Do you wonder why your congregation is not growing? Is the pulpit filled with Biblical preaching? Does your church commit themselves to the four biblical essentials prescribed in the book of Acts: teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer?
If it does, and you’re still not growing, then what?
Is your church contagious?
I would think that if a church is carrying out at least the four essential principles found in Acts that they would be a booming church but Swindoll gives some food for thought in his third chapter.
With the idea of being contagious, Swindoll points out that every church must prescribe to the four principles found in Acts but they must not always stop there. There has to be something more. While marketing is probably best left out of the church their is a need to promote what the church is about and who the church is for, but as Swindoll notes it has to be done within the context of the church. In short, to be a contagious church, your people need to be contagious. The congregation is what will appeal to individuals more than any gimmick or promotion.
It’s the people. And it’s more than a curiosity at the numbers of people. it’s their passion. it’s their Spirit-directed enthusiasm. it’s the obvious work of God engaging the lives of believers in a meaningful connection, a genuine compassion, and an almost electric excitement about reaching out into the community and investing themselves wholeheartedly into places of ministry. (pg.76)
So how do your people become contagious? You move beyond the frivolous (gimmicks and campaigns) and you teach people to be self-fed rather than relying on the church to feed them.
Another way to be contagious is to be a church of grace. Pulling from Paul’s last letter to Timothy, Swindoll outlines what a contagious ministry looks like.
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:1-2
It is necessary to be strong in grace. Too many churches are short on grace and strong on legalism and most churches don’t even recognize that they’re legalistic. Once someone becomes a follower of Christ they need to be taught about the freedom that comes through Christ not held down by a “boatload of non-biblical rules”. A place that puts people on “probation” instead of allowing grace to fill their lives is not a contagious place.
The day a church stops being strong in grace is the day a contagious church loses its magnetism. Truth sets people free (John 8:32). Tragically, legalistic churches incarcerate them behind bars of fear. (pg.86)
There is the fear that once people begin living under grace, that they will live like the devil and just ask for forgiveness later. That’s not grace. The person who is like that has never experienced grace.
… grace doesn’t mean anything goes. Rather, grace motivates our behavior. Grace frees us to obey. Being strong in grace goes hand in hand with being committed to living the truth… Grace provides the context for God’s commands to be taught. Truth equips our minds and shapes our lives. (pg.92)
So how do you become a contagious church? Swindoll gives 2 principles:
1. Be a church strong in grace.
2. Faithfully mentor those who are coming along in the Christian life.
While we already discussed the idea of being strong in grace, the concept of mentoring,or discipling, is an area often overlooked in the church. Swindoll sums it up with this quote:
The church becomes a place of mentoring when we stop seeing people as heads to count and money to collect. Instead, we view people as opportunities to build into their lives. (pg.96)
Is grace taught at your church? What does your church do for mentoring/discipling?
Quotations are from The Church Awakening, Charles Swindoll, Faith Words-Hachette Book Group, 2010