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‘More people, more active, more often’

October 2014 | by Greg Hanley

This is the slogan of the Trafford sports centres. I have been visiting my local gym now for a number of years. One thing is certain, the gym is not working to anywhere near full capacity. This reminds me of many churches, and I think this would also make a great slogan for any church.

More people

How many people feel a burden and concern for the lost? How many seek to make known the saving gospel? How many actually go out with the gospel in some form of direct contact?

I think you will find the answer is very few, and in some churches none. Now look at Acts 8:4: ‘Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word’.

You will see that it was not the church leaders who did this, for they stayed in Jerusalem. It was the ordinary believers. Realise that the word for ‘preaching’ in the original Greek is not exposition, but simply sharing. You don’t have to be a gifted preacher like Philip (in Acts 8:5, ‘preached’ is from a different word) to bear witness for Christ.

We need more ordinary believers to go out with the gospel and, when this happens, churches will grow.

More active

When I look back over the 48 years since my conversion, I think of the activities in the churches in those days. We had two Sunday services, a Sunday school in the afternoon, youth work, a midweek prayer meeting and separate midweek Bible study, and very often Saturday evening fellowship, as well as once a week outreach. We were all expected to be involved.

When I look at some church programmes today, which may have just one Sunday service in the morning, one midweek meeting, no children’s clubs and no weekly outreach (some have a day meeting for older folk, perhaps a coffee morning), is it any wonder that we are struggling to grow our churches both numerically and spiritually?

Church leaders set the programme. They are responsible to move the work forward and give a lead in every area of church life. We need to be more active! The apostle Paul’s example was, ‘I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me’ (1 Corinthians 15:10).

More often

I see many people coming to the gym with enthusiasm to begin, but then dropping off too soon. It takes determination to keep going, even in spite of discouragement and injury.

A great example for the churches today is given by the Thessalonians, of whom Paul said, ‘For, from you the Word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place’ (1:8).

If those believers could reach out from Thessalonica to the proportionately much larger areas of Macedonia and Achaia, then we should be able to reach the communities around our church (and across the whole world), and we will — if more Christians are more active, more often.

Greg Hanley