SUNDAY, MARCH 25, 2012
SURMOUNTING CHALLENGES OF A GROWING CHURCH
AS a congregation grows, it is likely to face various challenges. The devil would love to create hindrances (1Thes. 2:18). He is a great deceiver (2Cor. 11:3). Through seemingly harmless diversions, he could lead us astray. We must therefore follow the admonition to “hold fast!” (Rev. 3:11), accepting the devil’s challenges and understanding that our efforts will not go unrewarded (1Cor 15:58).
A challenge means: call or summon to engage in any contest, requiring skill, strength etc; something that by its nature is a call to battle, contest, special effort, etc; difficulty in a job or undertaking.
The growing church is always in a contest, battle or struggle, confronting forces of opposition. If results must be achieved, there is need not to waver or give up.
The New Testament presents a vibrant and Holy Ghost filled Church that grew rapidly. (Acts 2v41, 42-end, 4v4). But it had its fair share of challenges: opposition from without (Acts 2v5-7, 21, 5v17-18, 5v40); people seeking recognition without integrity (Acts 5v1-10); discontent about food (Acts 6v1).
We are to provide for the spiritual growth of each member (Eph. 4v11-12; Acts 2v42-end). There is need for person-to-person follow up. It will also entail visits to know how they are growing spiritually. How often do we find time to make disciples, teach, counsel and visit?
This statement— ‘the world is becoming churchy and the church becoming worldly”— in the light of present happenings, is true. Some believers are desperate and are competing with people of the world over material things (2 Tim. 4v10(a); I Tim. 6v10). This should not be.
Indecent dressing, which pervades many congregations, is highly condemnable. The devil has cheated some members through this and now is time to say no. Holiness should be the hallmark of Christianity. It is regrettable however that many believers toy with this idea. The scripture admonishes: ‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body,’ (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Conflict of interest
Coming from the leader or the led, the direct implication is that the vision of a growing church is tampered with. Usually, when people are motivated either by political interest, material consideration, cultural or sociological issues, the church suffers a ‘push and pull’ scenario. Personal interest should never override overall interest of the Church.
If a church is growing, there could be need for expansion. Today, land acquisition could pose a challenge. It does imply that good planning and proper management of available space should be maximised. Also, we should build structures, not only for today, but also for tomorrow.
In ICT, we talk about ‘garbage in garbage out’, which means what you have is what you give. Leaders need training through conferences, seminars and workshops in order to cope with new trends. This is not necessarily about acquisition of degrees or certificates but functional training that would enable persons to cope with job demands.
Harnessing of material and human resources
Every congregation is blessed with human and material resources. But sometimes the problem is how to access them. The earlier we start harnessing material and human resources in our churches, the better it will be for us, and also the less we would complain.
We hold numerous programmes and sometimes fail to schedule things accordingly. We don’t have enough time for our congregations, talk little of having time to rest, reflect and be with members of our family. We must be good managers of time.
Accountability /Keeping of records
Trust is very essential. A church could scatter without it. Some do not like the idea of being accountable to people they serve. They intimidate and harass worshippers or spiritualise issues rather than be open, even on financial dealings. Remember the words of I Tim. 6v10-11: ‘For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness’.
The New Testament has better vision for needs of members: ‘And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved’ (Acts 2v42-47). The growing church today however seems to be bogged down by assessments, levies and infrastructure to the detriment of members’ social needs. Any church that would continue to grow must pursue a welfare policy for its members.
We need to seek the face of God prayerfully to contend with the above challenges. If we do not faint, victory will be ours. Of course, the Church will march on; the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.VEN. ERNEST ONUOHA Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Retreat Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.