The Secret of Church Growth
"The secret things b long to the LORD our God," the Bible tells us, ''but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever..." (Deut. 29:29). Yes, it is true! Secret things, indeed, belong to God, and He alone can reveal them. Just as He has promised,
I proclaim to you new things from this time, Even hidden things which you have not known. (Is. 48:6)
He did in fact reveal to Daniel, for instance, "the profound and hidden things" (Dan. 2:22). And, in the same manner, He allowed Paul to hear the "inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak" (2 Cor. 12:4).
I am deeply convinced that the content of this book has been gradually revealed to me by God over the span of some twenty years. All the principles mentioned herein are applicable and offer immediate results to our daily Christian lives. Application of these principles is as effortless as what Han Yu, a famous Chinese man of letters, once said, "It is as easy as four horses drawing a light carriage along a familiar road!"
May God enlighten us, and help us to "be strong and very courageous; [and] be careful to do according to" the principles He has taught us. If our Christian lives reflect this, then we can be very sure that church growth will come without much difficulty.
In The Old Testament
In the Old Testament times, the prerequisite for God's people to be blessed was to have God's presence. Such a principle is clearly demonstrated through the lives of various Old Testament spiritual giants.
A good example is Isaac. During his sojourn in the land of the Philistines, he was able to reap a hundredfold amidst racial discrimination and persecution because of God's presence. His prosperity was so great that even the king of the Philistines solemnly said to him, "We see plainly that the LORD has been with you...," and subsequently requested a covenant with him (Gen. 26:3, 13, 26-28).
Another example is Jacob, who, while living in Laban's house as a dependent, was repeatedly exploited and had his wages changed ten times. Yet, because of God's presence, he was able to father a multitude of children and return home with great abundance (Gen. 28:15; 30:27; 31:42).
The same is true with Joseph. Having been sold to a foreign land as a slave and wronged with false accusations and unjust imprisonment, Joseph was ultimately able to cast away prison garb for fine linen and rule over the whole land of Egypt. The sole reason for such a dramatic outcome was that God's presence was with him (Gen. 39:2-6, 20-23).
Joshua conquered all the kings in Canaan one by one (Deut. 31:23; Josh. 1:5); Samuel received the special blessiig that God would let "none of his words fail" (1 Sam. 3:19); and King David enjoyed prosperity in all his ways (1 Sam. 18:14). The triumph of these spiritual giants was a simple result of this secret-they had God's presence!
In short, if we want our church to grow, if we want to reap a hundredfold, and if we want to prosper, be respected and trusted instead of being scoffed at, we must have the presence of God.
In The New Testament
The importance of having God's presence became even more evident during the Early Church Period. After the departure of God's glory from the holy temple during the time of Ezekiel (Ezek. 9:3; 10:4, 18-19; 11:23-24), the Jews realized that God had truly forsaken them (Ezek. 8:6, 12; 9:9). In expressing their grievances to God, they often said,
They say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" (Ps. 42:3,10)
0 God, why hast Thou rejected us forever? (Ps. 74:1)
Yet Thou hast rejected us....(Ps. 44:9)
Their prayers were:
Awake, do not reject us forever. (Ps. 44:23)
0 God of hosts, tum again now. (Ps. 80:14)
Throughout the whole Intertestamental Period, devout Jews were waiting for God's return to their midst (Luke 2:25, 38; 23:51).
Now, at the dawn of the Early Church Period, there suddenly came from heaven a noise, and there appeared to them tongues as of fire which enabled the apostles to speak -in other languages. In all the excitement, the Jews heard Peter preach that God cared for them. They then realized that their God who had forsaken them had once again returned to them. Consequently, three thousand people became Christians on that day.
A few days after this incident, a man lame from birth, whom people laid daily at the gate of the holy temple to beg for money, was healed through the name of Jesus the Nazarene. This man entered the holy temple walking, leaping and praising God! Such a miracle once again substantiated the fact that God had come to them (ref. Acts 3:1-11). For the same reason, right after Peter's second testimony, many believed, and the number of new converts (just men alone) came to about five thousand.
God's presence was further demonstrated through His holiness. After Ananias and Sapphira met sudden death because they lied to God, "great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things." As a result, "all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number" (Acts 5:11, 14).
Even when believers were persecuted and scattered all over Judea and Asia Minor following the stoning of Stephen, God's presence followed them wherever they went. As a result, "a large number who believed turned to the Lord" (Acts
Thus, the Holy Spirit clearly tells us that the secret of church growth during the Early Church Period was God's presence, and that the work of the Holy Spirit was sure evidence of His presence. The Church of the last days must have the presence of God if she wants to grow, or all efforts will be futile.
The Required Conditions
The presence of God is a promise from God, and a grace He has prepared for His Church as well as for individual Christians. God's promise and grace are objective realities. In order to change an objective reality into a subjective blessing-that is, in order for God's promise or grace to become our blessing-we must appropriate that promise or grace. For the Church to have God's presence, there is no other way.
The Church of the last days has the same misconception the Jews once had. The Jews assumed that since they had a covenant with God, and since they possessed the holy city Jerusalem, as well as the glorious holy temple, God's presence would be with them forever. They did not realize that there were conditions for God's presence, and therefore did not do according to God's commandments, statutes and ordinances; they did not practice righteousness according to God's law. How could they then expect God to carry out His covenant and fulfill His promise? As a result, the holy city was destroyed, the temple was burned, their homes were devastated, their kingdom was ruined, and they were dispersed all over the world until May 14, 1948, when their nation was reconstituted.
The Church today is indulging in the same kind of self-gratifying dream as well. She automatically assumes that since God has established her, God will naturally be with her forever. This is regardless of her holiness or her performance in fulfilling the required conditions for His presence. As a result, many ministries of the Church are comparable to those of the Israelites in Eli's time. The Israelites entered the battlefield, carrying the ark of the covenant that did not have God's presence. The sound of their shouting might have resounded throughout the earth, but the outcome was tragic-numerous soldiers and generals were killed, and the ark of the LORD was captured! In order for the Church to grow, we not only have to realize our need for God's presence, but we also have to diligently practice the conditions required for His presence.
Some may think that carrying out the required conditions to receive God's blessings is dependent on "works"-that is, on the Law; and that such dependence should not exist in the age of grace. They do not understand that the Holy Spirit never helps the lazy ones, nor do they realize that carrying out the conditions God requires is the only way leading to the enjoyment of God's grace. For instance, fresh air and sunlight are both gifts from God. If we desire to enjoy them, we must carry out the conditions to be in contact with them. Otherwise, fresh air and sunlight will forever exist to us only as objective realities, not subjective blessings.