How to build the church

What is the key to building the church?

What is the key to building a church — not a bricks and mortar building, but a dedicated following? A survey of the largest churches in north America gives an answer, and it has implications for your personal journey of faith. Let it be said, before we examine the results of the survey, that the only church that matters, as far as we are concerned, is the church that preaches Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and that exists to bring people to Christ and to strengthen the faith of believers in the knowledge of their Saviour.

It is also important to say that, in God’s eyes, big does not necessarily mean better. Out of a struggling congregation might come one of the greatest evangelists who ever lived. A mega-church, on the other hand, might never produce lasting fruit.

Nevertheless, no one sets out to serve God with failure in mind. We can surely learn from the ministry of others.

The survey we are examining was taken across a large range of Christian denominations. The churches surveyed held to different doctrinal positions. Their facilities and programmes were not the reason for their success.

The only common factors in their growth were that the senior pastor had been in the position for more than 20 years, and he smiled a lot.

There you have it: Persistence and joy.

People like to be around others who keep on keeping on; who don’t waver and doubt; who are solid and committed. As the saying goes: People want to be on a train that is going somewhere.

With our eyes fixed not on ourselves and our make-me-up problems but on Jesus, we will finish the race

And people want to enjoy the journey. They like to be around happy people.

That makes sense, doesn’t it? And it certainly doesn’t contradict anything you will read in the Bible. Yes, there is a seriousness to life. Yes, there are matters to do with the way of salvation, and the life of consecration to God, that carry a degree of solemnity. God is not mocked. And we aren’t just a happy-clappy social club with no purpose other than to entertain those who pay the admission fee.

However, we can take hold of these principles of Christian living and they will equip us for what the Bible says is a long-distance race.

Decide that it is a race, and one that, with the Lord’s help, you will finish. There will be ups and downs; good times and bad. Decide that there will be tests and challenges but, with eyes fixed not on ourselves and our make-me-up problems but on Jesus, we will carry on — never giving up on Him.

Christian happiness is not about folly — it’s about deep inner joy and peace. It’s not bought. It’s not earned. It’s grasped.

The contented, joyful Christian ...

  • The contented, joyful Christian is one who knows, and is constantly grateful, that their sins have been forgiven.

    Jesus has paid the price, and that price was sufficient.

  • The contented, joyful Christian is one who is happy to let God be God.

    Let Him do as He pleases. The problems of the world are His.

  • The contented, joyful Christian has nothing to prove and no one to impress.

    Jesus gets all the glory, now and always.

  • The contented, joyful Christian leaves judgment up to God.

    The world is in a mess. There is plenty to get indignant about, if we let ourselves. But, again, it’s God’s problem. It’s enough to keep our own hearts right before Him.

Jesus came to set us free. The chains have been thrown off. Why re-fasten the shackles?

And, finally, the contented, joyful Christian can see the funny side of life. We are a strange bunch – warped by our selfish sin nature, and on a long long journey to be completely delivered from this distorting characteristic.

The best way to get a good belly-laugh out of life is to take a look at ourselves — and then to recognise afresh that we are forgiven and completely accepted, in the Beloved.

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