Ponder and Pray

[ 0 ] April 3, 2009 |

Poignant statement: “If you are a Christian, you are not a citizen of this world trying to get to heaven; you are a citizen of heaven making your way through this world.” — Vance Havner


 

 

Subject: Let my people grow

Scripture: 1 Thes. 5:11
This time while I was attending the board meeting of INNetwork International, our President was sharing a very interesting element in our discussion. He was saying today in the USA and Canada there are not only unchurched people but dechurched people as well. The idea is that the unchurched are those who know about Jesus in varying degrees but not coming to the church. The dechurched are those who have no clue who is this Jesus. This has happened due to a great number of people migrating from other parts of the world and most importantly those people who are far removed from their ancestral Christian heritage.

This has come about because of many reasons but one of them is due to shallow life of those who profess to know the Lord Jesus Christ. This shallowness is the result of the church preaching messages which have only partial teachings of the Bible. The churches in these countries and many other such countries have become too traditional losing the race to dynamism of ‘today’ and ‘now’ culture. The church is history for some people and for some people it is even a hindrance to modern life etc. Tradition needs to be cherished if they are positive but it can also be challenged and set aside if it hinders further progress in the right direction with orthodox Biblical teachings.

I am also reading a book which challenges us to rethink our mission agenda, definition and focus. The writers say that we are very excited when people become Christians and we go around talking about the wonderful growth. However if we look deeper we will find very little evidence of the real growth. He gives an example “Joseph D’Souza, executive director of Operation Mobilisation India relates a compelling example of what he refers to as the “scandal of mission statistic”. A report was widely circulated by a particular indigenous organization that it had planted over ten thousand churches in North India. This allegedly occurred in tribal area that had experienced decades of Christian growth. After twenty years however, few of those churches were found to be in existence for the reason that a “church” was considered to be planted if members of Bible Study had gathered a number of times. In reality, there was no baptism, no eldership, no local church in any sense.” In my opinion this is a simple case of scam of those who can lure people into believing things that are not true. Such inflated statistic is also due to the expectations some partners place on the local people.

If we look at the church growth in Nepal we are amazed the way people have been responding and joining churches. I have seen the Christians grow from three thousands to an estimated now of over a million who are within the fold of the church in Nepal. This is just an amazing growth and we thank the Lord for His grace but now the real challenge is to disciple them and make them mature in God. It is not enough that a seed has sprouted but critical that the sprout becomes a real flowering and fruit yielding plant. If we are not careful then we will have to also face our own brand of ‘de’ and ‘un’. It will probably be not in our time but perhaps in the coming generations. What others failed to see we cannot neglect and learn from the past. We need to be alert. The people in the pews will change but the pulpit must proclaim the truth at all cost and at time. We are responsible to convey the truth and the people are responsible what they do with the truth we convey.

Before making disciples we need to know if the people really know the Jesus of the Bible or not. Have the new believers been born of the Spirit of God or not and does the life of God manifest or not? Just as you cannot make dead man walk and so you cannot make disciples of those who are not regenerated by the power of the Lord Jesus. Although we cannot peep into the hearts of people and we are not to judge but we can make sure of this as much as possible. Today there is a great emphasis on discipleship. We have books and all sorts of teaching tools which can make a real good disciple. But if the man is not really born of God then he is like a pretty plastic plant with fruit and flowers. It looks real but has no life and there is no point in watering and providing nutrient of all kinds. Don’t waste time trying to feed the dead!

The call of discipleship will have to be Biblical with no shortchange or compromise. The Lord Jesus loved people who came in contact with him. He was always filled with compassion when he met people and did everything possible to heal the sick, cast out demons and even raised the dead. He touched people and cried for them and with them. However when it came to the matter of following Him, He placed the highest value and said “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”. His love compelled him to make the highest demand. Should our demand be less than what Jesus demanded?

There has been a tendency in many churches that before baptism we do not talk about the cost of following Jesus and when we finally get around to talking then the new believers are surprised. I know discipleship is a lifetime of learning with many curves and bends in life yet the church must let the people know what they are getting into before they fully decide to believe in the Lord Jesus. It is a narrow road, lonely road, few walk on them and is the road of the cross. We actually dupe people when we sugar coat the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The people will enjoy till the taste of sugar lasts but then when they come in contact with the bitter element they get angry, confused and frustrated.

I am aghast at times to hear preachers who have no idea of real Christian faith. They dupe the innocent by offering health, wealth and happiness for believers. Today we just have to switch tvs. and there they are hoards of them who peddle these goodies supposedly as a mark of the blessings of God. I am a firm believer that God does bless his people but then at times in His wisdom God does not bless the way we want. Therefore to tell people that God is there to meet all your needs without cost of following is subversion of the true faith of the Gospel. False teachers have hypnotized the believers into believing what is not entirely true.

While calling people to full and Biblical discipleship we must also remember the people grow at their own pace and time. Remember the parable of seed and that all are not 100% but all life giving seed brings fruit according to their ability. Our desire for us and the ones we disciple are highest yet in reality we know what the real truth is. We can never be flawless disciples yet we need to grow each day to experience His life in us and progress from one glory to another. We must call people to the highest that God has for them but yet not condemn when people falter. No one has ever really fulfilled all the requirements of the Lord and the great saints of God are the first to confess. Thomas a Kempis in Imitation of Christ says “All men are weak but you must count yourselves the weakest of all” Even though he was a mystic saint of great spiritual endowment he always knew he could fail and falter like anyone else. The holiest saints know the danger of failing.

So on the one hand we rejoice to see the church grow in Nepal but then we need to realize that we do not follow the nefarious method of people who believe the church must grow at any cost. Then the church will eventually look like a malnourished child with a big tummy but unhealthy. We must learn from the history of church growth and how to avoid the pitfalls. The leaders of Nepali churches all over the world and particularly Nepal will have to be alert and make sure that we grow in quantity as well as quality. Otherwise the statement of an African leader will be true in Nepal too who said “We are twenty five feet wide but only one inch deep” Let us work together to make our churches vibrant and radiant with the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is very hard but this is the only way His church can be built. The Lord wants a beautiful church without wrinkle and blemishes.

Poignant statement: “If you are a Christian, you are not a citizen of this world trying to get to heaven; you are a citizen of heaven making your way through this world.” — Vance Havner


Prayer: Lord, in our churches we need growth but help us to be alert that we will not water down your demand for discipleship while aiming for church growth. Teach us to teach the whole counsel of God with love and patience to the people who want to believe in you.

Republished in new layout on 8/19/2013

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Category: Devotion