Tag Archives: church growth

Numerical Church Growth And The Biblical Purposes Of Church Services

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

NUMERICAL CHURCH GROWTH IS IMPORTANT TO CHURCHES. There are practical reasons for this. If churches don’t grow numerically, they will eventually die out as the aging attendees can no longer attend, or they pass away. If churches don’t grow numerically, they will eventually have no substantial reason to exist. If they don’t grow numerically, they will eventually run out of money and will, then, be unable to pay their expenses and will be forced to shut down. Most importantly, if churches don’t grow numerically, it means they have ceased to reach new persons in their communities with the Gospel message, and have failed to get them to attend their services.

ASTRAY FROM THE BIBLICAL PURPOSES OF CHURCH SERVICES. The fact that many churches are in serious numerical decline has caused a lot of them to stray from the Biblical purposes of church services. But what are the Biblical purposes for having church services? According to the New Testament, church services are to be held so that Christians can worship God together, pray together, be taught from the Word of God together, and to have fellowship with one another. But how have Bible-believing churches strayed from these God-ordained purposes? By making their services primarily a means of reaching non-Christians with the Gospel of Christ. This focus, they hope, will not only win many persons to believe in Jesus Christ, but also become  a means of increasing the number of attendees at their services, and thereby keep the church from going out of existence.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN EVANGELISM BECOMES THE PRIMARY PURPOSE FOR CHURCH SERVICES? It is certainly true that churches can and should be evangelistic. The Gospel can be made known during church services through music, through personal testimonies, through literature,  and through preaching and teaching the Word of God. But when reaching non-Christians with the Gospel displaces the God-ordained purposes for church services, it has serious negative consequences. Even though a church which has made this shift in its purpose for its services might still have a strong emphasis on worshiping God,  it is certain to spend less time teaching and preaching the Word of God to the Christians in attendance. The non-Christians are fed what they need to learn, and the Christians get little of the meat of God’s Word. This is comparable to what would happen if a family is made up of a wide variety of ages, but at meal time everyone is expected to eat what the youngest family members are able to eat. The youngest family members might thrive on such a diet, but not the older ones. But this is not the only negative consequence of church services becoming primarily a means of reaching non-Christians with the Gospel. Another almost-inevitable negative consequence is that in such church services many truths of the Word of God will be skipped over because of their potential to offend and thus alienate the very ones the church is trying to reach with the Gospel. Preachers in such  churches will very likely not warn about specific false teachers and their falsehoods. Preachers in such churches will not likely specifically identify religious groups that claim to be Christian, but in fact are not. Preachers in such churches will not be likely to forthrightly say certain kinds of behavior are to be avoided because the ones they are trying to win to Christ are involved in those behaviors, and they don’t want to drive them away from the services. Such preachers might forthrightly condemn things that the Bible specifically condemns, and which most persons agree are wrong. But they will be hesitant to speak against things that might be only what could be called questionable, borderline, and known to lead to worse behavior. The moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages and moderate gambling are examples of what I mean. Preachers in such churches will most likely say, “Don’t get drunk.” But they won’t say, “Don’t drink alcoholic beverages at all.” Preachers in such churches will say, “Watch out so you don’t become problem gamblers.” But they won’t say, “Don’t gamble at all.” Another almost-inevitable consequence of making evangelism the focus of church services is that the  music used will be the kind that is more acceptable to non-Christians. This means, it will be more entertaining than is appropriate in church services. And it means it will be more worldly or secular in style than it should be. Another way to put it is, the music will not be appropriate for worshiping  the Holy God revealed in the Bible. Here is an example of that very thing: One preacher told me and a couple other preachers of an experience he had as a guest speaker at church in serious numerical decline, and which was made up of mostly elderly Christians. He said that as he visited with the church folks before a service, someone began to play taped Christian rock music over the loudspeaker. He asked them why they were playing THAT kind of music. He was told it was done to appeal to the younger people. In our day it is common for older Christians to be criticized for objecting to much of the music used in contemporary churches.But those older Christians are justified in saying such music has no place in Bible-believing churches. To summarize the point of this paragraph, let me say that what happens when a church makes evangelism the primary purpose of it services is that it often gives itself over to accommodating the persons it is trying to reach with the Gospel of Christ. This always weakens a church, even if it results in many more attendees. It weakens a church because this kind of accommodation is contrary Biblical teaching, and it, therefore does not develop strong Christians.

BIBLICAL STATEMENTS CONCERNING THE GOD-ORDAINED PURPOSES FOR CHURCH SERVICES. Above, I said the New Testament tells that God has specific purposes for church services. But where we can these be read in the New Testament? I will give some of the chapters and verses to read, and you can look them up yourselves. As you read them, look for the statements indicating that the teaching and preaching of God’s Word to Christians was central to the meetings of the Christians. (We now would call the meetings church services.) Acts 2:41 – 47; Acts 14:21 – 28;  Acts 15:22 – 41; Acts 16:1 – 5; Acts 18:8 – 11 & verse 18, first sentence; Acts 18:24 – 28; Acts 19:7 – 11;  Acts 20:17 – 38; Ephesians 4:11 – 16; Ephesians 5:17 – 20; Colossians 1:28; Colossians 3:16 & 17; 2 Thessalonians 2:5 & 16; 1 Timothy 4:6 & 13; 1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17; 2 Timothy 4:1 – 5; 1 Peter 5:1 – 4.

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Numerical Church Growth And Humanity’s Sinfulness

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.