"Let The Word...
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Two churches want to grow, but their attitudes toward growth differ greatly.
The first church looks upon growth as its primary purpose. Goals are placed before the membership: "We want to double our membership within the next three years" for instance. Success or failure is judged almost entirely on the basis of that congregation's numerical growth.
The second church looks upon the saving of souls as its primary purpose and any growth in membership is just a natural result of that primary purpose. Members of the second church are infused with the value of immortal souls rather than a sense of congregational pride.
Members of the first church become eager to get people to the water. Baptism is the point at which people are added to the membership list; consequently, it's going to take so many baptisms to keep pace with their goal of doubling their membership. They must not only get them to the water, they must get them there within the time period that has been arbitrarily set by their leaders.
Members of the second church are far more eager to get people to repent. Their concern is for additions to the Lord's body rather than additions to a membership list. Their approach is to bring sinners to a consciousness of their sin and the consequences of remaining in sin. If they can do this in one study, great! But if considerable time is required to uproot false concepts and to plant the true seed of the gospel, they patiently accept this. Their only sense of urgency grows out of the uncertainty of life ad its duration. But they know that shortcuts are not the answer; that baptism without repentance is worthless; and that once people are brought to true repentance, having been properly taught, baptism for the remission of sins will follow. So they wait with longsuffering until the gospel brings about its desired effect in the hearts of those whom they are teaching.
Members of the first church will be tempted to use questionable tactics in their approach to people. The old methods and approaches don't seem to be effective any more. New and more positive approaches must be found. So the members of the first church make their appeal to the pride of people. They persuade them of their self-worth; they build their selfimage; they tell them how valuable they would be to the congregation.
"We need you", they tell their prospects. They might also extol the virtues of the congregation, persuading their prospects of the value of being a part of such a vibrant, growing group of people. So, people "become members", and they conform to the rules that are placed before them for acceptance within the group, but there may have been little grief over sin; in fact, they might even still believe they were Christians before they "became members".
The members of the second church recognize that the gospel never makes its appeal to the pride of people. They bring people to see their spiritual bankruptcy; that they have "nothing to pay"; that their true worth is not to be found in self, but in Christ; that they must humble themselves and look to Christ for their exaltation; that they are sinners in desperate need of salvation; that their only hope is to be found in Christ.
They would bring them to say, in the words of Mrs. C.H. Morris:
"Nearer, still nearer, nothing I bring,
Naught as an offering to Jesus my King,
Only my sinful, now contrite heart;
Grant me the cleansing Thy blood doth impart".
The first church may become compromising in its teachings. Its elders intend to maintain doctrinal soundness, but there is the pressure to produce, to maintain the growth rate set before the congregation. When doctrinal soundness becomes an obstacle to that purpose, the elders may succumb to the pressures and ease up on its teaching. The second church faces no such pressure, for in its concern for the spiritual well being of people there is desire for truth on every subject vital to salvation.
The emphasis of the first church is organizational and institutional; the emphasis of the second is spiritual and heavenly. We commend the second church to our readers. Serious problems can result when churches see growth as their primary purpose. If goals are to be set - and goals can serve a good purpose - let them focus on the number to be taught rather than the number to be baptized. If new approaches are needed, let them be conceived only if they are compatible with God's wisdom in efforts to reach others. Let all determine to know nothing "except Jesus Christ and Him crucified". When churches thus become really serious about saving souls, God will give the increase and growth will take care of itself.
Calvinists, who deny that salvation can ever be lost, reason on the subject in a marvelous way. They tell us, that no virgin's lamp can go out; no promising harvest be choked with thorns; no branch in Christ can ever be cut off from unfruitfulness; no pardon can ever be forfeited, and no name blotted out of God's book! They insist that no salt can ever lose its savor; nobody can ever "receive the grace of God in vain"; "bury his talents"; "neglect such great salvation"; trifle away "a day of grace"; "look back" after putting his hand to the gospel plow. Nobody can "grieve the Spirit" till He is "quenched" and strives no more, nor "deny the Lord that bought them", nor "bring upon themselves swift destruction". Nobody, or body of believers, can ever get so lukewarm that Jesus will spew them out of His mouth.
They use reams of paper to argue that if one ever got lost he was never found (John 17:12); that if one falls he never stood (Romans 11:16-22; Hebrews 6:4-6); if one was ever "cast forth" he was never in; if one ever withered he was never green (John 15:1-6); that "if any man draws back" it proves that he never had anything to draw back from (Hebrews 10:38-39); that if one ever falls away into spiritual darkness, he was never enlightened (Hebrews 6:4-6); that if you "again get entangled in the pollutions of the world" it shows that you never escaped (2 Peter 2:20); that if you put salvation away you never had it to put away; and if you make shipwreck of faith there was no ship of faith there! In short they say: If you get it, you can't lose it; and if you lose it you never had it.Download the PDF Back to the archives...
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