Most small community churches have a core of about 75 to 150 people who show up, come rain, snow or shine, if the church doors are open. If it’s in the bulletin, they’re there. And some. These devoted, faithful and loyal church members see church membership on the same commitment level that some people see marriage: a covenant. They will turn the other cheek if offended, will forgive all, and will show up at every potluck dinner with their tried-and-true casserole. They love their church. God bless them.
Worship choruses have worked their way into, and in some cases surpassed, the number of hymns in the order of worship. These churches change with the times, sometimes slowly, but they want to be relevant. The church pours resources into itself to keep with the times so that people will want to come to its programs.
They see their little arm of the worldwide church as their mission. They support missionaries, of course, to spread the Gospel to places outside of the church property. World maps with stars or arrows show us exactly where the Missions Committee delegates offering funds to be sent. In some cases, church membership has waned. In other cases, it has leveled off, and in some cases it has grown. Sometimes the church will have great programs and Christians will come from other churches and change memberships. In some cases, there may be some new Christians who come because they are invited and felt God’s love. It’s awesome when that happens.
The church pours resources into itself to keep with the times so that people will want to come to its programs.
In many ways, this is what Paul worked to establish: church community, church family. Paul went from place to place, cheering these smaller churches on. Acts 18:23 says, “After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.”
There was something distinctive about the early church, however. It didn’t look like an archeological version of today’s church. This is what the original church looked like;
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” –Acts 2:46-47
The early disciples most likely had their own families, but the church didn’t grow through busy nurseries or transfers from other churches.
“He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”’
Acts 18:8 confirms that there were converts in the synagogue; “Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.” This wasn’t enough, though. Jesus knew the world needed him. Passive evangelism wouldn’t cut it. He wanted workers who would take serious off-site initiative!
Jesus urged us to pray specifically for workers who would operate in Holy Spirit boldness outside of the religious setting. Perhaps Jesus told us to pray for such people because so few would otherwise choose to leave the comfort of the church. Workers did, indeed, go out into the harvest fields. The result was that the church grew explosively!
Jesus urged us to pray specifically for workers who would operate in Holy Spirit boldness outside of the religious setting.
Beside praying, the established church’s part, which may be the hardest, is opening our church and its fellowship to strangers, like the early church did so well. They shared what they had with all who entered. Country clubs don’t let strangers in. Thriving churches do. When this happens, church programs clamor to feed the spiritually hungry new believers.
There is no need for entertaining programs to sustain church membership when new believers come flooding in. These new Christians will be thrilled to be part of the body of Christ and will be anxious and motivated to contribute to the betterment of the whole. They will also want to bring their own, new dishes to potluck suppers!
Things will be different than they’ve been for decades in churches that catch this vision. They will be happening churches, and they won’t be on life support. Though not so predictable and comfy as they once were, they will be the vehicles of Kingdom increase, and will bring God glory. They will be the churches that supply the answer to Jesus’ earnest prayer for workers for His harvest. How would it look in your life, if you moved forward to be an answer to Jesus’ prayer?