I picked up a book that I started reading when part of the staff of another church, The Trellis and the Vine by Marshall and Payne. So far, I’m loving it. It reminds me of the first time I picked up Total Church by Timmis and Chester; I’m reading my own thoughts back along with several additions. Here are some excerpts from chapter 3 for your encouragement.
Paul describes the progress of the gospel among the Colossians in much the same way. Epaphras had preached the word of truth to them, and Paul thanks God that when they heard it they responded with faith. And as in Acts, Paul then describes the gospel as having a vibrant, growing life of its own: “…the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth…” (Col 1:5-6). Throughout the world, the gospel is spreading, propagating, budding, flowering, bearing fruit. People hear it and by God’s mercy respond and are saved. But it doesn’t stop there. Once the gospel is planted in someone’s life and takes root, it keeps growing in them. Their lives bear fruit. They grow in love and godliness and knowledge and spiritual wisdom, so that they walk in a manner worthy of their calling, fully pleasing to the Father, bearing fruit in every good work (Col 1:9-10, 2:6-7).
We talk a lot these days about church growth. And when we think about our lack of growth, we think of the lack of growth of our particular congregation: the stagnation or decline in numbers, the wobbly state of the finances, and possibly the looming property issues. But it’s interesting how little the New Testament talks about church growth, and how often it talks about ‘gospel growth’ or the increase of the ‘word’. The focus is on the progress of the Spirit-backed word of God as it makes its way in the world, according to God’s plan.
Payne, Tony; Marshall, Colin (2012-04-02). The Trellis and the Vine (Kindle Locations 436-447). Matthias Media. Kindle Edition.
Now you may not be in the habit of thinking about God’s work in the world in precisely these terms, but I trust you see the implications.
The first and most obvious is that if this is really what God is doing in our world then it is time to say goodbye to our small and self-oriented ambitions, and to abandon ourselves to the cause of Christ and his gospel. God has a plan that will determine the destiny of every person and nation in the world, and it is unfolding here and now as the gospel of Christ is preached and the Holy Spirit is poured out. Is there anything more vital to be doing in our world? It is more important than our jobs, our families, our pastimes—yes, even more important than the comfort and security of familiar church life. We need to recapture the radicalism of what Jesus said to the young man who wanted to return and bury his father: “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60).
Payne, Tony; Marshall, Colin (2012-04-02). The Trellis and the Vine (Kindle Locations 455-463). Matthias Media. Kindle Edition.