Posted January 30th, 2014
Posted January 10th, 2014
How can we tell if the church is growing? When it comes to growth, often people think about the three ‘B’s': buildings, bodies, and budgets. But in reality those things in and of themselves do not tell you if a church is truly growing as disciples of Jesus Christ.
So what does it mean to grow in sanctification as disciples of Christ? In his book, What is a Healthy Church?, Mark Dever writes, “When you peer into the life of a church, the growth of its members can show up in all sorts of ways.” Here are fifteen examples Dever offers to show what “growth” means. This list doesn’t cover every way we grow as disciples, but it does give us some good examples:1
- Growing numbers who are praying for and getting involved in evangelism and missions both locally and globally.
- Older members getting a fresh sense of their responsibility in evangelism and in discipling younger members—“Why don’t you come over for dinner?”
In the January 2014 edition of TABLETALK, Pastor James Harvey has some helpful thoughts on the local church, the Lord’s Day, and discipleship:
A FORETASTE OF HEAVEN
“The corporate worship of the church is a foretaste of the future glory that awaits us in Christ. We hear God’s Word read, sing His praises, confess our sins, receive His grace, join our hearts in prayer, receive the Lord’s Supper, and place ourselves under the proclamation of His Word. And we do this together. What is happening spiritually when we gather like this? “[We] come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God” (Heb. 12:22). In this corporate worship, the church is like a mother, providing weekly shelter and refreshment from the wilderness of the world until the Lord Jesus Christ returns and makes all things new. Without this weekly gathering, we shrivel and die in the wilderness.
A CONTEXT FOR LOVE
The goal of Christian discipleship is love (Mark 12:29–31; 1 Cor. 13:1–13; 2 Peter 2:5–7). The local church is the place where we grow in love over the long haul. Being a faithful church member is diﬃcult. The people are not all like you. But, you grow to accept one another in love. If you spend any time among the same group of people, they will eventually disappoint you in some ways, or perhaps positively harm you. But you grow to forgive one another in love. If you leave a church because the people are not like you or because you have been wounded, you have cut short the discipleship process before it has begun. The only legitimate lure that Jesus says we have for the world is the love that we manifest in our corporate life as a church: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). This visible expression of love is rooted in gathering on the Lord’s Day as one body.
A PLACE TO GIVE AND RECEIVE
God puts us in a local body of believers to share in the gifts and graces of that body, and this sharing (communion) is essential to discipleship.