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Big Gains, Big Losses

 

This week someone posted an article on Facebook that got me thinking. It was about the modern church and the way that it brought droves of young people in but after college age they left and didn’t return. The statistics showed that there were one fourth of the people of the college age attending church as were their grand-parents. Also, it showed that eighty percent of youth that had attended church as youth never came back as adults. I didn’t have to ask why.

I was once a youth pastor who followed the standard patterns of the modern church. In fact, I am old enough now to look back and see the fruit, or lack thereof in all of my efforts. We as Christians have fallen into the same trap as the world in believing that we can have what we want when we want it. If we see a method that allows super growth we mistakenly believe it will be of God. The scriptures tell another story though. Those mega-churches of today are revolving doors for people. Yes, it’s true that some people stay in them for years. But there are huge amounts of people who flow through. With the seats filled it seems to not matter if the faces change each week.

I am going to begin my scripture overview today by showing the few places that do indicate large increases. The reason I start with these is that there will be some who hinge their mega-growth philosophy on these but they are not the way God usually functions. Acts 2:41 says that three thousand people received Christ in one day. In chapter four and verse five there were five thousand added to the church in one day. God began the church with tremendous growth. Many times new things are that way. The New Covenant was for the entire world, not just the Jews. God had made a way through Jesus Christ to reconcile man to Himself. The Holy Spirit performed miracles through the Apostles and persecution from the enemy only caused further growth and resolution of the saints.

Let’s look at some Old Testament passages now. When Joshua went through the Promised Land he overcame large armies with battle after battle. It may even look like mega-church growth but let’s look at what Jehovah told Moses about this. In Deuteronomy 7:22 He said that they would not defeat the enemy all at once but little by little. He even gave the reason; because the land would otherwise become over run with wild animals. There is a spiritual principal at work here that we need to learn. God does His greatest miracles in small things that take time. He has ordained all of nature for us to see His ways. The Creation reveals a lot about the Creator.          Look to Genesis for the fact that He took time with Creation. Yes, it was done in six days but He could have spoken it all into existence in an instant. He created everything in stages. When Joshua went through Canaan God could have sent His angels ahead and wiped out the inhabitants so that they had no struggles and no battles. Instead He chose to allow Joshua and Israel to struggle and grow little by little.

Let’s look at some more scripture that demonstrates God’s principal of slow sure growth. In Proverbs 13:11 Solomon stated that gain acquired by vanity will diminish but wealth gained through labor would increase. Think back a few years when the stock market had all of the fluff companies that had quick gains. There were stocks appearing for the first time that didn’t represent tangible goods but virtual ideas. People began investing in stocks that were really not worth what they sold for and their participation caused the price to be inflated-causing even more people to buy. This stock bubble suddenly popped and left many without money but hopefully more wisdom. Solomon was one of the richest men of all history but his advice is to acquire your gain by labor.

The term vanity here literally means vapor or breath. It indicates that some wealth can be gotten in get-rich-quick schemes but it won’t last. Another translation of this verse states that he who gets wealth a little at a time will have their money grow. In Psalm chapter thirty-seven David gives wise counsel on the subject of patient growth. He began by saying to not be frustrated by people who seemed to prosper even though they were unrighteous. In the end, he reminds us, they will be cut down. Look at verses seven through nine. His wisdom for us is to wait patiently on God and to rest in the fact that victory is inevitable. Those that are patiently waiting on the Lord will inherit the earth.

Look at Isaiah 28:8-9. This gives great insight into how we correctly grow. Once we are weaned off of the milk we grow little by little. Precept is laid down upon precept and little by little we grow. I was reminded this week of how much I have learned through the years. I was asked to review an electronic entrance test that electricians take to hire in at our company. There were principals I learned thirty-five years ago that came back to my mind. Formulas that I had to learn to pass tests came back to me. These were not all learned in a day but over a period of years. They were all foundational to electronics theory and they all work together to get a functioning circuit. God’s Word and His ways are the same. We do not learn them all at the same time but over a period of years. We may say we believe this and yet we allow people to lead churches with very little time spent since the day they were born again. The scripture tells us that novices should not lead church (1 Tim. 3:6).

James chapter five and verses seven and eight use the analogy of a farmer. Those of us who garden understand that nothing worthwhile happens  with instant success. The things that grow quickly have serious problems and side effects. Plants and animals have been hybridized to the point of quickest profit for the commercial grower. Once it leaves his farm he doesn’t care what happens to it. He is only in it for profit. The family farmer wants fruit and vegetables but quality comes first. A friend once gave us six chicks from a commercial grower. We grew them alongside some other chicks we had that were the exact same size. In one month the commercial chickens looked half grown while our regular chickens still looked like chicks. In two months the commercial chickens looked like Franken-chickens. They were so weight forward in their dimensions they could barely walk. They stayed at the feed trough and wouldn’t let the other chickens eat. At three months I killed them all and threw them away because they were so gross to look at we couldn’t eat them. Faster growth is not better!

The true farmer knows this and patiently waits for his seed to come out. Sometimes it delays to the point where he is about to plow it up and plan again. And yet, patiently waiting will prove to show results. In Luke 8:15 Jesus is speaking about His parable of the four soils. This verse is talking about the good soil. Notice that He says these are they which have an honest and good heart and keep the word (the seed). It clearly shows that it isn’t instantly successful but with patience a harvest is won. In Galatians 6:9 Paul told us to be patient and that if didn’t give up we would reap a full harvest. Patience is a virtue that the Church has forgotten. We want quick growth in our churches and our families. Parents often fail to see the growth in their children and become angry and impatient with these little ones. We read about child abuse weekly in the news from parents who just weren’t patient. Others lose heart with children who aren’t receiving correction. Spouses also lose patience with each other because they want the marriage to be past where it is and don’t think their partner will ever change.

Our flesh wants things instantly. Truly we are living in an age of modern marvels where things are done much quicker and are available more than ever in the history of man. As an example microwave ovens have ruined many cooks since there is nothing to do but push a button. It takes no effort and the truth is we really don’t appreciate the food we eat anymore. I began by talking about the church and I want to share a little about my past experiences. When I was young churches had no air-conditioning and the pews were hard wooden benches. We sweltered in the summer cooled only by funeral-home fans which were left on each row. The church had no sound system and the preacher had to speak loudly. The Bible was King James and no one seemed to have a problem understanding it because they actually took time to think about what was read.

I was saved at age thirteen and Angie was saved at age nine under these “conditions”. I quote that word because most people would leave a church in a moment now if it was set up that way. We have become spoiled to all the amenities of modern life. Even though the church spread for two-thousand years with worse conditions than these it seems that we think we have to cater to bring people in with showmanship and entertainment. Young people now have “church” with loud bands, comical speakers and coffee-house type atmospheres. Special ‘effects’ are performed to keep their attention and it’s no wonder they don’t want to come back when they attend a regular service. We’ve given them entertainment but not enlightenment.

The principals that I am talking about today are very important to your life. You need to understand that life happens in slow growth. You need to pace yourself in everything you do. When it comes to learning about God just accept that the depth of the Bible will take more than one lifetime to reach. It’s time we look to quality and not quantity in the Church.

 

Prayer-Father, help us to be patient in life. You have shown us that You are patient with Your children. It is an attribute that we struggle with as humans. Help us to accept Your ways and paths. When we get impatient for things to happen remind us that You still are in control. Bring us back to the days when men waited on the Lord.

In Jesus’ Name-Amen

paul

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Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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One Response to "Big Gains, Big Losses"

  1. catherine niedermeyer says:

    Thank you very much!

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