Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 19, 1951

The Church: A Growing Body

Glenn A. Parks, Camden, Arkansas

Every Christian is a member of the church; every Christian wants to see the church grow: He who has no interest in the growth and development of the church surely cannot be classed a Christian in the finest use of the term. Church growth has to do with the Christian's ideals and efforts, and he who does not desire to see the church enlarge herself has a very warped and perverted view of Christianity. The very word "church' carries the idea of people congregating themselves into a movement, or unit, differing from the general society of the world. And this difference is apparent in relationship, in tone, in character, in holiness and godliness and righteousness, from that of the world. And he who does not recognize these differences certainly can not be a Christian: And if he does not recognize these differences he can have no genuine and holy interest in the growth of the church.

The parent who neglects his child with the idea that growth will come and physical development will be had soon lives to see his ideas blasted by a child with a diseased and under developed body. We have come to recognize that physical life grows when guided and directed along lines that are recognized and pronounced by those who study physical development. This is also true of the church. The church will not grow by itself. It must be fed; it must be exercised; it must be cared for. If we fail to understand that much depends upon us as members of the church, we soon live to see the day when the church ceases to grow. True, God gives the increase, but there must be some planting and watering, and the planting and watering is left up to us. God gives the seed, the soil, and the seasons for a crop, but man must prepare that soil, sow that seed, and reap that harvest if he is to have the finished product of God's grace and his effort. Sometimes I am all but persuaded to think that some in the church feel that the matter of Christianity is solely of grace. They are prone to leave the matter entirely up to God. And, from what follows, as a direct result of such thought, God withdraws and leaves it entirely up to man, then failure is the result. I have never been of the disposition to go out into sections of the country and establish congregations and then turn the entire matter over to the Lord to see after. Much money has been wasted by the church in sending preachers to hold meetings: and to establish congregations, and then turn them over to all the tricks of the devil. The church will not grow by herself. In the New Testament days when a congregation was started by the preaching of the gospel and by men and women becoming obedient to the gospel, there was a genuine interest upon the part of some to care for and direct that work until it could stand on its feet. Following the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas and after his visit at Jerusalem and his report made to the brethren at Antioch, "Paul said unto Barnabas, let us return now and visit the brethren in every city wherein we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they fare." (Acts 15:36) Early in the history of the church, brethren were appointed to serve as overseers, "elders in every church" to direct and guide it and guard it that it might serve as God intended. The history of the growth of the early church can be traced to the incessant teaching of the word of God and the careful vigilance exercised by brethren in that period. It is fine; it is entirely scriptural to establish congregations. But we are kidding ourselves if we think we can start congregations and then forget about them, and then expect to go back in a few years and find a strong church. Somebody must teach, and teach the truth always, and somebody must direct its affairs in harmony with that truth if we are to see the church grow. Congregations do not grow accidentally:

Things That Promote Church Growth

1. There must be personal effort. This means that every member of the church must make a personal effort toward the growth of the church. He may not be able to do "great things' in the congregation, but he can do all he can in his own capacity in the matter of contributing to the growth of the church. At least he can invite his friends to the services of the church. He can influence them with his genuine sincerity in his speech and Christian character. He can look at the matter of promoting the growth of the church as a service to be rendered within the abilities of all concerned and not through the spirit of professionalism that is so fast taking hold of the church. It is now in many communities becoming a difficult thing to engage all the powers of every member of the church in those communities in doing the work that needs to be done for the growth of the Lords' church. Most certainly do we deny with all our power the scripturality of the pastor system, but it certainly seems that many among us have the idea that because there is a local evangelist on the grounds, and because brethren support him with their funds that they are relieved of the obligations they bore before he came, and that since he arrived the obligations that once were theirs now become his. I have never known a preacher among us who felt that he could do all the work of all the brethren in the community where he lived. Unless, of course, he was the only Christian in that community. The church will grow when all the members of the church put forth an individual effort in all the Bible requires of them. (More to follow)