Is there a church in existence that does not desire numeric growth? How closely connected are numeric and spiritual growth? Moreover, Paul addressed the congregation as “worldly” and not spiritual in 1 Corinthians 3.
By reading Scripture and examining Paul’s life and writings, one can easily deduce that Paul has a goal to please God in all things and proclaim the gospel. This motivation, along with the Holy Spirit’s guiding, propels him to teach the gospel to faithful followers. His hope was that they would teach others with this gospel of grace in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 1, 2). Furthermore, Peter says that in God’s kingdom, we are expected to “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ Jesus” (1 Pet. 2:5). Paul further defines “spiritual worship” in these terms for each believer:
Rom 12:1-2, ESV: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.“
At the heart of the New Testament is growth through spiritual transformation and multiplication. Whereas, the Apostolic Christian Church (Nazarene) has not experienced regular growth since approximately 1990. Unfortunately since then, the church has registered about a 2% annual decline. Granted, some churches have experienced exceptional transfer growth causing a reciprocal decline in others. If what Paul says is true: “God grants the growth”, then it would seem wise to ask, “Why are we not growing?”
The history of God’s people can be examined and studied for principles that foster healthy growth. Additionally, history can remind us that minor symptoms may reflect major problems. For example, neglecting any of God’s commands not only causes problems like divisions but will also rob the church of the excessively rich blessings God wants to pour out on us. You see, a merciful God will not usually bless with growth if what we are building cannot sustain the growth.
A healthy, growing church is built upon Jesus Christ, our Chief Cornerstone. He perfectly exemplified these three basic elements: evangelism, discipleship and shepherding (pastoring). They are inseparable. Therefore, a church must have all three interconnected to facilitate individual and corporate spiritual fitness. In fact, if one fails to operate at one hundred percent, the remaining two will fall to that same level of function.
The health of any church is based on the weakest performer of this trio. If evangelism is deemed to be operating at fifty percent, it will keep discipleship and shepherding from rising above the same level of performance. So, evaluating the spiritual condition of any church based on the perceived strength of one (or even two) will provide inaccurate assessments in the short-term and incalculable consequences in the long-run.
Evangelism needs to be encouraged by the shepherd and taught by everyone at their level of spiritual maturity. Hence, the condition of this component is generally the easiest and least offensive to evaluate based on simple methods. Overall, Christians are commanded to “go” and share the good news. To whom we may ask?
Every person |
Every time | By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
Discipleship provides the tools and experience to even the most untrained follower of Christ. A disciple is one who will learn from and become like his teacher. Jesus commanded his disciples to “make disciples” of all the nations. If we learn something well, we will be able to teach others and become “disciple-makers”. Who then and what is a disciple-maker?
All believers |
Always learning | Always growing in grace by the Holy Spirit
Always teaching |
Shepherding (pastoring) is reserved for those who are called to a full-attention and probably a full-time leadership position in the church. This can be as simple as a father, or more commonly, someone in leadership of a local congregation. This duty is to be taken seriously since the shepherd will stand before God one day and give an account of their oversight to those placed under their spiritual care. This is not a part-time responsibility. One should not accept this responsibility unless they are willing to give:
Full attention |
Fully sacrificially | Filled with Holy Spirit
Full time (if needed) |
These three are foundational to the building up of the body of Christ. Each should be kept in the highest regard. If this is done, the promise of the blessings of God will be poured out on those who obey. If the Apostolic Christian Church (Nazarean) wish to hear “well done good and faithful servants”, then we must imitate Paul (I Corinthians 9:27) and fervently apply God’s principles to ourselves, our families, and our local churches.
Author: Wilf Scheuermann, excerpt from the transcript, God’s Grade ©2015; Photo by Andy Barbour: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-checking-test-papers-6684372/