First the Kingdom, part 11: The Mustard Seed Conspiracy, Part 2
Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to nature in the manner of its growth. He said that the tiny mustard seed had the potential to grow far beyond its original size. He also noted that amazing things happen in the earth while we sleep. A farmer does not have to stand over the area where he prepared the ground and planted the seed. The seed gradually absorbs moisture and nourishment from the ground, and extends its roots very quietly and steadily. Most of the growth is hidden at first, and even when visible it is not much to look at. Many months go by before the goal of the farmer is actually reached. Finally in the harvest season, he can bring in the visible proof of this process, providing food for many!
In modern times many are in such a rush to achieve their goals. They need to see results fast. I have noticed how excited people get in the process of new church buildings. They are usually eager to give money and time to something they can physically see come into view. I know buildings do not grow up overnight, but you can see fairly soon that digging has begun. All the heavy machinery is there throughout the process of preparing for water, gas and electric lines. Then the foundation is laid, walls go up followed by the roof. Sometimes progress is seen daily. Often it is at least weekly, unless held up by unfavorable weather.
Actual spiritual growth is different. Maybe that is why patience is so emphasized in the Bible. There are times when the seed is being sown, but very little growth is seen. The message of the Gospel and the teachings of Christ are being shared, but it takes time for hearts to be changed, and lives to reveal what God has done in them. This is both true with individuals and groups of people. Because things often move slowly, some become discouraged and even give up in the effort to spread His Word.
A common way to generate enthusiasm in a church is to start another building program. This really sparks interest. Today however, some folks are finding the joy of Other wonderful efforts that can equally spark interest. These might not draw as much attention, but they can be powerful expressions of the Kingdom of God in the earth. Things like prison ministry, small group Bible studies and House Church networks, prayer groups, recovery groups, serving the homeless or young families etc. These activities are the Church in action. They mirror the forward movement of the First Century Church.
If this message does one thing, I hope every one of you who feels insignificant in the Body of Christ will come to realize how powerful in Christ you really are! Paul in his letter to the Romans strongly urges his brothers and sisters in Christ in this way. In chapter 12 he tells them the greatest act of worship is to offer our bodies, our lives in service to God. This is different from the world in general and requires the transformation of the renewed mind. If you are feeling insignificant, then you need to have your mind renewed! Hear the Word of the Lord! God has given each of us a special capacity to serve and to bless others! Notice in Romans 12 that this is not limited to leadership gifts. He simply gives examples of some of the things that God might want to do through you. Don’t worry if your gift is not included in that list. It is the principle that counts. I have often noticed that the best environment for discovering your purpose is in the fellowship of small, dedicated groups of believers.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he explains how important it is for each person to fulfill his or her purpose. As each organ and part of the human body needs to do its part for the body to be healthy, so it is with the Church, the Body of Christ. As each part functions, the whole body becomes stronger and grows to the full potential that it has in Christ. This is real Kingdom growth. While a church building with a sign on its door can become filled with people, that does not necessarily translate to the growth of the Body of Christ. In fact, up to half and even more in some situations are not even born-again children of God!
The growth of the Body of Christ cannot be measured by the size of the building or the numbers in the seats. Thank God for buildings full of people who are hearing the Gospel and learning about Christ! But thank God also for the small groups all over the world that only God can count. Those who deeply love Jesus, and one another. It can become a problem in our modern culture for the people in large meetings to miss the growth the comes through true fellowship. To some, church is sitting in a pew for an hour and watching others perform. Then they go home and return to their ordinary lives, missing the joy of participation in the adventure that is the Kingdom of God!
If you have ever tasted of the vital church experience that even in a small way resembles that of the Church in the book of Acts, you know what I am talking about. I have found that I can no longer be satisfied with anything less. While I love large gatherings with dynamic music and powerful preaching, I have found that face-to-face gatherings and one-on-one fellowship are much more important to me. This is where I learn of the great value that Christ has invested in my fellow believers.
In this context I have watched when an individual confesses a need, and others who never speak up in the public service rush in with compassion and support. Then there are the times when I discover that someone was confused by what was said from the pulpit, but was not free to ask a question. This is where the small group can greatly help bring understanding and at the same time build relationships with one another. This is where we discover that we are not a corporation, but a family!
Speaking only from my own experience, it is only too easy to think of people as a necessary component of the church, and not the church itself. Sometimes we even tend to think that the people are there to support the pastors, teachers and evangelists so that they can do the work of the ministry. As a matter of fact, in God it is the other way around! These are gifted to the Church to equip the members for their individual ministries!
We need the Biblical view that each follower of Christ is a member of this supernatural Body in which Jesus Himself lives! The material building is only important for how well it provides a place for the Body of Christ to meet. The Early Church met from house to house and in the Temple courts in Jerusalem. Elsewhere they took advantage of any suitable venue. In fact, the true temple to them was made up of individual living stones, that together made up the House of God!
It is important to notice that during the period before the building of dedicated church buildings, the growth the Church was phenomenal! The Kingdom of God is about transformed hearts, minds and lives. This hidden work is much more effective in transforming society than a great show of success on television. History will bear this out. George Whitfield along with John and Charles Wesley did most of their work in the open air in 18th Century England. Then they organized small groups for discipleship outside of the established Church. During this period the Gospel of Jesus Christ transformed England in many visible ways. Look it up!
It is time that God’s people allowed themselves to realise that He is not confined to special buildings we call “churches,” but He is everywhere His people are! If we return to the simple pattern we see in the New Testament, we will see how the Holy Spirit of God can work through us in wonderful ways as well, and we will experience the true freedom that He has always desired for us!
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