God is faithful and faithfulness is what God requires of us. Sometimes out of prideful ambition, I am tempted to move too fast and seek to produce results by the works of the flesh. Waiting on the Lord is hard. Seeing no visible results (e.g., growth) is hard. Seeing other churches growing at a faster rate is hard. What are others doing right and what are we doing wrong? The pressure to grow is present in all ministers and ministries. Because of this pressure, we are tempted to take things into our own hands. We need to do something now! We need to rally the troops, raise funds, get people excited, and start a few more programs (I mean “ministries”). We need a building program because, churches don’t build themselves, now do they?
What I am learning is that it is a blessing and not a curse when God does not bless our fleshly and pragmatic endeavors. When stuck in the mud, it is a blessing when we do not get things done just because we spin our tires faster. We may get dirty, but thankfully, we don’t always get more traction. If God allowed us to grow through fleshly means, it would be a more compelling temptation to abandon trust in God and take pride in our own “creative endeavors” and leadership skills. Flirting with pragmatism may not end well. It is likely to work, and before we know it, we may find ourselves in bed with it. A house built out of hay and stubble goes up quickly, but it cannot stand the blowing wind of God’s judgment.
I don’t write this out of bitterness or envy. I am not trying to console myself by thinking that growing churches must be doing something wrong. This is because the church that I pastor is growing. In the last two years, we have tripled, if not quadrupled, in size. I am having a difficult time keeping up with all the visitors and learning all the new names. Are we excited? Yes we are! It is fun seeing people interested in our church, and it’s much more enjoyable to preach to a crowd than just a handful of people.
This growth has not always been the case for Grace Bible Church. For over 10 years, we were just a handful of people who were faithfully meeting and ministering to one another. For years, we were tempted to disband because of feeling discouraged. We would add a family and we would lose a family. Year after year, nothing seemed to change. Not only were we not growing, we had no prospects of growing. Friends suggested that I look for another church to pastor. It is not easy being small, to say the least.
O how things have changed. Now we are growing and visiting families are sticking around. Amazingly, they are coming back week after week….and joining! What are we doing different? The answer—nothing! We are still preaching the same gospel and keeping true to our core commitments. Without any posturing and maneuvering on our part, it seems that God is adding to our number. I am more of a spectator than a contributor. But do not think that this numerical increase is a result of our faithfulness, as if God is rewarding us for what we have done right. There are too many other churches, just as faithful for even longer periods of time, which are not experiencing any major growth for me to think that our church must somehow be better. The size and growth of a church has nothing to do with how God views a church. Rather, faithfulness is what God is impressed with, no matter the size of the church.
This brings me to what I am in the process of learning—the church belongs to God and He can do with it what He wishes. We are just stewards and ministers in the ministry that belongs to Him. Our responsibility is to remain faithful regardless if we shrink, maintain, or grow in size. God’s responsibility is to care for, empower, and supply the needs of the church. Too many times, we are tempted to take over God’s responsibilities to fulfill our own personal ambitions rather than seeking to be content laboring with the fold that He has assigned and allotted to us.
I am learning that the church belongs to God, and this is liberating. I don’t have to stress about growing the church but simply follow orders. I am merely to obey the Word of God and be faithful to what God has called me to do, such as preach, encourage, love, help, evangelize, and serve the body. If we grow or shrink, it does not necessarily mean that I am doing anything right or wrong.
I am learning that the ministry is too big for me. I am learning that I can do little to nothing to keep our church together. The church is something that is supernatural and something too big for me to maintain. I need God. The church needs God. And, if it is God’s church, then it is God’s responsibility to sustain and hold our little flock together, and if He decides to move His sheep into other local churches, who am I to withstand Him. It is His church and He has the right to do with it as He pleases. Knowing that it is not my responsibility to sustain or build the church allows me to rest at night. My job is simple…just be faithful and put the results in God’s hands.
I am learning that a growing church has many more needs, such as new building(s), and more money is needed to fund these new building projects. But, thankfully, I am learning that my job is not to become a fundraiser but to remind the church that we are to be good stewards of the money that God has given to our church. I am learning that it is God’s responsibility to supply the needs of the church. If God can take care of millions of Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness, He can take care of the needs of our little flock in Conway, Arkansas. Tempted as we may be to want to take over God’s responsibility by irresponsibly going deep into debt and hound God’s sheep for money every week in fear that if we do something quickly, the rate of growth will slow down if not stop altogether, I am learning to relax and wait on God.
I am learning that God is faithful. God is faithful. No matter what size of church, God is faithful.