Challenges of a Growing Congregation
1 Thess 5:12-22
The Apostle Paul provides a plan for the church in Thessalonica to continue the growth pattern: the growth of their love of God and their love for one another.
- As a church grows there are more sheep to shepherd. It is a challenging to know all the sheep, [Acts 20:28] their situations, struggles and personalities. Shepherds must work diligently to instill a love for the Lord and for one another. Paul's instruction for the members is found in (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13) But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. [Heb 13:7,17] --- [results] Live in peace with one another. (NAS95) Keeping the peace is sometimes difficult, but it is a diligent work prescribed by God. Every member can help the elders in keeping the peace by following (1 Peter 3:8-9) To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. (NAS95) When members are busy, active following Peters abomination this will lift a huge load from the shoulders of the elders. Pray for the elders.
- The work of the WHOLE church (1 Thessalonians 5:14) We urge you, brethren,[same word used in vs.12] This the duty of the every member to affectionately warn, admonish those who are living contrary to the scriptures, however most church members feel they no responsibility. Listen to Paul, warn them that are unruly, [ neglect their duty, disorderly, idle, remiss] this makes the church less effective. There must be a high level of care and love used at the proper time, place and manner to be effective in this corrective instruction. Walmart, McD's are not the best situation to get good results.
- Encourage the fainthearted, -the dispirited, disheartened, the downcast- in many cases they may be part of group in (2) who need warning and may need strong encouragement from members. Many Christian [especially new/weak] can be overcome with temptation, become disheartened because they have spiritually "fallen off the wagon". They are in dire need of comfort, encouragement, a consoling voice to calm their fears, reassure them, yes you failed, but lean on me for strength. All too often someone will say, "I knew they wouldn't make it, would never remain faithful", that is called self-fulfilling prophesy, however they might have been more successful if the members were more focused on following 1 Pet. 3:8-9, Phil. 2:1-5.
- Help the weak, -the idea is lifting one end of the burden they are carrying. They may be weak in faith, knowledge or not well rooted in the gospel, (Romans 15:1-5) Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "THE REPROACHES OF THOSE WHO REPROACHED YOU FELL ON ME." For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, (NAS95) This is Paul's instruction for helping the weak. Christ didn't do things to please Himself, why should I think I should please myself? A growing church will NOT ignore the weak but will search for ways to cheer the fainthearted, include them, (Hebrews 12:12) Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, (NAS95).
- Be patient with everyone. Being patient with all, leads to the strengthening of members is a mark of a strong and growing congregation. Col. 3:12, Eph. 4:2-It is the universal duty of every Christian to show longsuffering especially to the weak and fainthearted.
- A growing church will have a diverse membership- many different needs and levels of maturity. (1 Thessalonians 5:15) See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. (NAS95) There is a strong need to not allow petty emotions or revenge that scar the character of the brethren, but the entire congregation must pursue peace and the good of all.
- A growing church will rejoice always- (1 Thessalonians 5:16) Rejoice always; (NAS95) because of the great blessing that come from the additions of new souls, new talent to work for the Lord, new opportunities to serve others. Because of the growth there may be fewer opportunities to serve in public worship, [do the math] so men look for other things to do, there can never be enough friendly, welcoming greeters.
- A growing church will be a praying church-(1 Thessalonians 5:17) pray without ceasing; (NAS95) As a church grows there are many more members, more extended family who desire our prayers and many are in dire need of those earnest sincere prayers. Our minds most often go to the sick and hurting, we can offer prayers and comfort to them. We should offer prayers for the spiritually ill, malnourished and spiritually weak, however the is an opportunity to add action to our prayers so they are not empty words. Prayer for the elders, (1 Thessalonians 5:12) appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, (NAS95)
- A growing church is grateful- (1 Thessalonians 5:18) in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (NAS95) Grateful to God for pardon, for health, for elders to leads, servants to work in the kingdom, thankful for the growth of the local church. Eph. 5:20, Col 3:17
- A growing church keeps the fire alive- (1 Thessalonians 5:19) Do not quench the Spirit; (NAS95) perhaps a reference to the constantly burning fire on the altar, so must of continually "stir up" kindle, the zeal caused by the gospel. A fire can grow cold if fuel source is neglected [God's word] neglecting the Christian graces, prayer, studying and guarding the heart can damping the fire. Worldliness, ambition, pride and lack of spiritual commitment. [Eph 4:30]
- A growing church will be a searcher of the scriptures- (1 Thessalonians 5:21) But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; (NAS95)like the Bereans [Acts 17:11-12] It is the duty of every Christian to examine, test, try every doctrine to see if it matches the gospel of Christ. Maintain, hold on tight to what matches the scriptures. 1 Cor. 2:15,1John 4:1
- A growing church is the Guardian of Purity- (1 Thessalonians 5:22) abstain from every form of evil. (NAS95) (1 Timothy 6:11) But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. (NAS95) Titus 2:7, 1Tim. 5:22
- A growing church tests the commitment to evangelism- some people may say "we are big enough" so they stop reaching the lost. Others say we don't have enough seats now. OR keep working to reach the lost [Acts 5: 42]
Let each and every member be committed to be diligent to keep your hearts pure, your mind focused on demonstrating your love for one another and constantly looking to Jesus for strength and courage to face the challenges of a growing church.