Designed to Grow Back to blog list
Perhaps the greatest phenomena of the Pentecostal church over the last 100 years has been its astounding growth. In nearly every country on earth there are 100’s of millions who have been filled with the Spirit, an experience we call ‘The Baptism of the Holy Spirit’. According to one sociologist, this ‘Baptism’ is the primary cause of our growth. Its power comes from the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and a fiery gift from Heaven, the Holy Spirit, through whose power the church is designed to grow. Dramatically, the Holy Spirit used the works of Jesus and His dynamic presence to imbue a fledgling church with great power on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
Today, Churches that are ‘Holy Spirit filled’, flow in spiritual gifts and prophetic guidance. People have deep worshipful experiences and even healings. In this Spirit-filled environment people have supernatural encounters with God. This all takes place because of God’s mercy and grace. The wonderful thing that I find about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is that it energises and fills people with passion. They want to share their experience with others, to bring them to meet their beautiful Jesus and to see them touched by the Holy Spirit’s power. Because of this, the church grows.
The numerical growth of the church is a good indicator of how the spiritual battle to extend the Kingdom of God is going, yet it is only one growth factor. The New Testament gives other perspectives of how we are designed to grow by God.
Let me be clear about one thing, it is Jesus Himself who is looking for growth in His church, He says; “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” – John 15:8 KJV. Furthermore he says; “…I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” – John 15:16 KJV
Thankfully, God not only has the wisdom to guide the growth of the church, but He also undertakes to supply the dynamic that ‘makes things grow’ (1 Corinthians 3:7) Jesus uses the grape vine to describe how He as the living vine gives life giving sap to the branches. He says;
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” – John 15:5 NIV
The apostle Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 4 that the fruit the church also needs to develop is lowliness, meekness, forbearance with each other, in a growing environment of love. It is God’s design that we become one body, one Spirit under our God and Father. Jesus is looking for a church that as one body is growing in the unity of faith. Paul also notes to the Colossians that it is from the headship of Jesus, that;
”…the entire body, supplied and knit together by means of its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God” – Colossians 2:19 AMP
The church is a community where fruitfulness ought not be focused on individuals who do ‘great exploits for God’, although individuals do obviously play a critical and strategic role. It’s about the whole Church flourishing and doing great works for Jesus all over the world, that brings glory to God in a process where he ‘gives the increase’. Notice, Paul praises the Thessalonians Christians; “…to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, as is fitting, because your faith is growing exceedingly and the love of every one of you each toward the others is increasing and abounds” 2 Thessalonians 1:3 AMP
The Biblical instruction to produce fruit is a clear call for living lives that are productive and profitable in the kingdom of God. As we assess our lives and the church in which we labour, we must be careful how we discern and evaluate its fruitfulness. It’s an old question, what’s important for churches, numbers or Christian maturity, quantity or quality? I say both are important. We cannot allow either to slip from our goals and aspirations. Healthy church bodies need to grow in many different ways. A truly maturing church should have people being added through salvation. However, a strong numerical church, that is without a culture of love, is weak.
Feeling guilty over fruitlessness will only produce religious dead works. The answer is to present ourselves to the Husbandman, our spiritual Father and the tender of the vineyard.
Pruning is the answer, yet this may require significant changes in order to achieve fruitfulness, or at least to re-establish it. Pruning however may involve painful changes. It could mean shifting people around in the church, resignations and reappointments, the release of new ministry calls and sometimes, the closing of once effective ministries. We are often fruitful in different areas at different stages of our lives and God may wish to change how we engage His work. Are you ready for fruit? Are you ready for pruning?
The purpose of vine pruning is to direct the flow of life giving sap, to concentrate the sap resources for the purpose of overall fruitfulness. An unpruned vine allows its sap to flow into too many branches. In a way, as the vine is designed to grow it is also designed to be pruned. Ouch!
We address lack of growth with renewed vision, new direction and a re-evaluation of our understanding of God’s purpose. It doesn’t have to be in fine ‘blue print’ detail. It may only be a renewed sense of direction and fresh God breathed purpose. Once this is secured however, re-envisioning becomes possible.
The church is full of hard workers, some are so diligent that they are literally prepared to die for the church. What however is the point of this noble courage if the kingdom is not growing? We may excel in cutting down tall trees but what if we are working in the wrong forest.