Tuesday, February 24, 2009
When I receive a book catalog in the mail at church, I am usually overwhelmed with the sheer volume of church growth books on the market (not to mention leadership books). They all promise similar results: read our book, implement our techniques, and voila, your church will grow!
Unfortunately, however, most of them are gimmicky–focused on clever techniques rather than Scripture and sound theology that undergird ministry efforts. Besides, even if you had several lifetimes, you wouldn’t be able to try them all out to evaluate their effectiveness or their relevance for your particular setting!
Of course, there are many things churches can “do” to enhance their outreach to unbelievers and their welcome to spiritual seekers; there is much wisdom sprinkled throughout the pages of those multitudinous church growth books.
But tucked away in the pages of Scripture is the greatest church growth gimmick ever.
“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD and to seek the LORD of hosts; I myself am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” Zechariah 8:20-23 ESV (bold added)*
In the age of Messiah, the Lord promised that peoples who do not know him would come and entreat his favor in the Holy City; God promised that Gentiles would come and join themselves to God’s people so they could know the Lord, too.
Today we are living in those days. There are many in our communities who do not yet know the Lord, but who yearn to know him and who seek his favor, just as God promised. More important than the style of music in our worship, more important than offering great programs for children, youth, and families, more important than having a fancy building in which to worship is the presence of God.
So maybe I am simple-minded, but it seems to me that the most important thing we can do as churches is to seek God’s presence in our lives–as individuals and as a body of believers–to beg him to live among us by his Spirit. By this we are nourished and built into a spiritual house for God’s dwelling (1 Peter 2:5). And when God is among us, unbelievers will take notice, and they will be compelled to seek what we have.
* (For a similar promise, see Isaiah 55:5 ESV: “Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.”)