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Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 11 July 2013

HOW TO GROW YOUR CHURCH

By Jim Jordal

 "Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts. You teach me wisdom in the inmost place….Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness, That the bones which you have broken may rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, And blot out all of my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Don't throw me from your presence, And don't take your holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation. Uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways. Sinners shall be converted to you."

Selected from Psalm 51, emphasis mine

Growing churches seems the rage these days. The idea is that rising numbers of parishioners will yield increased church income---and we all know that most churches could use more money. So we devise strategies and programs designed to draw people through our doors but pay little attention to what happens to them once they are in, provided they contribute generously and regularly to the church coffers.

But does the number of bodies in a church really matter? Do multitudes of parishioners somehow indicate spiritual success? I think not! If masses of people respond to the full gospel call that’s good. But if people respond to smooth, flashy, fast-talking preachers pushing platitudes pleasing to the ego but worthless to the soul, what we have then is the church attempting to emulate the world in attracting potential converts.

What really matters in a church is what happens in the souls and spirits of human beings. What David found out in the reading above is that God wants truth, mercy, righteousness and humility in our hearts rather than tradition, ritual, religious correctness and arrogance in our minds.

But what are people really seeking when they decide to attend a church? I fear that too often people come to church seeking a compromise with God: I’ll come to church if you’ll forgive my sins and tolerate my continuing to live as I want. In other words they seek a fire escape from hell, although they’ll never admit it. They like to feel good about having done their religious "duty," but this has little to do with obeying God.

In Psalm 51 we read of King David’s confession of adultery with the beautiful Bathsheba and the consequent delegated murder of her husband to prevent repercussions. David knows what God wants from him beside his confession: God wants truth in his inward parts (heart), because that is the only way his previous relationship with God can be restored. He wants the purification of spirit that follows the revelation of his deepest realities

How is it that we in the churches can believe we have what people need when we don’t have it ourselves? We don’t reveal truth in our inward places; we depend on shallow confession of repeated personal failings to cleanse us in God’s eyes when what he really desires is that we speak truthfully with him regarding our deepest desires, feelings and motivations. After we do this we can then become clean enough to guide others in their spiritual quest.

Notice that David places spiritual regeneration ahead of evangelistic effort. He says "Then will I teach transgressors your ways. Sinners shall be converted to you." So evangelism comes after he gets something from God worth evangelizing about.

What attracts hungry people is the promise of encounter with Jesus amid the friendship and caring provided by a serious body of believers acting upon what they profess. It isn’t creeds or doctrines or programs; it’s legitimate Christian love in action that matters.

That’s how to grow your church in spiritual depth as well as physical numbers. And that’s what will enhance revenue. The idea is to put first things first and the allow God to do the rest.