The following are very rough notes from my message yesterday at Farmdale Baptist Church. Audio available here.
I’m excited about what God is doing at Farmdale Baptist Church. This message is a call to be involved in what God is doing. It is a call to commitment and repentance.
In talking about why churches don’t grow, we must first address the question of what kind of growth is meaningful? We are commanded in Matthew 28:19-20 to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. The kind of growth that I desire for Farmdale Baptist Church is more than just drawing a crowd. We can draw a crowd by producing spectacular events, but our calling is to make disciples, not to merely draw a crowd. The most important kind of growth is the spiritual growth of individuals. But, we can count and we can tell that we aren’t seeing as many people transformed by the gospel as we would like to see.
We’re now in a state of evaluating everything we do at Farmdale Baptist Church to be sure we are being as effective at reaching the lost as we can possibly be, while remaining biblically faithful. In other words, we don’t want to merely do what we do for tradition’s sake if it is no longer the best means of accomplishing our mission. We are committed to the message and methodology laid out in Scripture. Thus, we are committed to the unchanging, objective truth of the gospel. We also believe that our worship should be regulated by Scripture. Therefore, we read the Scriptures; preach the Word; sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs; pray; give sacrificially; and observe the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These are non-negotiable. Our methodology, or the way we do these things, however, may change. Issues such as hymnbooks and projection systems, choirs and praise bands, Sunday School and Sunday evening Bible study groups, are not mandated in Scripture. They are methodologies that can be adapted in different contexts to help us accomplish our purpose as a church. Our purpose is to glorify God by expositing the Scriptures, exalting the Savior, equipping the Saints, and evangelizing sinners. What was most effective 50, or even 20 years ago, may not be as effective today. We need to be willing to change in these areas, without compromising on the essentials. Unwillingness to change in these areas, could be part of the reason why our church is not reaching as many as we possibly could with the gospel. However, I don’t believe that any of the changes that we may implement is the magic bullet that will cause Farmdale Baptist Church to explode in growth. There are far more important issues that need to be addressed if we are going to be the church that God has called us to be. In this message I will highlight five reasons that I believe cause churches to not grow (both spiritually and numerically).
Our text this morning is Revelation 2:1-7 where the Lord Jesus Christ dictates a letter to the apostle John which is to be sent to the Church of Ephesus. The Church of Ephesus was commended in a number of ways. They were faithful in many areas. They stood for the truth and opposed error. They had been served by Timothy and the apostle John himself. Yet, less than fifty years from their founding they were indicted by Christ for abandoning their first love. And this one thing was enough for Christ to warn that if the church did not repent, He would come and remove their candlestick. Their identity as a church was at stake! In this text, we gain an entry into the discussion of why some churches don’t grow.
I. Unsaved Church Members
First, I must acknowledge that is possible to an active member of a church, without ever having been saved. The reason why some people are not concerned about the lost is that they themselves are lost. You can’t abandon your first love, if you never had it in the first place!
II. Abandoned First Love
If we love the world more than we love the Lord, then we will not be concerned about the lost. Some of us have allowed love for the world to overtake our love for Christ. The apostle John warns in 1 John 2:15 to, “Love not the world!” This is such an important issue that I will spending the next four weeks preaching on the subject.
How do we regain our love for Christ. The text tells us. Jesus said: 1. Remember. 2. Repent. 3. Return.
III. Lack of Confidence in the Sufficiency of Scripture
2 Timothy 3:16ff
We don’t really believe the Scriptures are sufficient, when we don’t invite people to church because we know that all the preacher is going to do is preach a sermon on a text of Scripture that no one care about. If that’s your attitude you need to repent. It reveals that you don’t care about what God has said in His Word. It also reveals that you don’t believe that there is power in the Word of God to change people’s lives.
IV. Critical Attitudes
When we criticize the pastor and our church members to our friends and family members, we shouldn’t be surprised when they stop coming or refuse to come.
V. Inconsistent Christian Lives
1 Timothy 4:16
When we live wickedly in front of our co-workers, friends, and family, we will either be too ashamed to invite others to church or they will have no desire to come if we do.
How should we respond to these things? Again, I believe our model is in Jesus’ words to the Church of Ephesus: 1. Remember. 2. Repent. 3. Return.
I recently read a book on church ministry that has been very helpful to me. Let me read to you a section on the purpose of Christian ministry.
The aim of Christian ministry is not to build attendance on Sunday, bolster the membership role, get more people into small groups, or expand the budget (as important and valuable as all of these things are!). The fundamental goal is to make disciples who make other disciples, to the glory of God. We want to see people converted from being dead in their transgressions to being alive in Christ; and, once converted, to be followed up and established as mature disciples of Jesus; and, as they become established, to be trained in knowledge, godliness and skills so that they will in turn make disciples of others.
This is the Great Commission – the making of disciples. The touchstone of a thriving church is that it is making genuine disciple-making disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Trellis and the Vine, 152.
I’m asking everyone of you to join me in remembering, repenting, and returning, and I’m asking you to join me in this gospel work of making disciples among all nations beginning here at Farmdale!