A couple of weeks ago, we began a discussion concerning church growth. We noticed that Paul mentions the “equation” for growth in 1 Corinthians 3:6 when he says, “I planted. Apollos watered. God gave the growth.” Last week, we noted that growth occurs when our efforts (planting and watering) are multiplied by the power of the Lord. Although we have responsibilities, He makes the difference.
As a reminder, here’s how we might put Paul’s words into an equation:
([Paul]p + [Apollos]w)Lord = growth
(planting + watering)Lord = growth
As we finish our thoughts this month on church growth, it seems appropriate to simplify our equation as much as possible. We must realize that the Lord needs each one of us; He wants our name in parentheses; He will multiply our efforts. We could simply write it this way:
(Joey)Lord = growth
(Your name)Lord = growth
Let’s notice some things together that will characterize a life that’s being used by God for growth:
Be a child of God. God’s efforts to cause growth in our lives, in the lives of those around us, and in the church depend on us depends on us being truly His. Sure, He loves everyone, but he does great things with His children. Are you a child of God? Have you obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ (Col. 2:12)? If you’ve become a Christian but aren’t living life one, don’t you want to come back home to a loving and powerful Father (Lk. 15)? We all want great things for our own lives, for our families, and for our church home. God gives us His power when we submit to His will and to His control.
Do something. As Christians, we often get shy and timid about some of our Biblical responsibilities. We don’t have enough courage to talk to someone about their relationship with Jesus. We’re afraid we might offend a brother by talking to him about his lifestyle. We don’t say anything to a dear sister who needs encouragement because we don’t know what to say. These insecurities and others like them reflect a false perception of the Lord’s work: it’s not about what we do! The Lord needs us to do something for Him and He’ll make the progress. In talking about consoling others (funeral homes, etc.), one of my beloved college professors asked us, “What’s wrong with just saying, ‘I love you’?” His point was we would be saying something and it’s something we all want to hear. That’s something that will cause growth.
Be positive. Despite the threats of persecution—first from Jews, then from Romans—the first century church was excited about the opportunity to tell others about Jesus! In Acts 4, Peter and John said, “We can’t help be speak the things we have seen and heard!” What a marvelous example of a positive attitude. During Exposure last month, I talked briefly with Keith Parker, who spoke on Thursday night. He asked me the following question about Wednesday’s events: “How many baptisms did you have?” Not “did you have any baptisms?” Not “did you have a good night?” Not “who spoke last evening?” But “how many…” He didn’t know me before that evening; he likely didn’t know many of the 800ish people there in Huntsville; yet, he still expected for there to be growth among us. The Lord needs us to be positive.
Be where you are. It would be easy to look at Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:6 and think, “That’s just for preachers.” Paul was a preacher. Apollos was a preacher. Therefore, the Lord needs only preachers and other leaders doing His work. Go up to verse 5: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed…” We’re all servants: preachers, teachers, elders, deacons, members, YOU! Later, in verse 9, Paul says, “For we are God’s fellow workers.” Paul intended for more than he and Apollos to be “fellow workers.” Did the Corinthians have major problems? Of course. But Paul still said he was their fellow worker. God needs us; most importantly, he needs us where we’re at. He needs us to work.
If we don’t do it, who will?