God’s Priorities for His Churches (1)
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the LORD’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And peoples shall flow to it.
Many nations shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion the law shall go forth,
And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Micah 4.1, 2
“This then is what I mean by spontaneous expansion. I mean the expansion which follows the unexhorted and unorganized activity of individual members of the Church explaining to others the Gospel which they have found for themselves; I mean the expansion which follows the irresistible attraction of the Christian Church for men who see its ordered life, and are drawn to it by desire to discover the secret of a life which they instinctively desire to share; I mean also the expansion of the Church by the addition of new churches.”
- Roland Allen (1868-1947), The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church
Even the most cursory reading of Micah 4.1, 2 and this excerpt from Roland Allen’s classic work reveals a similar conclusion: Churches grow not because we’re such good programmers, but because lost people are irresistibly attracted to the life of Christ they see there, and in the people they know who live and work among them, who exemplify a true and eternal hope.
Micah is describing the scenario of the last days, which Peter explained began at the first Christian Pentecost (Acts 2.14-17). The vision is of people who hear and experience the life of love for God and neighbors from people they encounter every day (v. 2), and who want so much to have that life that they “flow” into the house of the Lord, seeking Him and it.
There’s actually nothing “spontaneous” about such activity. This is how the Spirit of God builds the local church into maturity in Christ. Pastors and teachers equip church members with the grace, peace, and truth that are in Jesus, and they, overflowing with His Spirit and love, do those works of ministry that glorify God and bear witness to His Kingdom (Eph. 4.11, 12; Jn. 7.37-39; 1 Cor. 10.31). The result is that people are saved and hurry to the churches to find more of the life they have seen and have just begun to taste.
This was not the Church’s approach to growth in Roland Allen’s day, and it isn’t our approach today, either. As in 1927, when Allen wrote this book, our tendency is to try to attract people to our churches by what’s happening there, rather than by what they experience day-in and day-out from our church members. We build expansive buildings, create clever programs, adjust our forms of worship, increase fellowship and affinity groups, offer fun times and new friends – all at the church, in our building, on our schedule.
For a while, that approach seemed to hold promise for growing churches. We see what a few (thousand) megachurches have done, and we try to replicate as much of that as we can in our own congregation. We buy the books, go to the seminars, and take the training offered by the name pastors, and then do our best to spritz up our church so that people will want to come and see what we’re all about.
Meanwhile, the members of our church have gotten the message: Whatever needs to be done to win the lost, we’ll do right here at church. And they have ceased being the salt, light, and leaven of hope and joy that Micah and Roland Allen insisted are the way God’s Spirit grows His Church.
Wouldn’t we love to have congregations full of joyous, Christ-loving, eager and effective witnesses, who love their neighbors so much they’ll do anything they can to impress them with the reality of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead?
Such are the people who, living and speaking for Jesus in every situation, create that Spirit-led, “spontaneous” flow of lost people to the churches, in search of more about Jesus and the grace, peace, and truth He represents.
But how do we get such people? How must we arrange our churches so that such people are the natural “outflow” that creates the irresistible attraction and supernatural “inflow” of the lost, year-in and year-out? What are God’s priorities for such churches? Is it possible we have missed them? Or taken them for granted? Or substituted our priorities, be they ever so well-meaning, for His?
That’s what we’ll be exploring in this space through the coming weeks.
Mission Partners Outreach
Prayer for Revival
Here’s the schedule to join other men online to pray for revival this month (all times Eastern):
Monday, February 19, 9:00 pm
Wednesday, February 21, 9:00 pm
Every Tuesday morning, 10:00 am (monthly attenders welcome)
“…we are quite familiar with the unhappy fact that it is possible for Christian churches to be highly organized and equipped yet fail utterly to understand the necessity for carrying the Gospel to the people around them.”
- Roland Allen
T. M. Moore
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.