In these days of apparent church decline, growth is the thing that gets everyone’s attention. We all love to see churches and ministries expand grow, develop and become established.
Although we know that God works in seasons, we have plenty of reason to believe that God wants it too! In Deuteronomy 7:13 the Israelites were told that God ” . . .will love you, bless you, and multiply you . . .”
Likewise in Ezekiel we read this promise: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people like a flock, and in Isaiah that the least one shall become a clan, and the smallest one a mighty nation.
In the New Testament, growth again seems to be high on the agenda. Who doesn’t get excited by Luke’s progress reports, scattered though Acts, about how the church grew as the Gospel prospered, and the Lord added?
Growth, however brings its own challenges. In recent days, the small church that I help lead has seen measure of growth, particularly in terms of young families with children and babies. Wonderful – truly wonderful! But… where do we find all the Sunday School teachers to serve or indeed the various rooms that might be needed?
In a similar way, MCM is undergoing significant expansion as we ramp up to offer daytime services to our homeless guests through the Quarterway project and “halfway house” services though the Windsor Bungalow. Where do we find all the extra volunteers? How do we apply our standards of behaviour to those who are effectively living in their own home? Challenge, stress and opportunity for conflict at every turn!
Of course it was no different for the early church. In Acts 6 we read that when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.
Growth brought a problem. It seems that while the church was dealing with rapid increase, the Greek speaking widows in the church were being neglected. As we read on, we find that the Apostles dealt decisively with the problem and this disturbing episode is brought to a close by another one of Luke’s progress reports – And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem…
Growth is close to God’s heart as it is to ours, though it often brings new challenges and fresh obstacles to overcome. By the grace and wisdom of God these challenges can be met and the obstacles overcome.
May the word of God increase and the number of disciples multiply greatly!
Yesterday news broke that Prince had died. It’s both sad and shocking to think of such a creative and talented person dying so young. What is even more shocking however is the fact that Prince has joined the growing ranks of famous people who have died this year. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Ronnie Corbet, Terry Wogan, Victoria Wood, Prince – who’s next?
The figures bear out that that up to now 2016 has seen an extraordinarily high number of “notable” deaths. According to a BBC news item up to this time in 2014, the number of famous deaths was 38. By this time last year, the number was 30. This year, the number is already 75!
Is it just coincidence? Is it just that we have more “celebrities” than we used to have? Are the bumper crop of Baby Boomer celebs just getting old? I’ll leave that one to the statisticians.
For now I’ll just say that I’m glad I’m not famous.
Being realistic, it shouldn’t be much of a shock that people die. Ordinary people do it all the time. Maybe it just hits us harder because these stars have brought us joy down the years through their talents. Perhaps we have begun to associate “Fame” with living forever, as suggested by the theme tune of the aptly named 80’s TV show.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be reminded of our mortality. According to the Bible, death represents an eternal point of no return. Up to the moment of death, we may repent, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and be forgiven and restored. For those who die in their sins however, there is no longer any hope. We are told in Hebrews Chapter 9, verse 27 that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” No second chances. No appeals. Our spiritual condition at death determines our eternity.
It is quite right that Prince’s life and achievements be celebrated. He will be missed by his fans. They should mourn his passing, just as we have mourned the passing of so many “ national treasures” this year.
But in the process of celebrating talent and mourning the loss of great entertainers, lets give a thought to the fragility of our own lives. Lets give thanks for so great a salvation offered to us in Christ, by a merciful God!
Please click below to download Paul Winter’s Spring 2016 newsletter.