LIMITS TO GROWTHThis is a faithful saying, "We may only grow as far as the head ship of our Church will allow us." This includes both spiritual growth and numerical growth. If the Elder-ship of a Church does not allow growth, a Church (or an individual within the Church) will not grow.
As younger Christians begin to grow up in the things of God there will come a point at which they will "out grow" the constraints placed on them by the "Elder-ship" of their church. At this point there are a number of options open to them:
HUMAN FORMS OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT
DEMOCRATICIn a democratic system of government, decision making and control is vested in the congregation or a group of designated "elders". While this is a very noble concept, it will automatically be limited in its ability to move in response to changing circumstances. Because of the very nature of the democratic system, decision making is slow, requiring a majority vote before anything can be approved. This inertia tends to limit the size of the Church.
Another symptom of this form of government is an abundance of committees, complete with their usual personality problems and cumbersome way of arriving at a decision.
AUTOCRATICThis is virtual dictatorship by a strong character making unilateral decisions on behalf of the congregation. No matter how "anointed" and compassionate this person may be, it will again automatically limit Church growth to the ability and "vision" of one person. We must remember that "we only know in part" (1 Corinthians 13:12). No one man can possibly know everything which is necessary for the Church, or individuals, to grow to their full potential.
Another problem with this form of government is that the dominate character may become threatened by a growing ministry in another person and will tend to quench their growth.
AUTONOMYThis is government by the Pastor, or congregation, with no reference to any other Church or authority. While this may appear to be a blessing, it is limiting because an isolated fellowship will not be exposed to the richness which comes from the rest of the Body of Christ.
Isolation can also be a breeding ground for error. Without some form of "check" it is very easy for the devil to lead us aside from God's pure truth.
Even the history of Israel shows the error of human government in God's plans.
THE HEADSHIP OF JESUSWhat then is the answer ? Jesus gave us two great principles:
In His wisdom, Jesus has "diffused" His personal presence throughout His Body, so that He may no longer be limited to time and space, yet may be available to minister to human creatures who exist in time and space.
In this respect, Jesus must hold the central focus of the Church. Human efforts to build and run the Church, no matter how noble and well intended, will automatically be doomed to failure. The Church is a supernatural manifestation in our time of the glorious Kingdom of God to come. In that Kingdom Jesus reigns in person. Therefore He must have full and personal reign in the Church right now.
This is the principle of "Headship".
UNLIMITED POTENTIAL FOR GROWTHThis present, personal reign of Jesus within the Church will give rise to unlimited potential for growth, both for the Church as a whole and for us as individuals.
In Christ there is always room for growth. We have a uniquely individual relationship with the Lord. This relationship brings untold richness into our lives. As we share this richness together we can all "come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God" (Ephesians 4:13).
In Christ we have unlimited opportunity to minister, because we are all joined to the Head, "from whom the whole Body is ... knitted together by what every joint supplies" (Ephesians 4:14). Because we are all unique, we have something of infinite value that only we can give others. Own personal experience of Jesus. "These things which we have seen and heard, we should declare to one another so that we may have fellowship together" (1 John 1:3).
It must be noted that to follow the Biblical revelation there must be multiple Eldership within the Church. Man's answer to the problem of "leadership" will always fall into some form of Pyramid structure, with one man at the top. For example this was proposed by Jethro to Moses (Exodus 18:17-25). This always results in isolation and a heavy burden for the leader. But the Divine answer is to pour out His Spirit on a number of men that they may all share the burden together (Numbers 11:17).
The Pastor is Not the "head" of the Church. Pastor is not the title for a position within a ministerial hierarchy, but is a function within the Body of Christ. There is no reason why there could not be many Pastors within the one Church, but there can only be one "head". That is Jesus Himself.
With Jesus as the Head of the Church, the Pastor is released from his "position" and once again becomes a "part of the Body". This not only allows him to minister more effectively in his function as a Pastor, but it will allow him to receive ministry from the rest of the Body without fear of seeming inadequate.
It also allows the Lord to raise up other ministers (including other Pastors) without fear of competition. Ministry is the domain of the Body as a whole, not of individuals within the Body. Each "part" of the Body has a specific function. As we begin to see this truth it will allow unlimited potential for growth, because as each part of the Body performs its function according to the gifting of the Lord "this causes growth of the Body" (Ephesians 4:16).
JOINED TO THE HEADThe body of Christ is literally an extension into the physical world of it's heavenly "head", Jesus. Jesus said" If I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto me " (John 12:32). By this he was signifying his death on the cross, but it reminds us of the power of a magnet to draw things to itself. Jesus is the magnet and the Holy Spirit is the magnetic force.
Using this analogy, the first thing we see is that a magnet does draw certain things to itself. The magnetic force reaches out and attracts certain iron based metals to the magnet until eventually they join very powerfully to the magnet.
So too the Holy Spirit draws us to Jesus until we are inseparably joined to him. No man can call Jesus Lord except by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). Likewise it is the Holy Spirit that testifies to our spirit that we are the children of God and joint heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:15-17). Therefore the Spirit must first draw us to Jesus and then join us to him like steel to a magnet.
The second thing we see is that because of the magnetic force in the metal joined to the magnet, the metal becomes magnetised. The magnetic force flows out through the magnet, into the metal and the metal then has all the power of the original magnet.
Similarly, when we are joined to Jesus and the Holy Spirit is flowing powerfully through us we become like him (Ephesians 4:13). We begin to show his glory in our lives, just as the metal shows all the power of the magnet in itself.
The third thing to notice is the way the magnetic force shows it's power in both the magnet and the metal it attracts. The power is evident and can be clearly seen. No one can see the magnetic force nor feel it, but we can "see" it by the "sign" of its power over metal.
The same is true of the Spirit. No man can see the Spirit, but it does show itself by "signs". A sign is a physical evidence of an unseen force. The Spirit shows itself in our lives through "fruit" (Galatians 5:22-23), Spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-10), signs and wonders (Mark 16:17-18) and ministries (Ephesians 4:11). These are all physical evidence of the unseen Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit is to reproduce in us the image of Jesus exactly.
The fourth thing we see is the magnetic force "aligns" the metal pieces it controls into a very definite pattern. The metal pieces flow with the force of the magnet until they join together in such a way that the pattern contained in the magnetic field is complete.
So it is with the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit draws us together in such a way that by its power the "Body" follows the heavenly pattern ordained by God.
The heavenly pattern is Jesus Himself. The character of Christ is revealed in the "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23). The power of Christ is revealed in the "gifts of the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). The lordliness of Christ is revealed in the "ministry gifts of the Spirit" (Ephesians 4:11)
God has "set" every member in the body in a very special way (1 Corinthians 12:18). If the heavenly pattern is to be reproduced in the body we must align ourselves with the Holy Spirit.
The fifth thing to notice is the magnetic force not only draws the metal to the magnet, but it also draws the metal pieces to one another.
So too the Holy Spirit draws us closer together until we become united in Christ, being of one mind in the Lord. This is the ultimate demonstration of the power of the Spirit in our lives, that it can make one "Body" out of so many people all joined to the heavenly "head" (John 17:23). This above all is the greatest demonstration of the power of God in us. This will convince the world that Jesus has come.
God has placed us in the Body for our own good. Within the safety of the Body we can grow and mature in harmony with Jesus our "head". We are joined to him through the Spirit.
The church is the complete revelation of Jesus in the world. Jesus gives different "gifts" ( 1 Corinthians 12:8-10) to different parts of His body so that when we all come together we have everything that He has. The "person" of Jesus is "diffused" throughout His Body in such a way that He expresses Himself differently within each person. Some have the gift of healing, because Jesus is the great healer. Some have the gift of knowledge, because Jesus is the source of all knowledge. Some have the gift of wisdom, because Jesus is wise, etc. The overall effect is that we see Jesus, clearly revealed within His body. But we need all the "parts" in order to see the "whole". There are also gifts of leadership as well
CHURCH GOVERNMENTThe present, personal reign of Jesus within the Church will also give rise to an expression of His Lordliness within the Church.
This Lordliness is expressed through the offices of the Ascension Gifts within the Church. Jesus appoints His own ministers to suit His specific needs within the Church. As it is written, "He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and some teachers." (Ephesians 4:11-12). The source of all "authority" within the Church is Jesus. He then diffuses this authority to those whom He has prepared to receive it.
Jesus in His sovereignty chooses, prepares and "sets" every member within the Body. If the Lord requires a Prophet for a specific purpose then only a Prophet will do. If the Lord requires an Apostle, then only an Apostle will do. If the Lord requires a Teacher then only a Teacher will do. If the Lord requires an Evangelist, then only a Evangelist will do.
ASCENSION MINISTRIESThe Ascension Gifts are "men of God" who have been prepared by the Lord through a life time of relationship with Him to fulfill a specific function within the Church. This function is "To Equip the Saints ... for the work of ministry" (Ephesians 4:11-12).
The "throne of God" is founded on Holiness, Wisdom , Love and Power. These are expressed through the various "equipping Ministries". Holiness is expressed through the Prophet. Wisdom is expressed through the Teacher. Love is expressed through the Pastor, while Power is expressed through the Evangelist.
The other ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 is the Apostle. This is a unique ministry for a unique purpose. The other four ministries are given to the Body for the "Perfecting of the parts", But Apostleship is given for the "Perfecting of the whole". The Lord gives "vision" to the Apostles showing them how the whole Body fits together
A STRATEGY FOR CHURCH GROWTHHaving so far established the basic principle of unlimited growth through Christ, let us now consider a simple strategy for encouraging growth in the Church.
Church growth will result from five basic principles, which are:
1. THE HEADSHIP OF JESUSAs has been shown, when Jesus is the "Head" of His Church, He can exercise control over His Body and move it into harmony with His sovereign will. This will only happen when every Member comes into submission to His Word and Will.
Jesus is then free to establish His chosen Ministries among His people, in accordance with His purposes. Jesus must have the central focus within the Church.
2. EDIFICATION OF THE CHURCHJesus said "I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). Jesus loves His Church with passion (Ephesians 5:25-32) and He delights to nourish Her. Jesus will always build and edify His Church.
The Lord wants us all to "come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the fullness of Christ. That we should no longer be children tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine ... but speaking the truth in love, we may grow up in all things into Him who is the Head - Christ" (Ephesians 4:13-15).
"How should it be brethren? When you come together every one of you has a psalm, a doctrine, a tongue, a revelation, and an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying" (1 Corinthians 14:26) . Paul is showing a way in which a fellowship meeting can be conducted. In their time with the Lord, each member receives some gift from Jesus. When they come together they can share these things with each other, thus building one another up in faith. This is how the Body learns to grow and minister to itself and others.
There is a time and a place for everything and God will reveal both to those who are willing to listen to what the Spirit is saying (Revelation Chapter 2 & 3). If we are to have good fellowship together we must come prepared. This means we must all spend time seeking God for His direction.
We must all learn to "hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church". We must all learn to be obedient to the Word of the Lord. We must all learn to "Grow up into the full stature of Christ" in whatever gift He has given to us. We must all learn to minister to each other from whatever gift we have from the Lord. The combination of gifts that we have is unique to us, just as a lung is not the same as a heart, but all are needed for the Body to function properly. We are not in the Church by mistake. We are meant to be there.
3. RELEASEAs the Body begins to grow up into the Headship of Jesus, individual Members of the Body will reach maturity within their "ministry". These people must be "released" into the work for which the Lord has prepared them (Acts 13:1-3).
This is a formal recognition, not of a "position" within the Church, but of a "mature" Saint to whom the Church may look for leadership, council and comfort. We must realise that we each have a unique contribution of gifts from the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8-10) which only we can give to the Body. If no opportunity is given for this to be realized then the Body will suffer a great loss.
4. EVANGELISMAs the Church grows up in "faith, hope and love" (1 Corinthians 13:13) and people learn to effectively "minister" to each other, there will be a natural desire to want others to share the blessing.
This is the fire of evangelism in its most basic and effective form. With the whole Church "ministering" the Gospel a much wider cross section of the community will be exposed to the Gospel message.
5. DISCIPLESHIPAs the Lord adds others to the Body, they need to be placed in the care of mature Christians who can guide and encourage them through some of the pit falls of every day Christian life.
SUMMARYWhen Jesus is the Lord of the Church He is then in a position to "build His Church" in the way He desires. He can raise up the "Ministries" He desires, and He can move the Church in the direction He desires. It is time we learned that the Church is the Possession of Jesus, paid for by His precious blood. What God has joined together (I.e.. Christ and His Church) let no man put asunder.
I believe that when we begin to apply these principles, we will see unlimited growth, both Spiritually and Numerically. After all this should be our desire.
Created: 23 - Jan - 1997.