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Church Development

Lesson III My Boyhood Churches

The churches I attended, as a boy resembled a fortress. They had red brick walls. Towering white columns made me feel small and protected. When I read Matthew 16:18, "…the gates of hell will not overcome it", I envisioned Christians standing safely within the citadel. Demons and evil people were raging outside trying to break down the church doors.

My understanding was wrong. This verse says the opposite. The gates of hell are being broken down, from the outside in, by the church. It is Satan and his demons who are cowering in their fortress. The barricades are not holding. The church is a battering ram in the hands of Jesus. The battle is won. We are the victors. God desires to bless his church.

God clearly explains the fundamental vision for all churches in Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I will be with you always, to the very end of the age."

The making of disciples is the foundational scriptural vision for churches.

Components of Vision

Faith and tenacity are two interdependent components of vision.

The Old Testament is filled with examples of how each works to fulfill vision. Under the leadership of Joshua, Israel was promised safe passage across the Jordan. It took faith for the Levitical priest to hoist the Ark of the Covenant upon their shoulders and step into the waters of the river.

When God told the Israelites to conquer the city of Jericho, he had them wait several days before the walls fell. It took faith to march around the city when nothing appeared to be happening.

God promised Abraham that he and Sarah would have a child in their old age. Still Abraham had to wait for years and years before seeing the promise fulfilled. He also had to ask God for forgiveness for his own sin.

Jacob met an angel of the Lord. Jacob wrestled with the angel until victory was his. Jacob was a tenacious man. If we are to grow the church we must be individuals of faith and tenacity. We must not give up when the going gets rough.

The Role of Prayer in Vision

In II Corinthians 10:3-5, Paul states: "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

We are involved in spiritual warfare. Satan does not want the church to grow. We are engaged in a difficult and dangerous task. Growing a church puts you on the front line of spiritual warfare. Anyone on the front line will catch a lot of flak. Your shield of faith will be battered and destroyed if you do not spend time alone with the one who called you to ministry.

The key to spiritual well being is found in Ephesians 6:18: "…Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."