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Editorial: 10,000 percent church growth—do we have what it takes?

 

If we would humble ourselves before God, and be kind and courteous and tenderhearted and pitiful, there would be one hundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one.”1 I know what “only one” means.

They had a tradition in the Andrews University religion department. If you wanted a preaching appointment, you could sign up and a note would be placed in your campus mailbox. The note would give you the name of the church, the address, the distance, the membership figure, and the attendance figure.

I signed up and received a note saying my church was in Indiana—three hours away—and it had twelve members. I said, “Oh, my. Three hours . . . twelve.” Then I read further: “Attendance, six.” I said, “Oh, my. Three hours . . . six.” A seminarian asked me if I would be preaching anywhere on Sabbath. I gave the name of the church and he started to chuckle. “I know,” I said. “Twelve members, only six attend.”

“Six!” he said. “It’s four; I’ve been there.”

Arriving at the church, the members spent the first five minutes apologizing about why the fourth member was absent. So, there we were. By the time one went to the piano and another accompanied me onto the platform . . . as I said, I know what “only one” means. Humility, kindness, courtesy, tenderness, and compassion. Glen Coon says, “If we should go so far as to spend ten times as much money as we are now spending, and by so doing succeed in learning those five graces that would bring to Christ one hundred times as many souls as we are now bringing, it would still be the most glorious investment this cause has ever made.”2

Men and women together—bearing fruit and multiplying (Gen. 1:28). Paul says, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32, NKJV). The prerequisite for fruitfulness and multiplication is love and respect (verse 33). Our General Conference president, Elder Ted Wilson, said, “We need Christians who can manifest the love of Jesus as they work in the cities.”3

Emerson Eggerichs says, “Love alone is not enough.”4 The Lord also requires justice, mercy, and humility (Mic. 6:8). We were created for fellowship and service. It was not good then and it is not good now that the man should be alone. Elder Wilson appealed, “Pray for men and women to unite in the proclamation of the prophetic Advent message of Holy Scripture.”5

This is the unity for which Jesus prayed. Men and women, separated in the tragedy of the Fall, are to unite in the ministry of redemption. Elder Wilson urges, “No matter your age, nationality, or gender, God is calling you to be part of His mission.”6

One hundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one— that’s a growth rate of 10,000 percent. Can love, respect, and compassion in a church literally win thousands? When the fruit of the Spirit is fully experienced in the believers, then the gifts of the Spirit will be fully expressed in the body. The gospel will reach the whole world. Ellen White says, “The members of the Christian church are designed expressly by God to live the Christ-life. . . . The kingdom of God is founded upon infinite love, compassion, and purity . . . Had God’s people lived up to all the light they have received . . . thousands upon thousands would have been converted, and the message of warning would have been proclaimed to the world.”7

So how did things go, that Sabbath in Indiana? After the service I asked, “What do you do now? All three of you?” They said they would go to their various homes for lunch. I said, “You are from different families, then? So, you fellowship together at some time during the week?”

“No,” they said, “this is it! Oh, but some Sabbath afternoons we pass out leaflets inviting people to our church.” I said, “Don’t pass out any more leaflets. Until you three can become a church family, it doesn’t make sense inviting anyone else to join you.” I’ve learned that it doesn’t take two or three hundred to have church. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20, KJV). Jesse Wilson’s lead article reminds us that pastoral leadership and evangelism begin with listening. This may be in small groups, but it must always be in relationships. By intentionally embracing humility, courtesy, tenderness, and compassion, one can become one hundred, two can become two hundred, and three can become three hundred. Your church can experience one hundred conversions to the truth, where now there is only one.

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1 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1909), 189.

2 Glenn A. Coon, Path to the Heart (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958), 182.

3 “ ‘Mission to Cities’ Outreach,” Adventist Mission, 2013, am.adventistmission.org/mission-to-cities-outreach.

4 Emerson Eggerichs, Love and Respect (Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers, 2004), 1.

5 Ted N. C. Wilson, “A Personal Message from Ted N. C. Wilson Regarding Recent Disasters,” Adventist Review online, September 9, 2017, www.adventistreview.org
/church-news/story5442-prayer-for-gods-protection-and-proclamation
.

6 Ted N. C. Wilson, “God’s Mission,” Adventist World, September 2016, 5.

7 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church Containing Letters to Physicians and Ministers Instruction to Seventh-day Adventists (Nashville, TN: June 1904), 18.

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