bits from bob....
Picture this. You are given the responsibility of planting a new congregation of the Lord's church in a certain location. You understand that the church you plant will be like the church of the New Testament. What would you do first? How would you start? Would you start conducting Bible Studies in your home? Would you find a public arena in which to assemble for worship? Would you develop an outreach to children and young people? Would you tell friends and neighbors about the new church? Would you encourage other Christians to help you? Would you make sure that you were present at every service to give the new work your support and to show others the importance of this work? Certainly those who are involved in church planting would do these things and many others. Zeal, work, and energy are required for a new church plant. And the effort pays off-new church plants almost always grow faster than older congregations.
During the decades after World War II (1945-1965), the churches of Christ were among the fasting growing religious groups in America. Some statisticians say the churches of Christ were the fasting growing group. This was due in part to the fact that members of the churches of Christ were planting a large number of new congregations in areas where there were no churches. Members of the church saw church planting as a logical result of biblical evangelism. This is what happened in the early days of the church. From the early chapters of the book of Acts, we learn that Christians in the first century practiced the Great Commission and that congregations were planted and started across the entire then-known world.
A 1997 study of churches of Christ in the United States, conducted by Flavil Yeakley of Harding University, found that membership in traditionally strong areas (such as the Bible Belt) was declining while membership in mission areas was growing. What are the reasons for this decline and growth? One reason is that in areas where members of the church realize the need for new congregations, in areas where congregations see their surroundings as a mission field and feel obligated to spread the Gospel, in areas where congregations accept the responsibility to plant new congregations in nearby communities, the church is growing. On the other hand, where congregations and members of the church do not see their area as a mission field, and thus do not share the Gospel, congregations are declining, some have closed their doors, and others have had to merge with other congregations to stay alive.
When Christians see the need, find the zeal, the willingness to work, and energy that comes with planting new congregations, and use that motivation in the work of the already established local congregation, that local church will grow. Christians must realize the importance of the Great Commission and put it into practice, just as Christians did in the first century.
We who live in the United States live in a great mission field. The United States is the third largest Non-Christian nation in the world, that is. North America is also the only continent in the world where Christianity is not growing. The time has come for Christians to "lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest" (John 4:35). Jesus said again in Luke 10:2, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest."
The only way we are going to see our congregations grow, the only way we are going to stop the decline is by realizing the need to share the Gospel with the lost people around us. If we would put the same effort into our congregations that already exist, that people use in starting new congregations, we will see our churches grow. The mission field is here. Can you see it?
[adapted from an article by Mark Tonkery]
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