Due to a tragic sailing accident, Fred had been marooned on a desert island for ten years and given up for dead. You can imagine the astonishment when he was accidentally discovered by the coastguard. As they were helping Fred to the pontoon to transport him back to the main vessel, one of the Guardsman stopped and said, “Fred, I have to ask, how did you survive for ten years without going stir-crazy?” Fred, pointed inland at three crude structures and responded, “do you see those three buildings? That’s how I stayed sane. They gave me a sense of normalcy.” “Oh yea,” the Guardsman asked, “how so?” “Well,” explained Fred, “The first one was my home – where I spent most of my time. And the second building is where I went to church to worship the Lord.” Fred turned back around as if the conversation was over. “Wait a minute,” said the Guardsman. “What is the third building?” Fred sighed and furrowed his brow. “Oh that…. that’s where I used to go to church.”
God’s Growth Chart
We have blogged our way close to the end of God’s growth chart found in 2 Peter 1:5-7. In other words, the people who make it this far are very mature followers of Jesus Christ. Remember, growing in this way IS God’s will for you in your life! He wants you to add to yourself each of the 8 qualities found in this verse. The chart starts with faith. Then we are to add moral excellence; then add knowledge, then self-control, then perseverance. After perseverance we are to add godliness. Godliness, as we saw in my last blog article, means “awe and devotion to God.” If your life demonstrates an awe and devotion to God – you are a godly person. Now that’s Christian maturity, is it not? What in the world can we add to become MORE mature than a life characterized by awe and devotion to God? The answer is – brotherly kindness.
Let’s Learn Greek!
I know you all love it when your pastor starts breaking down sentences in the Greek, don’t you? Well, this one is easy to remember. The Greek word translated “brotherly kindness” is philadelphia. And we all know what the motto is for the city of Philadelphia is don’t we? Of course we do…. Philadelphia is the city of brotherly shove. Just kidding, that’s what it has become, Philadelphia’s motto is the actual meaning of the Greek word – the city of brotherly love, or “Love of the brethren.” In the New American Standard Bible, philadelphia is translated “brotherly kindness.” God wants His children to grow into loving each other! Please know this Christian church, a Christian’s priority is Christians. Did you hear that? Your earthly priority is your brothers and sisters in Christ!
Churches are there to Reach the Community!
Okay Mr. Fundamentalist Heading, I have no beef with you. Of course it is important to reach the community. I think we can all agree that outreach is good. This is probably a blog article for another day, but I see a lot of churches and denominations that are all about outreach aka numerical growth! New facilities – to attract people, new programs – to attract people, Halloween…. excuse me Fall Festival carnivals – to attract people, coffee bars – to attract people, flyers / mailers / concerts / radio commercials / celebrity guest speakers / back to school haircuts / theater style seating with coffee holders / woke language / express worship services — all in an attempt to attract people! And all too often we see these programs and projects taking place while the people who are already in the church are bickering, fighting, spreading gossip about each other and engaged in power struggles. Why is this? Why do we see dissension in the church even to the point that churches split up (like Fred’s church)? Quite simply it is because churches are full of immature Christians. A Christian’s priority is other Christians. Our priority is to love each other. That takes priority – even over loving the world. Would you like proof?
So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. (Galatians 6:10 NASB)
The Best Church Growth Program
I think the best local church growth program can be found in Acts chapter 2. The only thing is – if you try this, don’t do it in the name of “church (numbers) growth.” Do it in the name of “Thy will be done.” Acts 2 describes what I believe was the very first Christian church. This was a church without: a marketing team, a sweet building, a sweet sign with funny messages on the message board, a coffee bar, a book store, a screen for song lyrics and I’m not sure but I don’t think they had a Christian rock band and fog machine. Yet they are described as adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. More accurately it says the Lord was adding to their numbers…. What did they do? I encourage you to read Acts 2, but here are the Cliff Notes: They were unified, they gave to those who had need, shared with one another, ate together worshiped together, In short, they loved each other with brotherly kindness. Or you might say that God loved each of them and He used brothers and sisters in the church to do so. This radical love so stood out from the rest of the world that people risked persecution because they wanted what God’s people had. Read that last sentence again and ask yourself if that might apply today? So perhaps before we start a fund raising campaign for a coffee bar – we ought to focus our attention on growing spiritually and loving the brethren (brothers and sisters). A Christian’s priority is Christians.