A vast literature has developed over the last four decades beginning and reaching its zenith in the 1970’s and 80’s. The “Church Growth” industry has slowed but the number of blogs peppering the internet with “how to do church better” has more than filled in the gap. Some of it can be helpful. My shelves are filled with hundreds of books from the genre that hardly existed 50 years ago.
At one time, I put a lot of stock in these books and their observations and suggestions. Today, I am less confident of their confident assertions. I don’t question the author’s desires to be helpful or their faithfulness to Christ, and I am not going to throw them on the burn pile. I just think that we might have a tendency to trust too much in our tinkering with techniques and programs and not enough in God Himself.
So let’s ask a question. Is it logical and biblical to think that the One who said “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18) also has a plan for how that church is going to be built? Maybe I’m naive but I think a God who had a plan before the foundation of the earth to redeem mankind (Eph. 1:4) has a plan for how the church will grow best. And I think the place to look for that plan might be in the near context of Jesus’s announcement of the invincibility of the church that He said He would build.
Exactly 6 verses later (Mt. 6:24), Jesus lays out his plan for how the Church will grow. It will grow because followers of Jesus will . . .
- deny themselves,
- take up their cross,
- and follow the Lord of the Church.
The Church will grow when the members of the Church choose the will of God over their own will (deny themselves), embrace a life of sacrifice for others (take up their cross) and simply live passionately for and like Christ (follow the example of their Lord).
Why do we make it so complicated?
And when we do, are we avoiding by augmentation the simple call to obey Him—no matter what the cost—as the simplest and most profound foundation of discipleship?
I think Bonhoeffer got it right.
Let’s get back to basics.
Let’s get back to obeying Jesus and following His example as closely and completely as we can. Let’s take up that objective daily, for, wasn’t it Jesus who said,
“Whoever has My commandments and keeps them, He is the one who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and disclose Myself to him.”