Lifting Up Jesus: How to Grow His Church
This past weekend I was listening to Audio Adrenaline in my car. The CD I was listening to has the song “Beautiful” on it twice, and with several trips to various places I managed to hear that song probably 7 or 8 times. The lyrics of this song took my thoughts in 2 entirely different directions, both of which I want to share today. But first, a video of the song:
The first direction this song took my thoughts was based on the lyrics:
Your name is, beautiful
It drips off of my lips like drops of gold
There are so many beautiful names of Jesus in the Bible. Prince of Peace, Son of God, Spotless Lamb of God, Savior, Lord, Son of Man, Immanuel (which means “God with us”), the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, and more. Each of these beautiful names truly does drip off of my lips like drops of gold. As the name of Jesus is on our lips, we become a blessing to others and to those who do not know Him.
Which brings me to the second direction this song took my thoughts in, based on the lyrics:
When I lift You up they come running
When I sing Your song the world’s turning to You
Just the sound of Your name is a beautiful thing
I love You, I love You, I love You
A couple of years ago I was on the leadership team at my old church. We were talking about ways to increase membership in the church, and someone suggested we turn to a consultant who helped churches with church development and growth based on a program called “ABC’s of Natural Church Development.” This program was based on an extensive survey of churches around the world to determine what made people join churches and stay there. It was a pretty good program that identified the 8 characteristics of growing churches as:
- Empowering Leadership
- Gift-based Ministry
- Passionate Spirituality
- Effective Structures
- Inspiring Worship Service
- Holistic Small Groups
- Need-oriented Evangelism
- Loving Relationships
But as we went though the steps outlined in this program to determine which of these two areas our church was weakest in, I kept thinking that there was something missing, but that it was also more complicated than it needed to be. It seemed to me that 2,000 years ago Jesus told us what was needed for church growth. It was the method He employed and that the apostles employed with great success. After God the Father had spoken from heaven that His name had been glorified and would be again, Jesus said:
“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. John 12:31-33 (NIV).
Jesus drew people to Himself through His willing sacrifice for our sins, through His divine love revealed when He was lifted up on the cross. He did not say it was His great teaching or example that would draw people to Him. He did not say it was effective church structures that would draw people to Him. He did not say it was empowering leadership that would draw people to Him. He did not say it was inspiring worship services that would draw people to Him. He did not even say that it was loving relationships that would draw people to Him.
Now don’t get me wrong. I believe the characteristics set forth in the ABC’s program are important for a church. And men and woman who are in love with Jesus, who are truly sold out on His love and sacrifice, should and will work to exhibit these characteristics in their congregations.
But when it comes to church growth, to adding numbers to the church membership roll and Christian souls to the Kingdom of God, the way to do that is to lift up Jesus. We must lift up His name and His sacrifice on the cross, and by doing so we will draw people to Him. They may not join our particular congregation, but that should not necessarily be our aim. Our aim should be to draw people to Jesus Himself. Once drawn to Him, He will do the work necessary to inspire His believers to gift-based ministry and need-oriented evangelism. He must be the center of all that the church does and teaches. We must do as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:
Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (NIV).
When we lift Him up, they will come running. Let us never forget the power of the name of Jesus Christ and Him crucified to draw people to Him for their own salvation.
You said, “They may not join our particular congregation, but that should not necessarily be our aim. Our aim should be to draw people to Jesus Himself.”
I couldn’t agree more. However, this is one of those areas small churches struggle with. In small communities, where the population is not that big, there is a tendency to be jealous of other congregations, especially different denominations. The challenge is to take the focus off of ourselves, however needy, and place the focus on glorifying our Savior. He will take care of the rest as best meets the needs of the ones we are trying to reach. We just need to be obedient and trust Him.
That is true. I don’t live in a small geographical area – though there are a lot of people with no intention of going to church where I live. My own church is not that small, yet there is a tendency to compare ourselves to the really big churches in town and try to do what they do to increase the number of people in the pews on Sunday, even if what they do is not point to Jesus. His church really isn’t about programs, it’s about Jesus and Him crucified. Peace, Linda
I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, I have felt so strongly about this that, when frustrated with bible lessons that lifted up doctrines more than Jesus to share with folks, the Lord impressed me and through Him I wrote the “Lifting up Jesus” bible lessons which focus on JESUS, his salvation and His love.
The 30 lessons have been published but I also offer them free on my website which has been translated into several languages now.
Karen, Thank you for stopping by and commenting, and for the link to the Bible study you wrote. I will check it out. Peace, Linda
Thank you, Linda
“Our aim should be to draw people to Jesus Himself. Once drawn to Him, He will do the work necessary to inspire His believers to gift-based ministry and need-oriented evangelism. He must be the center of all that the church does and teaches. “
Funny … I was singing an old song in my head as I read your post. It’s called “Lift Jesus High” and there’s a line that goes “He said if I, be lifted high, I will draw all men unto Me”. … If He’s been saying this for eons, why are we not doing it?
Here we go with the basket weaving classes again 🙁 Praying we’ll really sit up and take notice of what’s important to Him. Thank you Linda. Thanks for reminding us of what we need to do.
Ann, He has been telling us for eons what is the right thing to do; I think it is so hard for some people to do it because they want some control over their own salvation so they can get part of the credit. People find it hard to give God all the credit and all the glory. I admit sometimes I find it hard, too, but it is what He calls us to do. So to Him be the glory today for helping His Church “sit up and take notice of what’s important to Him.” Peace, Linda
Love the song! 🙂 And thank you for talking about growing church membership, and what you found during that process. Not getting to go to an actual church any more . . .I miss that. I never was in a leadership position or thought a great deal about all the ins and outs of keeping a church going. Guess I kind of thought it was God that kept people coming to Him, and the Holy Spirit that moved in services to draw the unsaved. If a church’s membership was dropping, I’d probably consider some serious time in prayer seeking Him! ha! See why I wasn’t in leadership? 🙂 I loved how you understood that it has to be about Him, about lifting His name first.
God bless you as you praise and lift His beautiful name!
Deb, It sounds like you would be great in church leadership to me. You understand that it is God who will draw people to Jesus, and your first solution is prayer. Too many church leaders try to do it all on their own these days. And I’m glad you liked the song. This is one of my favorite Audio Adrenaline songs. It also has me thinking of a poem for this Thursday. 🙂 Peace, Linda
Great article, Linda.
Thanks. Peace, Linda