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1I recently was at a bible study where I heard a wonderful message from the following text:

Jeremiah 29:4-7

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:  “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give you daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters.  Increase in number there; do not decrease.  Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Ever since Adam has been in seminary, I have seen us in a transition period.  It can sometimes seem that this is a means to an end.  Even though Adam and I have only been in this stage of our lives for less than a year, I have viewed this as a stepping stone to the future.  I have been saying “I wish…” or “I can’t wait until…”  This verse is an important reminder to be present HERE in this stage of our life.

I need to invest in my life and the community I am in NOW.  I need to be present here and now and not only think of the future after Emmanuel.  And honestly, we’ll probably be here another three or so years just so Adam can finish his degree.  And wishing my way through those years would be no way to live.

God is telling the people not to be stagnant.  Prosper.  Grow.  Exile is only for a time:  don’t become out of practice.  I think it is important to remember that I need to be an active part of this community here.  I need to do my part to see this community prosper in Christ.

This was just an important reminder to engage in your life and community wherever you may be.  Even if you feel like you are in exile or that this is just temporary, flourish and grow where you are.  Be a part of your community, be hospitable.  Don’t just sit around and wait, ACT.

This is also important to remember with our churches.  If our church is really going to grow and prosper we must pray for the church.  We must also invest in the church and set down roots.  Even if we think we are in the area temporarily we must get involved in God’s community so we can grow and flourish spiritually as well.  We also need to put away the mindset of: “things will be better when…” or “just wait until…”  We must be involved in our church right now.

Just think of the amazing, God-given growth a church would experience if we were intentional and invested in our community.

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These are the easiest things that our churches can do to achieve growth and strength as a community, so why are we not applying them?  Here are some verses that I think are important helpful hints given in the Bible in order to help our churches grow, and some practical ways to implement them.

1 Corinthians 12 (ESV)

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.  You know that when you were pagans you were led astray by mute idols, however you were led.  Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is Christ.  For in one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing?  If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?  But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts do not require.  But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.  Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Do all work miracles?  Do all possess gifts of healing?  Do all speak with tongues?  Do all interpret?  But earnestly desire the higher gifts.  And I will show you a still more excellent way.

As we can see from this chapter, in order for the church to grow, we need to appreciate and nurture the gifts of every person in the congregation.  Everyone has certain God-given gifts for a person to be a member of the church and have an impact on God’s family and the rest of the world.  It is our job as a church to help people realize their gifts, encourage them to embrace those gifts, and help them to grow those gifts.

This is what I picture:  Members of the church mentoring the younger people in the congregation.  If I know my gift and am working in an area where I can use that gift, then I should be looking for people who also share that gift with me.  If they do then, I can encourage and mentor them in that gift.  For me, that is an incredible picture of the potential of growth.

Here are some questions.  Do you know your gift?  Are you using it to help the church grow?  Are you practicing your gift?  Is there someone that you could be mentoring?  Are you proud of your gift or are you always wishing for someone else’s?  Are we encouraging people to know their gift and use them in the church?

I think that if we were to truly embrace our gifts and encourage others to do the same, our church would see a great growth.

Ephesians 4:1 (ESV)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.

When I was first trying to figure out what I wanted to study in college I immediately thought of business and marketing.  I have always been intrigued by it and I thought I had several skills that would help me to excel in that area.  So, that is what I decided that I wanted to do.  I was telling someone about my decision and they said, “What do you think you can do for God with that?  How will that benefit God’s kingdom?”  And they went on to tell me how they did not think I was making a good decision because I would not be serving God.  So, I changed my major to something that I thought would be more…”respected”.  And I realized that I had no passion whatsoever for what I was studying, so I switched back to business and I have been so happy and satisfied with that decision, and more importantly I feel affirmation from God that I am doing what he had planned for me.

It is my belief that God needs Christians in every aspect of careers and he gives every individual a calling specific to their life.  I think that instead of discouraging people from doing what they feel called to do, churches should encourage those people who are stepping into the uncomfortable.  They should encourage them because they will need and thrive on that encouragement.  Having Christians in all career fields opens an amazing mission field possibility for Christians.  If God has given a person a passion and a skill set for a career, and has called them to that, how can we do anything but encourage them?

I know that I have only talked about one chapter and one verse, but these passages have really stood out to me throughout my college career.  I think that if churches can embrace these scriptures and truly internalize them and practice them, then amazing growth will be seen in the church.

Do you ever think about the future and wonder what it will be like?  Part of having a marketing strategy is knowing where you want to be in the future, and that means asking yourself questions about what you will look like.  Do you ever think about the status of the church beyond today? This year?  In thinking about that, these are some questions that I have. . .

Can a church ever be too big?

What will the church look like in the years to come?

What will be the biggest change to the church of the future?

Will the church ever be truly united on this earth?

Will there be more Christians or less in the next five years?

What can we do to make sure we continue to grow?

 

Do you have any answers?  How about any questions?  Are we too scared of the future to think about it?

It’s harder than I thought to think of things to write about.

I know that there are plenty of things out there, I just have to realize it.

So, I want to ask you, what do you think holds churches back from growth?

Something I see happening more and more in churches is the separation between adults and the youth.  Very often there is a specific youth church and the youth is not integrated into “big church”.

I know that there are several youth groups that struggle getting youth sponsors, and I believe that this is because of this separation between the youth and adults of the church.  Oftentimes if adults do not see the youth of a church interacting and being a part of the church, then they will be less inclined to be involved and active in the youth group.  Also, if the youth is not active with the adults, then who are they going to look up to as mentors?

I think that when there is integration between youth church and adult church, then that creates a healthier church more prone to growth.  I have learned many things from people older than me and also those younger than me.  We can learn from each other.  Each person and age group has a unique perspective and can help you see something you have not thought of before, and that can encourage growth and change.

I would rather see us come together than encourage further separation.

Progress takes baby steps.

Little steps at a time toward the ultimate goal.

What is one thing your church could do now that will be a small step to growth?

A new website?

New signs in the building?

Upgrades to the children’s facilities?

Sometimes one thing can start the ball rolling, just give it a push and see where it goes.