Adding Church Members

Posted on October 24, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

Most churches are committed to growth and adding members. There are some who are satisfied with their legacy of close-knit relationships and continue a cliquish fellowship in which outsiders never feel welcome. Others have given up on outreach, finding methods of attracting new members elusive. But most realize their purpose is to impact lostness and bring others into the kingdom through intentional ministry and outreach to those living in their community.

However, most efforts for effective impact in the world and growing attendance are meager at best. Churches that are growing are those attracting members by transfer from neighboring congregations. Rather than adding converts from the world, churches are engaged in a competitive game of fruit-basket-turnover. Baptismal statistics continue to decline and most of those being saved represent biological growth of children whose families are already in the church and members who come under conviction they were never born again and are rebaptized.

Methods designed to stimulate church growth and take evangelism into the world have been ceaseless. A few churches are actually effective in employing block parties, home groups and training in relational witnessing but usually fall back into old routines after a brief spurt of enthusiasm and growth. Spectacular events often attract impressive crowds and may result in a few new members, but they are expensive and the appeal is difficult to sustain.

There is legitimate concern for growing numbers of plateaued and dying churches and a less than optimistic prognosis for the future of churches in America. It has correctly been said that a church that is not growing is dying–there is no in between. A confusion factor in all this is the increasing number of “unchurched” people who identify themselves as “spiritual.” They just don’t see the church, as they have experienced it, as relevant to their needs and spiritual nurture.

Reading a familiar passage in the Book of Acts, I was struck by the final statement in chapter two: “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). We need to be reminded that it is the Lord that adds members to our churches. It is His Spirit who convicts the lost of sin, draws them to the truth of gospel, gifts them with faith to believe and incorporates them into a local body of believers through regeneration and baptism. How was it that the Lord was adding to the church daily, not just weekly when a powerful sermon was preached and an impassioned invitation given?

Certainly the apostles and initial group of believers were witnessing to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and testifying of their transformed life. But the thing that impressed me was the fact that the Lord was adding to the church because the church was functioning as it was designed to function in fellowship and unity, devoted to discipleship and growth in the word. They were of one mind, willingly sharing their property and possessions with those in need. They reflected a radiant joy and sincerity of heart.

How many churches today fail to exhibit this kind of love and unity? When outsiders see the passivity of our religious devotion, squabbles among members and lack of joy and victorious living, they have a right to express skepticism regarding our sincerity. The lack of signs and wonders give evidence that the Lord cannot entrust His power to a church that is not serious about being a realistic expression of the body of Christ. When we become an authentic expression of the New Testament church, the Lord will be adding to our number regularly as well!

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