Biblical church growth
Last evening, Trinity Reformed Church held our annual congregational meeting for the election of church officers and reception of annual reports. It is our habit each year to bind the reports together and distribute them Sunday morning after worship so the congregation can read them prior to the meeting in the evening. At the meeting, we go through each of these reports from front to back, taking questions and comments and, in a number of cases, receiving particular notes of gratitude or words of exhortation from ministry leaders.
I note this because it’s a very good habit for churches to adopt. Having an evening set aside each year to build cairns of remembrance for what God has done among us the previous twelve months strengthens our faith for the year to come, allowing us also to change bad habits brought to our attention and to commend as a congregation men and women who have served us in particularly noticeable ways it is the fullness of time to recognize and thank.
Writing these reports also is good discipline for each ministry leader as well as the deacons, elders, and pastors. We evaluate the last year and think of the year to come in more strategic ways. For myself, these reports inform me of much work being done in the congregation caring for our flock in ways that escape my particular atttention in the normal course of events. I learn a lot from the meetings each year, and if I do so, others learn much also.
Anyhow, I thought my report might be helpful for some to read.
SENIOR PASTOR’S REPORT
God has continued to shower us with His lovingkindness in this our twenty-fourth year of witness to the Lord Jesus Christ here in Bloomington, Indiana. What joy that He continues to add to our number those who are being saved through the work of repentance and faith carried out by His Holy Spirit. One test of a church’s health is that this spiritual fruit comes both from within and without.
When a church only adds to its number by way of children becoming adults and confessing faith, that church is likely to be selfish, lacking in love for the lost. When a church only adds to its number by way of new believers, that church is likely to be selfish also, lacking in the marital love that fulfills God’s purpose in and through Christian marriage—“that He might seek a godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15).
Of course, when we add to our number by welcoming children into our homes whether by marriage or adoption or foster care, there are many challenges we must meet by faith. How will we teach and train them? Whom will we allow to help us with these tasks? How will we feed them? How will we afford insurance when they begin to drive? How will we help them make a good marriage? When they reach junior high and high school, how will we grow enough in humility that we’ll listen to, and heed, other brothers and sisters in Christ who warn us about this or that weakness in our sons and daughters?
Then, heaviest challenge of all, if our children must be subjected to formal discipline by the elders, how will we trust God in this when it is so very painful and we are tempted to doubt God that the discipline of His Church will bear fruit in accordance with His will?
As one of your shepherds, it has given me great joy and peace to watch the willingness of many of you to accept—and at times, even seek—input from other parents and grandparents concerning the lives and character of your children. Thank you. This makes our work as deacons, pastors, and elders (as well as Titus 2 “older women”) a joy, and we know from Scripture that when you submit to us in such a way that our work is a joy, this is profitable to you (Hebrews 13:17).
We must meet similar challenges when we add to our number new believers from outside the church. New Christians who are older in years are incapable of eating spiritual meat, but must stick with spiritual milk. They must be fed the first, elemental, basic truths of Christian faith. Scripture describes them needing “milk” rather than “solid foods” which are “for the mature” (Hebrews 5:12-13). Whether we are mothering teenagers who grew up in the church or forty-year-olds returning to the Lord or being given new birth, it’s a wonderful work that requires love and patience.
The thing is, anyone called to give the care of motherhood has trouble thinking how short the intensive work will be and how soon it will be over and the former child will be doing the work him or herself. Adopting. Giving birth. Diapering and nursing and burping and cleaning and training day by day toward maturity. Grandparents know it. We watch our children in wonder that our own babies now have babies of their own, some of whom will soon marry and in turn will have babies of their own!
In very simple form, this is the summary of all church history. And seen across the decades of one’s own life, it’s no more surprising to watch it in the family of man than it is in the family of God called the Church. It never occurred to me that soon I would be serving a church filled with the children and grandchildren of those who first called themselves “Church of the Good Shepherd!”
So brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in well-doing. Keep nursing and cleaning and disciplining and teaching God’s sons and daughters, and before you can say “Jack Robinson” the brothers and sisters you were nursing and instructing will themselves be nursing and instructing other sons and daughters of God. It is in this way God builds His Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against her. He promises us this is His method—that we bear much fruit and so prove to be His disciples (John 15:8).
As we have said each year, Mary Lee and I praise God for the brothers and sisters, sons and daughters we have through Christ here in this fellowship. May the Lord continue to add to our number those who are being saved.
With deep affection in Christ,
Pastor Tim and Mary Lee Bayly