Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Church Growth

They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. (Acts 4:3, 4 NIV)

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord. (Acts 9:31 NIV)

These two paragraphs have something in common. The church grew in numbers in both cases. There was a difference, though. In the first case, the church was persecuted, and in the second, the church enjoyed a time of peace. The conclusion is that church growth is not related directly to persecution or peace; it is related directly to preaching of the gospel in power. The church can die under persecution, but it does not have to. The church can die in peace, but it does not have to. The church died in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey because of persecution. The church, in this century, died in Northern Europe without persecution. The birthplace of first-century Christians and the birthplace of the reformation are now very needy mission fields. The church is designed by God to flourish under any form of government or religion.

Today we have prohibitive governments and religions: Communism, other totalitarian governments, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Judaism (in Israel) and many animistic cultures. All of these, when in control, are very anti evangelical Christians. To ask those who do not believe to stop persecuting believers is not God’s way. It is asking the devil to play fair.

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (Colossians 4:2-4 NIV)

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel… (Ephesians 6:18, 19 NIV)

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted… (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV)

You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. (1 Thessalonians 2:1, 2 NIV)

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness…” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:29, 31 NIV)

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

No comments: