By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD
Most Bible-believing churches want to see their churches grow numerically. Many churches make it a priority. That is a good thing. But it is very important for us to keep in mind the Bible’s teaching concerning the sinfulness of man, which started when Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, and which continues to this day. Those who are well-versed in Biblical truth know our inherited sinfulness results in our resistance to Biblical truth. In Genesis 6:5 we read a striking fact about the early years of human history. That verse says, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And that describes humanity all throughout the centuries since then. God’s Word tells us in Isaiah 53:6 that “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way.” His Word tells us in Romans 3:10 that “there is none righteous; no, not one.” His Word tells us in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” His Word tells us in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” His Word tells us in John 8:12 and John 9:5 that the Lord Jesus Christ is “the light of the world”. But we read this in John 3:19, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” In other words, humanity prefers the darkness of sin over Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
The fact is, the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ does not make us look better than we really are. It confronts us with our sinfulness, with our need of salvation, and with our need to repent and believe the Gospel in order to receive that salvation. And it confronts us with the reality of eternal punishment in hell for those who die as unsaved persons. The fact is, we sinful human beings are not eager to hear that sobering message. We avoid it like criminals avoid police officers. When we first are exposed to these Biblical truths, we hurry away from them, just like bugs hurry away when the rock under which they are hiding is turned over and they are exposed to the sunlight.
It was this objection to Biblical truth that got some of the Old Testament prophets imprisoned, tortured, and even murdered. It was this objection to Biblical truth that got John the Baptist beheaded by Herod. It was this objection to Biblical truth that got the Lord Jesus Christ ridiculed, maligned, beaten up, whipped unmercifully, and then nailed to a cross and left to die a slow, painful, shameful death, only to have his death hastened by a soldier who pierced his side with a sword. It was this objection to Biblical truth that got many of the Lord’s apostles treated much the same way as their Lord. It was this objection to Biblical truth that led the writers of the New Testament’s letters to warn that there will be an ongoing objection to that truth. Read, for example, the apostle Paul’s two letters to Timothy, the second letter of the apostle Peter, and the first letter of the apostle John.
In light of the massive amount of evidence from the Bible that men love darkness rather than light, it is utterly foolish for us to think that if we will just follow the advice of church growth experts on how to grow our churches numerically, success is sure to follow. Numerical success might be the direct result of shallow preaching and teaching, and of using unbiblical means to attract attendees. Packed churches mean little, if the attendees are not being taught the great Biblical themes of God’s holiness, our sinfulness, our consequent need of salvation that comes only to those who repent and believe the Gospel, and that God’s Word tells everyone who names the name of Christ to depart from iniquity (2 Timothy 2:19). The New King James Version is quoted in this article.