The Number Game

Do you ever feel that sometimes church is a number game? I often get the question, ‘How big is your church?’ As if it’s the most important question going. Sometimes I just want to answer ‘Why does it matter?’ or ‘How big is God?’ But it is always asked and one you just have to answer politely and accurately. Why? Because even if we hate to say we come from a small church or whatever, it is in fact the truth.

Big Church vs Small church

Do you ever feel as though we are in a competition? Do you feel as though big churches like to think they triumph over the smaller churches? Or are you ashamed of your little church? If you come from a small church then you know where I am coming from, sometimes we feel that we are looked down upon, or that we aren’t blessed like our brothers and sisters. We feel as though numbers matter.

Numbers do not matter.

Controversial statement perhaps. I can imagine some of you reading this are thinking, ‘Doesn’t this guy wanna see people saved or what?’ The answer to that question is yes, a thousand times yes! But that being said, a church should not count its blessings by its headcount. Sometimes, the most faithful churches are those where only a few people meet, always in prayer and in love. Sometimes they are those who are struggling to make ends meet, and sometimes they are those that everyone looks down upon because they are unable to increase the attendance of their church. Perhaps they are the ageing church down the road.
On the other hand, just because your church is big or growing, does not mean that it is necessarily faithful (which I fear is the case in many churches in our day). It could be that the preachers there are speaking what men want to hear, it is after all what the Bible says in 2 Timothy 4:3:

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

Surely they are doing something wrong! They are small for a reason! Perhaps not, the gospel after all offends, and we can do all we can, but if people do not want to listen, they won’t. Sometimes God won’t melt the hearts of stone, and that is the truth. Nevertheless, that small church should always be crying out for revival, for new people, for growth and for people to be saved. A small church that does this, constantly in prayer with our Father, one that desires revival and one that remains faithful is more powerful than a church that is huge but has no word, greater than one that attracts crowds but has none of the Lord’s saving power in its preaching.

This is not against Big Churches

Don’t get me wrong here, big churches are not bad; indeed there are many which God has blessed massively and are true to his word. But what I am attacking is our attitude. Judging our faithfulness by our membership. Big churches have a responsibility, to help those small churches, to encourage them and in some cases support them, always in prayer! I know our attitude can be sometimes, ‘well they are small because they are ‘old fashioned’ or that they are all ‘old’’. Do not forget God can use anything and anyone. Support them in prayer rather than boast about your own situation.

Encouragement for the small church

For the small church, what we should always focus on is prayer, living close to our God. The church does need to be an active church even if it is only something small. It has to be involved with its community in any means it can be. But we in a way, cannot do anything about it, if we can do all that we can do, then the only thing left to do is to give it all to God. Remember He remains faithful to us, even when we are not faithful to Him. Remember that He will NEVER forsake us or leave us. Know that our God is with us, and just believe that God will use you, whoever you are, to do amazing things for His kingdom.

To Conclude

Numbers do not matter. I don’t care if your church has 1 person, 10 people, 100 people, and 1000 people, so what? What matters more is how faithful is the church? What is more important is how many live close to the Lord, what is your church’s prayer meeting like? Small and big churches alike, these questions address us all. So stop asking us small churches how big we are and why we think we are such a size, instead greet us like brothers, like sisters and join with us in prayer. Pray for revival, and pray for his kingdom to come!

Be Active Christians

Josh recently did an article on prayer, which was well received. This article follows on from this. Josh correctly noted that prayer is essential; I think any Christian can agree with this. However, not all of us are prayer warriors, and we all have a different role to play in the church (Acts 6:2-4). Secondly, praying is all well and good, but you need to be active. This is what this article is all about; being an active Christian, i.e. faith without works is dead!

Active

My church moto, or verse for the year comes from 1 Peter 4 verses 10-11. It reads:

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

I think these are such powerful verses that need to be in the heart of every believer. We can pray, yes, but then we need to follow it up with action. There is always a danger of praying, doing nothing, and then moaning why nothing has happened. We also should never leave service to others, because we are ALL called to serve — woman, man, adult, teenager — if you are a believer then you should be using the gifts GIVEN to you to give grace to others. It is such a vital thing to do, but the church, in general, fails at it so much. We are all caught up in the world, or we are too shy, or we are self-doubting.

The New Living Translation makes verse 10 more understandable when it says “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another”. God has given us these gifts that we have, and we all unique, no one Christian is better than another, each gift is from God and therefore is so valuable and precious. We are then to use these gifts to serve, to be active, whether that is in our church, leading a service, welcoming people, doing teas and coffees, or collecting hymn books after a service, the list goes on. I am sure your church has many needs, why not see if you can fill some of those needs.

I do feel that in many churches, it has become a one man band, that the role of pastor has been perverted and misused. A pastor is not the church leader, and he certainly shouldn’t be doing everything in the church. Rather a church is a community; it needs to rely on the people, on the congregation, on its members to function properly. A church is a community where believers come together to worship and serve Christ; it is more than a service, and it is more than a sermon, it is the people, so look to serve and help, do not leave it to one person!

By being active, by serving others as though it were Christ himself, by being active in our own community, we give glory to God, who has entrusted us with these gifts and responsibilities to be his stewards and servants here on earth. God has given all to us, He has given us his grace, surely we should give what we can to people around us. This also is not just about Christians, this is about the communities in which our churches are based. It is about those whom we come into contact daily. We may pray, but do we shine? Are we just saying prayers to show off? Are we being active Christians, or are we being academic Christians? It is great to know more of God, but that isn’t just limited to reading the Bible, by living out the Bible, so to we learn.

We often take evangelism as preaching, and that just isn’t the case. Just by living out our faith is a great testament, whether it’s the small things, helping your neighbours in your road, setting up a free drop-in café in your building, giving out water when the temperature rises or help families who are in crises, any of things are us serving our local community. It is us being hospitable; it is us living out the gospel. Preaching has its place, but we are certainly not all preachers, and have all our gifts that we can use in just helping our local community.

Divine balance

As everything with this blog, we always urge a balance. Just being ‘busy’ for the sake of it is pointless; just to make us feel like we’re doing something to dumb down our consciences, so to speak. It’s important to get this right. Mary and Martha — Martha was the one running around ‘active’, whereas Mary just sat under the word. When we are being active Christians, the main purpose is to Glorify God, and to follow what he says, and that is to serve.

We need to of course, always pray that God shows us his will and his path for us. But do not be afraid to step out in faith and become an active Christian. Stop leaving it all to other people stop putting other things before your service to the church. The Church is an amazing fellowship, and it is a community of believers, let us break down the old image of the church, of a building, of a sermon and make it what it is meant to be, a community of believers, meeting together, serving one another, and the Lord.

One little thing that we can use to remember this (although we shouldn’t have to be reminded!) is use the acrostic PAL. May we be praying Christians, may we be active Christians, may we be loving Christians and be proper PALs to the lost!

P — Pray

A – Act

L – Love

Live To Give

Do we the church cling to wealth? Do we go out in the world seeking fame and fortune, wanting more and more? Do we ignore those who are in need; do we leave it to others to help the needy?  How should the church deal with money? How should we as Christians live? After all, 1 Timothy states

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life

God gives us everything, and thus we must use it for good. If you do give, you will be blessed, not like how prosperity men talk as if it’ll solve all your problems, but God will bless. Sometimes the fear of prosperity teaching makes churches shy away from talking about giving, but we should be known as a giving church, but not to those who have it all, but to those who have nothing. God has entrusted us with gifts, it may be wealth, if it is, then it should be used to help further the kingdom.

Two Bible verses always stand out to me, and of course we must take everything in context.

Mark 10:21-22:

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (NIV).

And in Acts 2:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. (NIV).

So what we see here is a heart for giving. For the rich young man, wealth got in the way of following Jesus. He loved wealth more than God, and the Bible tells us that we are prone to do so. God knows what our weakness are, and our desires, but He wants us to put Him first. Wealth is not inherently bad, but ‘is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).’ It can be a huge stumbling block in our service to the Lord.

In the verses from Acts, what do we notice? The church put others before itself. They looked after one another and gave to the poor; don’t forget, Jesus and the disciples gave constantly to the poor. Here the Apostles and the greater church gave all they had so others could be better off. They did it without any hesitation, they trusted God would care and provide for them, and He did and He still does, for us! Therefore, we need to trust Him more and give more to those who are in need.

Can a Christian own a mansion?

Well, nowhere in the Bible does it say, ‘Thou shalt not own a mansion’. But, if there are those in need in your church, even in your community, and you have a mansion, surely there’s something not quite right there? Not that a mansion in itself is bad, but if you let that mansion and your worldly goods get in the way of loving those in need, then it is a stumbling block. I know it is never easy to part with money; it is something I certainly struggle with, we want to save money, and spend it on ourselves and those around us, again nothing inherently bad, but it can also be a stumbling block. We should give, and give all we can.

James 5 does not give the rich a good outlook if they are selfish with money:

1Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. (NIV).

If you are wealthy and do not do good with it, then it is testimony against your heart. As Christians we’re called to stewardship of the gifts God has given us, that includes wealth. If you value what you have here on this earth, whilst others are in need then your heart isn’t set on Jesus. We need to look to Him and Him only! I know that I should give much more than I do, I pray that we will all be a generous and giving church.

Let us think on James 2: 14-17

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

We are meant to meet the needs of others, if we have faith but our works show nothing, then it is as James says, dead. Let us really think of these verses and how this reflects in our lives. Let us be active Christians that play an active role in their communities, rather than academic ones who rather talk about doctrine all day rather than live out the faith.

In the Christian life, we are meant to be humble, and we are meant to give it all to God. I think Hebrews 13:5 sums up the Christian attitude nicely I think. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God is with us, He is all we need, He has given all to us, let’s give it all back to Him. Serve Him and do not hold on to the things of this world!