Congregation usually go in one of two directions – either forwards or backwards. Rarely do they successfully stay the same. From a personal perspective, Paul describes his efforts to grow as a Christian in Philippians 4:13-15, and congregations are similar. We either have to continue growing and improving, or we will slide backwards in dwelling on perceived problems rather than solutions.
In II Timothy 1:6-8, Paul knows he will soon be put to death. He knows he has no future on this world, but, even so, he attempts to remind Timothy of God’s love and the ability God gives him to make it through problems and continually press forward.
Necessary Factors for Growth
As we study these essentials, we need to examine ourselves. Am I a contributor to a problem if we are missing an essential, or can I help be part of the solution? Am I doing my part to help the congregation grow, or am I promoting stagnation and eventual backsliding?
- Strong Biblical Teaching. We need fewer “I thinks,” and more “Thus says the Lord.” We need to recognize the authority implicit in God’s word, and respect the boundaries placed by our Lord. We need to know who it is we are preaching about. We have to know the scriptures if we want to defend the scriptures. I Corinthians 3:11 reinforces our need to ground our congregation in Christ and His teachings.
- Committed Discipleship. How often am I involved in the congregation? How often am I involved in the lives of my fellow Christians? For a congregation to survive and grow, its membership must be committed to the cause of Christ. We cannot afford to have complacent members.
- Living Joyfully and Morally. If we portray our Christianity or our membership with a congregation as a burden, others will not want to be involved. Along with this, if I am displaying animosity or hypocritical attitudes toward my brothers and sisters, what will others think? (See I Peter 2:11-12 and 3:15-16.) Our conduct should reflect the hope we have.
- A Familial Love for One Another. In I Peter 1:22 tells us to love one another fervently. Our Christian home should not be a broken one. Romans 12:10, I Peter 4:9, I John 3:10-11 and 4:7 – all of these speak to the caring attitude brothers and sisters in Christ should have toward each other. A congregation is a family. There will be hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and disagreements, but our love for one another helps us work through these problems and remain united.
- Commitment to Growth. Every member must be looking for doors of opportunity to build each other up and invite others. We cannot leave this work to “someone else,” else the work will go unfulfilled. II Timothy 2:2 clearly identifies our responsibility to teach others who will, in turn, continue the process.
- Enthusiastic Bible Study. We should want to come to study the Bible, and we should be instilling this desire in our children. We cannot allow ourselves to put Bible study on the back burner or allow ourselves to grow frustrated or complacent. For a congregation to grow, its members must be excited about God’s word – enough to teach it to others.
- Calm, Steady Leadership. We all have to take our part in emulating Christ, and lead each other toward improvement. Our attitudes should reflect His calm attitude, His loving patience with His apostles who stumble time and again. We cannot give up on each other if we are to be the growing family that we should be.
We always have room for improvement, but there is a difference between continually improving and glaring omissions. Only I can answer where I am standing, and only I can set myself on the road to improvement. However, we can rely on each other to help one another in our growth and create a congregation that is spiritual and productive.
lesson by Tim Smelser