Gay marriage is now legal in the United States. So now what? How should the Church respond? The following is one part of five answers to that question.
Get Ready To Grow
I’ve read a lot of books about how to grow a church. Many of them focus on marketing strategies. Some even cross a line into manipulation and trickery. But there’s one word that I don’t know if I’ve ever read in one of those books.
A quick survey of the history of Christianity will show you that the church’s greatest impact has coincided with times of great tribulation. The book of Acts is a perfect example. It begins with a few scared disciples hidden away in a room after the persecution, death and resurrection of their Leader. Thousands and thousands of new disciples later, the book ends with another great leader on trial for his life and with Christianity on the verge of becoming a global movement. Tertullian said it best. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
Within minutes of the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, church leaders were predicting persecution for believers. Many Christians agreed. Skeptics scoffed. But put aside your view of homosexuality and gay marriage for a moment. No matter what your opinion is, it’s hard to get around the idea that a tough road lies ahead for the Church.
Many churches will shrink in size. That means that giving will decrease. And it means that some large churches will become small churches. Or former churches. It’s been said before that church folks vote with their feet and their checkbooks. When the going gets tough, you can be sure that many church people will take their checkbooks, walk out and vote with the popular crowd.
On Sunday morning, a group of people stood up to interrupt one of the most popular pastors in the world. Six times they shouted him down before being escorted out of the building. But they didn’t leave alone. A significant portion of that pastor’s congregation left with them. Not because they agreed with the rude protestors. They left because they were afraid that something bad might happen. This serves as a perfect parable. A lot of people are okay with church. Until it starts to cost them something. And then they start looking for something safer to be okay with.
So where does the growth come in?
Here’s another word.
When I was growing up, revival meant that time of the year when you had to go to church every night of the week to hear a guy in a bad suit make you bow your head and close your eyes. Genuine revival is different. Genuine revival means repentance of sin. It means a renewed love for God and neighbor. It means restored relationships. And it means growth.
The kind of growth that you need to get ready for probably isn’t the kind of church growth you’re used to. It might not mean bigger buildings, hiring new staff members and bragging to your buddies at the next pastor’s convention about how many new members you got last month.
This kind of growth could mean that you have to leave your current building and start meeting in homes.
It could mean that your church looses it’s prominence in the community.
And when that happens, you’ll want to get discouraged. But just remember the book of Acts. At it’s core, it’s the story of early Christian leaders getting kicked out of town and taking their unpopular message with them until the entire world is turned upside down.
Take a kid and put him in a field of dandelions. Tell him to get rid of the weeds and he’s likely to walk around kicking everything until all of those little white seeds are gone. Or so he thinks.
Christian, our time to get kicked may be just around the corner.
But remember this. The more we get kicked, the more the message spreads.
So Christian, get ready to grow.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 (ESV)