Church Growth God's Way

David G. Rose has served as a Senior Pastor in Texas and Wisconsin, most recently in Colleyville (Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex). A graduate of Central Bible College, and with credible post graduate studies, David has led nationally acclaimed Christian Education, Music, and Youth Ministries. He has traveled and ministered in many countries in Europe, the Mid-East, South America, and the former Soviet Union. Currently, David is Founder/President of ROSE PUBLICATIONS INTERNATIONAL, and Chief Executive Officer of PARTNERS IN PASTORAL CARE, INC. of Fort Myers, Florida. He resides in North Richland Hills, Texas, with wife Sue. They have two daughters, Stacie and Melissa.

CHURCH GROWTH GOD'S WAY

A Pastor called recently, and invited me to minister in his pulpit. I was honored to receive the call, and asked if there was any special need of his church that I could pray about. He said, "Yes, pray that people will start coming back to church!" He was having a hard time getting people to be faithful in attendance.

May 18, 2001, the Houston Chronicle newspaper had several articles regarding the terrible spiritual condition of Europe, and the lack of church attendance there. It was titled "Why are Europe's Churches Empty?" The dateline was Canterbury, England. The great cathedral was made famous by Geoffrey Chaucer and is the home of the Anglican Church. A building that seats several thousand, usually has about 13 people attend. On major days 300 may attend.

Throughout Europe, the great cathedrals are virtually empty. Western Europe where Protestantism was born, has become one of the least religious populations. Pollsters report that in Britain and France, less than 10% of the people attend church. In Scandinavia, less than 3% of the people attend worship services in church. Some cathedrals in Amsterdam have been converted into luxury apartments or offices. One Pastor stated: "It's a secular age. We are breeding a whole generation without much spiritual perception."

In many parts of Europe, the basis for morality has become Humanism. The reasoning of man outweighs the directives of Scripture. The question for these wayward souls is not is a decision Godly. But, is a decision reasonable. Anything is acceptable if they can rationalize the decision?

In Europe, people simply no longer need the church. Since they do not follow the Scripture, baptism of children is not a consideration. Since children do not go to Bible classes, the rites of Confirmation are ignored. Since many live together without formal marriage vows or have a civil marriage, weddings are rarely held at a church. The one last reason many attend church, is to go to a funeral of an elderly relative or friend. But as that generation passes the scene, the church funeral will pass as well.

The blame for this state of affairs can be placed in many areas. Certainly secular science has devastated the Scriptures with unsupportable theories, heretic postulations, and outright lies. With a straight face, these false witnesses state that the Bible is wrong about creation and other Divine truths. A population who never hears the Biblical teachings from a Godly individual, cannot help but swallow the falsehoods. It is true that many public schools in Europe teach religion. However, they justify these teachings because students cannot otherwise understand Western culture, literature, architecture, art and general world history.

Statistics show that the younger generation of Europeans have abandoned the church because they assume it is irrelevant, archaic, outdated and obsolete. With the advent of the EU, UN, NATO, and other governmental structures, the church appears powerless in their society. Their reasoned question is: Why spend any time at church? What significance does the church have in my life?

It is clear that Europe is in spiritual chaos. Is America next? It has been encouraging to hear our nation call on God during this national emergency following the terrorist's attacks. President Bush has called us to prayer. Governor Perry of Texas has called for prayer to be returned to public schools. T-shirts proclaim "In God We Trust! Bumper stickers admonish us to "Pray for America!" Is this enough to turn us around? Will America now return to our historical roots of Christianity? What needs to happen to get people back to church and into the priority of serving God?

God is more interested in this happening than any preacher, teacher or parent. It is His concern. Before we realized this need, God had already provided the answer. In Acts 1, we clearly see what needs to happen to refocus the world's attention upon the True and Living God. The Answer: The revealed Power and Glory of God! Believers need the power of God active in their lives. Churches and Denominations need the power of God active in every committee meeting, service, class, retreat, rehearsal, and outing.

Jesus knows that when a Believer loses the power of God, they become empty and impotent. You can build the most beautiful cathedrals and edifices known to man. You can spend money, time and creativity upon the architectural plans, paint, and bathroom tiles. You can place the cathedral on the highest hill and dedicate it with the political elite cutting the ribbon. The media may tout it as a marvel, and architects may study the echinus molding with egg and dart ornamentation, flutings, volutes, and the cornice enriched with dentils.

But when the power of God leaves even the most elaborate sanctuary, the people will soon slip out, too. Jesus knew that the church needs the overwhelming Presence of God if it is to survive. In Acts 1:8 Jesus stated, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you." The Power Source is the Holy Spirit. Programs are essential. Strategies for growth are crucial. Advertising is a modern necessity. But NOTHING LASTING will ever be accomplished without a glorious display of the marvelous Power of God!

PSALM 68: 34 - "Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the skies. 35 You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God!"

GOD HAS A PLAN

In Exodus 14, Israel was in a race for their lives. Pharaoh was closing in on one side, and the Red Sea was on the other. Trapped! Things looked bad. Moses was receiving complaints from his people. Now what plan should he follow!

God had plans. Friends, never forget that God has plans. His plans are better than the plans of your enemies. Nothing defeats the plans of God. Be encouraged. PSALMS 33: 10 – "The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations."

Israel needed to learn a valuable lesson. God has plans. We must trust the plan of God. And never forget, God can do impossible things to accomplish His plans. Can I hear a HALLELUJAH?!!

You may not believe what happened next in Exodus 14,......., God did the impossible! Exodus 14:27-31 says that the sea parted and the people of God walked across on dry ground. As a Pastor, I think the greatest miracle may have been getting those angry, complaining people to even try to walk the path through the sea. Sometimes hardened Believers are skeptical of God's provisions and refuse to partake!

But, in the end, Israel was truly impressed by the miracle of God they saw. The Power of God impacted them for ages to come. Friends, God has plans to display His power. Never fool yourself into thinking you can create the Power of God. However, you can thwart His power from being revealed in your situation. Do not allow your unbelief from hindering the manifestation of God for your benefit.

A NEW PLAN

Jesus proclaimed the plans of God in His last message to Believers. He told us plainly the truth. Acts 1 is a new plan of action for Believers. A new approach for reaching the world. It was almost unbelievable, even in the 21st Century. Are you ready? The power Jesus carried here on earth was now going to be given to His followers! Before He ascended to the Father, Jesus had a Gift for the Apostles. His power was to become theirs! In His last Will and Testament, Jesus bequeathed to man His own powerful tools. This Gift is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is to be our personal Helper and Strength.

Today, people are skeptical of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. And with good reason There have been many abuses and misapplications of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Well meaning, but misinformed Believers, have hurt the dynamic of the Spirit by adding their carnal twist "de jour." Predators have tried to remanufacture the Gifts of the Holy Spirit for their personal profit. Church leaders have tried to reinvent the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to control their flocks and force them to silent servitude. Sadly, many good people have turned their back on the Fullness of the Spirit because overt or ignorant exploitation and manipulation of Christ's precious Gift for the Church.

Too many leaders have restricted teaching about these Gifts because they are "too controversial." Instead of searching the Scriptures for themselves, and rightly dividing the Word of Truth, they shelve the necessary element of rescue for the church in decline in the 21st Century. By not wanting to offend a brother, or shock the "Seeker," the unwise church leader buries the Gift of Christ in a file of historical teachings that they wrongly assume are for past age.

The truth is that Jesus gave the Church all the power required to be the overwhelming influence our world needs. People need to see the power of God at work. Stories of past miracles are faith building, but nothing stirs a soul like seeing God work first-hand. When this happens, all those buried teachings by fearful scholars will be brought back into the light. A mighty revival will fill the land when the power of God is released.

The Plan is...

In ACTS 1:5 we read – "You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Christ had a plan. Spirit Baptism is in the plan of God. It is an important step toward participating in the display of the power of God. A Believer should not be fearful, but hungry for all God has to offer. Do not fear the power of God. Instead, fear a powerless and weak church. Fear a church that has a form of Godliness, but denies the Power of God (2 Timothy 3:1-5). A church that does not welcome and participate in the Power of God, becomes merely a civic institution.

CHRIST'S POWER NEEDED TO:
· OVERCOME THE DEVIL
· OVERCOME THE FLESH
· OVERCOME THE WORLD

Neither you nor your church will ever become an overcomer with any other plan or program. The only plan that will work is the one God has offered in Acts 1.

Question: Is the power of God active within you?
· Is the Power of God active within your church?
· Are you powerful or powerless?
· Are you authoritative or anemic?
· Are you limited or limitless?

Did you know that you are personally responsible for your own spiritual condition? You cannot blame your pastor, teacher, or parent. God has placed a precious soul within you, and you must care for it with all priority. Proverbs 22: 5 - "In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them."

THE PROMISE

Jesus made a promise in Acts 1. He said "you shall receive..." Do you have any reason to believe that Jesus does not keep His promises? In fact, this phrase is more than a promise, it is a command – you shall receive. This is the Will of Christ for Believers. His power is our inheritance.

How does this impact our day-to-day business? What practical relevance does this have? To get a better view, read Acts 1:8 in the Amplified Version: "But you shall receive power (ABILITY – EFFICIENCY – MIGHT) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth." The word power means: dunamis; force; miraculous power:--ability, abundance, meaning, might, (worker of) miracle (-s), power, strength, mighty (wonderful) work.

ABILITY

The Amplified Version gives us three amazing words for power. The first is ABILITY. We are able to do things for God like never before. We are able to move beyond hoping and dreaming. What we have desired to do for God, can become a reality. Indeed, God provides Gifts and endowments that enable our efforts. The abilities are our skills, talents, capabilities and general aptitude for accomplishment. These are given and enhanced by the Spirit of God. Cherish them. Protect the. Do not disregard or diminish any gift God has given you.

Many times, Pentecostal Believers limit God to the Gift of Tongues. However, speaking in tongues is not a goal. It is a sign. The goal Christ has for us in the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is to improve our abilities and skills so we can be more effective witnesses for Him. Christ wants to enlarge our capacity of ministry to have a greater impact in the world. When Jesus Baptized the Apostles in the Holy Spirit, He baptized them with Supernatural ability! As a Spirit-filled Believer, you also have this ability. What are you doing with it? Are you making the most of what Christ gave you?

EFFICIENCY

The Amplified Version provided a second word for power: EFFICIENCY. Christ wants us to be competent and effective in our work for Him. If anything, the Pentecostal church is guilty of spinning our wheels and making a lot of noise, without accomplishing very much! How often have you felt that we work so hard and achieve so little? Planning meetings, Board meetings, seminars, training sessions, etc. We are so busy getting ready to do something. Posters, announcements, committees, revisions, and so on. Yet, we barely move forward. Why?

Maybe we are ignoring Christ's Plan. When He baptized us in the Holy Spirit, He baptized us with efficiency. This carries with it the thought of excellent performance. But performance with impact. Just hearing the Gifts is not enough. Those Gifts are to be effective, as in get results! 2 Corinthians 3:5 (NIV) – "Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God."

The caution is that we should never confuse our personal success with God's success. Man measures success by other men. We compare ourselves among ourselves. This is a sin against God. God carries a different gauge. We must strive to be efficient as God measures efficiency. Our performance must please God not man.

The Apostle Paul saw this principle clearly in Philippians 3:8 – NIV – "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ." Most of what we do as Believers will one day burn like rubble. Only that which has been done in the efficiency of God will remain.

WARNING

Christ wants us to impact the world. His Power is sufficient. The enemy cannot stand against the Power of God. A Word of warning is in order. In the 21st Century, the Pentecostal church is being tempted to remold itself into the image of a corporate business. This is an attempt by Satan to destroy the sacredness of the Church of Jesus Christ. Be careful to not bring worldly concepts of business into the sacred House of God. Often patterns of business are not compatible with the Word of God. Secular business has knelt at the altar of compromise and given alms to the idol of greed. Neither have a place in the sanctuary or the boardroom.

It will not benefit the Church to keep pace with the performance of the ungodly moguls of Wall Street or Silicon Valley. The Church is a better organization that Xerox Corporation. The Church has a greater vision that Microsoft. The Church has higher standards than Verison. No plan is better than God's Plan. Fight the challenge to usurp God's clear directives with gray area decision-making that puts the bottom line ahead of the needs of people.

Seek Holy Spirit efficiency in business, mission, stewardship, and evangelism. Hunger for Godly performance that will showcase the Power and Purpose of God. That is what matters most.

MIGHT

The Amplified Version provided a third word for power: MIGHT. The best definition of Might is Superior Power. When Jesus Baptizes us into the Holy Spirit, we are baptized into Divine Power. This Power is far better than the power of politics, business, intellect, wealth, or mere physical strength.

COLOSSIANS 1: 10,11 – KJV – "That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

MICAH 3:8 –NIV – "I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might."

JEREMIAH 16:21 – NIV – "I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the LORD."

Why spend any time trying to acquire the might of the world, when the Believer already has the Might of God at his hand? The story is told of a little boy who was trying to move a big rock. It would not budge no matter how hard the boy tried. His Dad came along and asked his son how it was going. The boy responded that he tried with all his strength and might to move the rock, but he just did not have the ability to do so. The Dad asked if he had used all of his strength to move the rock. The boy said "yes." Gently the Father said, "but you never asked me to help you. My strength and might is yours for the asking!" WOW!

SOMETHING PRACTICAL HAPPENS

Our Heavenly wants to be a part of our work here on earth. He offers us ability, efficiency, and might to succeed in that to which He has called us. When you are baptized into the Holy Spirit, something practical happens. It is more than emotion and exuberance. It is more than simply receiving precious Gifts from our Lord. There is a purpose for the Power. When Peter and John were arrested in Acts 4:7, they were asked, "By what Power did you do these things?" You see, people know the difference between the power of business and the Power of God. They recognize the difference between the power of "street smarts," and the Power of God.

ACTS 4:33 – NIV - With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.

ACTS 6:8 –NIV - Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.

Believers, this is our precious and sacred inheritance from Christ. This is our blessing. However, this is also our command and mandate. You shall receive Power: Ability – Efficiency – Might. Are you using the Gifts of Christ? Today, receive all God wants to give you. Then, begin to operate in His Divine Power and Might. You will be glad you did.