CHURCH GROWTH (V)
Factors in Church Growth (2)
“The Times We Are Living In”
There are a number of factors which can affect church growth. Sometimes, the lack of growth in a congregation is explained by the “times we are living in.” The moral and religious climate of today can have a negative bearing on the growth of a congregation.
We do live in a very worldly society. Many people do not believe in the existence of God. The divorce rate is high. Many couples do not even marry— they just live together instead and adultery is very common. Homosexuality is not only being widely practiced but is being accepted by a large segment of our society.
But, many people in our country are very religious. However, man-made doctrines are commonly taught and believed. Furthermore, many people do not understand the concept of Bible authority, choosing instead to follow their own feelings, the beliefs of their parents, denominational dogmas, and creeds. Many people are so confused religiously it is very difficult to teach them. Thus, we face the “up-hill” task of unteaching them before we can successfully instruct them regarding the truth of God’s Word.
However, the New Testament shows many were converted to Christ even though they previously lived very immoral lives. Consider the kind of lives many of the Corinthians lived prior to their conversion. Paul said in I Corinthians 6:9-11, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (NKJV). The Corinthians, prior to their conversion, had been involved in much immorality and sin. However, the key is they were taught and became Christians and thus were “sanctified” and “justified” in the name of Christ. Immoral people certainly can be converted.
One big problem Paul and others had in teaching the Gentiles is that the Gentiles did not, generally, believe in the true God. In Athens, for example, the city was full of idolatry, so Paul had to preach to them about God (Acts 17:22-31) and had to preach against their idols. When he talked to them about the resurrection (v. 31-32), they apparently interrupted his sermon. Some mocked him and others said that they would hear him again. Yet, even among these idolaters, some became believers (v. 34). Idolatry was common throughout the Roman world, but in spite of this, the gospel was preached, many people became believers, and churches were established throughout the world (Col. 1:23).
Another major obstacle in the days of the early church was the task of trying to change the Jewish people from the religion of the Old Law (which they had always known) to Christianity. This would not have been an easy task. Even during the ministry of Christ, many of the Jews rejected Him (Jn. 6:41-42, 59-60, 66). Thus, the teachers in the early church had an extremely difficult task of convincing the Jews that the old law had been nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14-17), and that the Law of Christ (the perfect law of liberty — Jas. 1:25) was intended to replace the Law of Moses. The Jews, many of whom were very religious, would need to turn away from the religion they had grown up in and would have had to start serving Christ. In spite of these obstacles, thousands of Jews were converted to Christ and the early church grew.
Yes, we do live in very immoral times, and there is much confusion in the religious world. This might be a factor in people not being converted and a factor in a particular local congregation not growing. Yet, this situation existed in the days of the early church, but, in spite of it, the Word was still taught and they grew! While the times we live in might be a factor in a congregation not growing as we would like it to, it is clear people can still be converted in the midst of our wicked times.