Pastor Clancy’s Question:
I believe that God is calling us to grow our numbers here at Church of the Holy Spirit. Why we are to grow numerically? Let me count the ways! Each number we add to our membership represents one soul that has been rescued from a prison of sin and unforgiveness on earth, and rescued from perdition in eternity. Another reason is for us to achieve better critical mass for certain key ministries, including our youth and children’s ministries. Kids need peers in church to make the Christian friends they need to grow. In nature, all healthy creatures grow and multiply themselves. God cares about numbers. There is even a book in the Bible named “Numbers”!
Let me give you a few other reasons that we are called to grow. These reasons represent 4 different kinds of people whom I believe that we are called to reach, and 1 kind whom we can in good conscience ask to join us.
The first and best reason is that the people around us – people we love, family members, as well as strangers we have never met – those people who are lost without knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord, are headed for eternal darkness. They may be trapped in a demonic religious system like Islam, or they may be trapped in a secular worldview that denies God altogether. Beloved, hear me. Jesus is not shy to speak about hell, and neither should we be shy about it. Hell is still as hot as ever! Our time remaining before Jesus returns is shorter than ever! Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and we are sent to do the same thing as his body on earth.
The second reason we are to grow is that many people around us who do know Jesus as Lord are disconnected from a local church because of past church hurts. In Acts 2, God did not save people without adding them to the local church. If a person is a believer and they are not part of a good local church, then at a minimum they are spiritually starving. They are not getting the nourishment they need, the encouragement they need, or the service opportunities they need. If they are not in Christian community, they cannot obey the “one another” commands of scripture (forgive one another; bear with one another; etc.). I’m not saying all those in this category are like this, but many I know personally have withdrawn into a privatized “Me and Jesus” form of American individualistic Christianity. They need a church like ours.
The third way we are to grow is through the third kind of person we are called to reach. Many people around us grew up in church, but now do not attend, because they are far from God. I just read that in America today, most of those who do not go to church did at one time of their lives attend church. Maybe they left because they went to college and encountered questions that they could not answer. Maybe they just drifted away. Describe them how you will – backslidden, disconnected, never saved, or separated. From time to time, you and I are called to leave the 99 in the sheep pen and go searching for the one that has wandered.
The fourth kind of person who needs an invitation from you is one who has some relationship with a local church that does not preach a Biblical gospel, but rather preaches and teaches and lives a false gospel. There are many false gospels out there. The messages preached by clearly heretical sects present a wholly different Jesus, so that they become different religions, like Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Then there are those churches that call themselves Christian, but whose teaching or lifestyles are different enough from Biblical Christianity that it obscures the gospel of salvation in Christ. For example, there is the liberation gospel that says what really matters most to God is that his followers radically restructure society so it looks more like Cuba or Sweden, depending on the version. Then there is the liberal gospel which I grew up in, which says that you can’t really trust the Bible; it’s outdated and oppressive, so we need to radically reinterpret it to make it more palatable for modern people. Beloved, hear me. I believe in the unity of the body of Christ; I meet with other local pastors; and I work for unity among Bible-believing churches. But there are churches all round us where people have never heard the gospel of salvation by grace and most of their people are headed for a Christ-less eternity. Jesus said, there are those who call to me, saying “Lord, Lord,” but he tells them, “I never knew you.” I believe it is either callous or negligent of us to deprive those people of the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. In my experience, there is often a remnant of faithful believers in such places, but most of them need a healthy, Biblical church so they may learn how to live out the gospel. The only way you can know if a person in a questionable church is a believer or not is to have a conversation with them about what they believe.
Here is the gospel: you are more evil than you ever feared, but you’re more loved and accepted than you ever hoped, both at the same time. The gospel has two truths: first, God is holy; his law is just, and you fall short of it; and second, God is loving; in Jesus Christ, all of your sin has been dealt with and you are completely and totally accepted.
I believe that all the people in these first four categories need to be invited to a good church, so that we are called to invite them. The last category of people I mention for us to consider inviting is not a matter of Biblical necessity, but rather a question of God’s particular call on a believer.
You and I know of believers who are saved and in Biblically based churches, but who are languishing in some way. Perhaps they are not growing spiritually in their present church; or not serving in a way that uses their gifts; or not really connecting there; or not experiencing the fullness of what God has for them. Perhaps they believe that the spiritual gifts are for today, but are in a church that teaches the opposite, so that they cannot exercise those gifts. Perhaps they feel lost in a huge church. I encourage you to share with such people about the blessings of your church, and to invite them to come, taste and see. You may invite them to your home group; tell them about our amazing healing prayer appointment ministry; or just ask them to come worship with you some Sunday to experience a different side of the Body of Christ! Many people in our area have only heard of the large churches, so they do not even know we exist. I do not believe that we are to appeal to such people on the basis of their consumer preferences. However, I do believe that many believers would sense God’s call to join us if they got to know us. Many would find that our mission, vision and values align with their own.
So invite someone to eat with you and eventually to church, and tomorrow we will rejoice as we grow in numbers.+