Thursday, March 22, 2012

Growing The Church God's Way

"The most potent expression of fearing man is pragmatism. It occurs when the lust for church growth trumps the fear of God. It is the willingness to let 'whatever works' determine our agenda. The bad news is usually the first casualty. As we have seen, [the gospel] is inherently offensive. It splits lukewarm congregations. It provokes strong reactions. It often sparks contention. People respond either affirmatively or negatively, but there is little neutrality. But pragmatism did not control Paul. He was determined to grow the church God's way or not at all.

"A pastor friend described his temptation to pragmatism. He preached the gospel beginning with the bad news. Like Paul, he spent a significant amount of his time there. Then, after the bad news had prepared his listeners, he joyfully explained the good news. But his church didn't grow. Instead, it began to shrink. Some longtime members complained. Visitors walked out in the middle of his sermons. New people visited, but only a few returned. He told me about a neighboring church that ignored the bad news and steadily grew. He began to question himself. Maybe I am doing something wrong. Maybe my preaching is unbalanced. Have I become a fanatic? Have I gone too far?

"Relatives visited and complained. They associated the word fundamentalist with his name. Maybe I should change the message, he thought. Maybe there is a kinder, gentler way to say it. Hell is a hard teaching. Informing them that they are sinners is probably a little over the top. Maybe I should wait until they are converted to discuss these things. These temptations came, but by God's grace he persevered, convinced that the full counsel of God was powerful and efficacious. Slowly his church turned the corner and began to grow again. Because he conquered the fear of man, today he pastors a thriving congregation. The unity of his church is tighter, their fellowship deeper, and their relationships stronger. Why? His people have been humbled under the gospel. From that foundation the other virtues are now growing."

William Farley from Gospel-Powered Humility

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