True Church Growth?

At Christ Covenant Church, our growth has been more incremental than exponential, more spiritual than numerical. This has sparked many conversations and not a few prayers.

Over the past 13 years, we have seen 259 souls come and go.* And yet, except for one brief season, our congregation has never been larger than 100 souls at any given time. There are many reasons for that.

A few turned away from Christ to the world. Some returned to their former traditions. Others relocated for career or family needs.

All were loved. All were given the gospel of grace. All tasted the goodness of the Lord. Many are (still) missed.

The bottom line: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

If we were congregatio-centric, there might be cause for alarm. If we walked by sight, not by faith, some would be suffering panic attacks. But we believe there is more going on than anyone can see; more to the true Church of Christ than our congregation. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

As we confess each week:

we believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.

Practically speaking, by this confession we acknowledge several truths. There is more to us than meets the eye. There are more of us than it appears. There is more grace for us than guilt against us. There is more life in us than death around us.

In other words, we believe there is one Spirit, one body, one hope, world without end.

To be clear: we would love to grow, especially if that means seeing more people come to faith in Jesus Christ; or, even if that just means seeing more people come to a historic, orthodox congregation.

We long for more and more church growth, but we must resist the temptations just to shake things up, make something happen, or do whatever it takes just to gather a crowd. God calls us to rest in the ordinary means of grace and to rejoice in his gracious work through them.

According to the Scriptures, true church growth does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God who has mercy. As it is written: “God gives the increase”; and “God arranges each member in the body”; and “God composes the body” according to his elective purpose and pleasure, for the praise of his glorious grace.

Whether the Lord sees fit to make us become many or remain few or get smaller, let us be strong in God’s grace and do the good works ordained for us without fear — not by might, not by flesh, but by God’s Spirit who dwells in us.

* Hebrews 13:17 says pastors must give an account