Church growth. Growing the church. Causing both spiritual growth in the brethren through edification and numerical growth of the congregation via evangelism. I’ve yet to meet any Christian, especially any preacher, elder, or deacon, who honestly denied wanting their congregation to grow in these ways.
To my knowledge, there is only one passage in the entire Bible that very specifically spells out what causes church growth. Sure, there are many passages to which one may go which give principles and examples of church growth…but only one which directly says, “Do this, and the church grows.” That would be Ephesians 4:16: “from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (ESV, emp. added). Contextually, Paul defines the body as the church (1:22-23; 5:23). Therefore, God is basically saying that the church grows “when each part is working properly.” The church grows when each member is working.
That’s where godly leadership comes in. There’s a reason God refers to the church as a whole as “the flock” (Acts 20:28) and to elders as shepherds or pastors (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). In his wisdom, God knew that Christians, no matter how sincere, do not grow properly without proper leadership, just as sheep never get where they need to go without a shepherd to guide them. That’s why just a few verses earlier in Ephesians 4 he mentioned the very reason he gave the church the New Testament writings of the apostles and prophets and the teaching and guidance of evangelists, shepherds, and teachers: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). Proper church leaders will equip each and every saint in the flock to serve the Master and spiritually build up each and every soul under their care. When that happens, the church grows.
This issue is dedicated to church leadership. You’ll read an article about elders written by an elder, an article about deacons written by a deacon, and an article about preachers written by a preacher. You’ll also read about how God wants us as Christians to treat the leaders of the church, something which many in the church need to know if the church is to grow. After all, the people perish without vision from their leaders (Prov. 29:18), and leaders can’t develop a proper vision for the church when they’re continually distracted by the fires of ungodly backbiting, petty criticism, and unrighteous judgment.
Elders, deacons, preachers, teachers…read these articles with an open heart and an open Bible. Study 1-2 Timothy and Titus to see what kind of men God wants preachers, elders, and deacons…and all Christians…to be. Elders and deacons, study the example of Acts 6:1-6 and apply it to your relationship with each other. Preachers, deacons, and members, study the commands of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 and Hebrews 13:17 and apply them to your relationship with your elders. Shepherds, study John 10:1-5, Acts 20:17-32, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, and 1 Peter 5:1-4 to see what your job description is according to your Lord.
May we all strive to work harder to serve our Master in his kingdom!