I attend a wonderful church. It’s loving and giving. Members take care of each other so needs are met. The only drawback is it’s small. We live in a relatively small community but it acts as a bedroom community for nearby cities so there is plenty of opportunity to grow. I’ve attended for approximately 5 years with little change in overall size. Some people come and some people go. Most of us pray for revival, we set aside one pew each week with cords as a remembrance to pray for the newcomers who will sit there. I’ve wondered why our church doesn’t grow. We have good programming: Adult Sunday School, Women’s Bible Study, Adult Bible Study, 2 weekly prayer meetings, a Women’s Potluck that meets twice a month, an active women’s group, men’s group, and toddler play group. All of this standard programming is provided along with the witness of individuals who serve the community through food banks, clothing banks, interfaith and other service organizations. All of these godly actions are reflections of the hearts that serve but our numbers on Sunday morning stay stagnant.
As I’ve prayed for guidance, I was brought back to the early church with the massive growth Christianity showed in those founding years. Those years were focused on serving, the growth simply an outgrowth of the work being done. I was convicted. When I read about John Wesley’s reformation what stood out was the passion. He didn’t share the faith on Sunday mornings from 9-10-:30. Faith was acted out every day: meeting, praying, serving, worshipping. Behavioral expectations were high. I looked at my life and was convicted. There’s little sacrifice. Most of us meet when it’s convenient, squeezing God into a full schedule. We may serve but not gather, gather without sacrifice, worship on Sunday and then put God on the shelf the rest of the week. We aren’t horrible people. We don’t hurt others. But not doing wrong isn’t the same as doing good. Remembering to send up an arrow prayer (a quick prayer lasting but a moment) is not the same as a solid prayer life. Volunteering only when it’s convenient isn’t the point. God calls us to so much more! God DIED for us! He took human form to save us from our sins. He sent His Spirit to guide us, love us, encourage us, strengthen us! And we feel self-righteous for getting up early on a Sunday morning. We give out of our excess. And when we do serve God, we pat ourselves on the back and accept accolades for our generosity.
Our focus is wrong. We look at the numbers not the impact. We focus on the results not the power source. We focus on what WE are doing instead of what GOD is doing. We lack faith. It’s up to God to build His church. Our actions are simple obedience. Our faith to be laid at the feet of our Savior. Wesley followed three mandates: do no harm, do good, and attend upon all the ordinances of God. It was very simple and straightforward. Complete obedience to the Word of God brought people of all types, ages, races to Christ.
Let me be clear, it’s not our obedience which matters! Christ paid for ALL our sins. We are forgiven! We can’t do anything to change that BUT, when we truly grasp the gifts we’ve been given: a relationship with our heavenly Father, Grace granted by the sacrifice of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, only then will we understand the compulsion to serve God. Our obedience is a witness to the power of God. Only God has the power to do the work He calls us to do!