the grace of God that transforms sinners into saints and duty into delight. Embrace the mighty grace of God by a deepening knowledge of his love and you will delight in the law of God and be thrilled in the way of obedience.
God is calling us to fulfillment, to soul-satisfaction, to joy and delight in the way of obedience. When the factory of the church produces such joyful, obedient, mature Christians, the church will grow.
Why? Because the mature Christian multiplies. “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” (2 Corinthians 2:14) “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:5-6) When we mature into this transforming love of God we became agents of transformation. We are living epistles of grace. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3) The hope that we have in God through Christ becomes so obvious that others will ask us where it comes from. (1 Peter 3:15)
So then, what is the key to church growth? Growing mature Christians to know, love, serve and delight in their savior. The best way to invite others into the church is to invite them into your life, into your heart, into your prayers. They will follow you to church when they can read the living epistle of grace that you have become.