Tips on Church Growth from the Prophets
Reading: Zechariah 5-8
You probably don’t expect tips on church growth to be found in the writings of the minor prophets. After all, what do they know about modern outreach methods. The answer to that: They probably know a whole lot more than we do.
Take these chapters from Zechariah as an example. God is assuring His people through the prophet that their future is bright. Using the current high priest, Joshua, as His living illustration, the Almighty graphically portrays not only the future of Israel, but gives them a glimpse of the coming Messiah who will be both Priest and King forever. Through this coming Priest and King many from all nations will be gathered to grow His church in the world. That’s basically Zechariah 6.
In chapter 7, God speaks to Zechariah in response to a question from some of the people of Bethel. They wondered if it was worth it to continue their practice of mourning and fasting. It’s kind of a “duh” moment when the Lord comes back with his answer. He had told them to do these things and hadn’t rescinded the instructions, so….?
Then the Lord speaks these words through Zechariah: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other” –Zechariah 7:9, 10, NIV. These too, were part of what God had already instructed His people to do though they had not always obeyed (which accounts for the spot they were in at this moment in their history).
The result of the disobedience was the chilling reality of: “When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen” (7:13, NIV) and Israel’s subsequent punishment.
But then comes the church growth part found in chapter 8. The Lord would return to bless His people. Everyone would be included (8:4, 5) and those scattered throughout the nations would come “home” (8:7, 8). They were to be encouraged and get to work to participate in the restoration process (8:9). There would be productivity and fruitfulness once again (8:12). They would be blessed and be a blessing to those around them (8:13).
Then the tips– “These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgments in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not swear falsely” (8:16, 17). The Lord goes on to encourage them to continue their fasts, but to put aside the mourning (8:18, 19) and to “love truth and peace.”
It isn’t the specifics that stand out so much here as it is the sense of the passage. The Lord is telling His people that the restoration, the blessing, the growth, is contingent on their obedience, not to new instructions, but to the old instructions.
Here’s the punch line. When they obey what they already know to be God’s truth and return to Him, those who don’t believe will see the difference the obedience and God’s subsequent blessing on them makes. They will attracted to this marvelous work of God and want to get onboard. Listen to Evangelism 101:
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going. And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.’ This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you’” (8:18-23, NIV).
It sounds like evangelism is easy when there is authenticity within the Body, when those who do not yet believe can see God’s blessing on a people who genuinely worship and obey Him.