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A Winnable War We Must Not Ignore.

by Larry Cory


(When is a church truly successful?)

     How do we measure whether or not a church is truly successful?  How do we measure the success or failure of a Bible Study or a Sunday School class?  The typical way to measure the success or failure of a Bible Study or a Sunday School class is by whether or not there is numerical growth in the membership of that group.  It can, then, become all about the numbers.  New members mean success and a loss of members means that the group is not successful.  Is that an accurate and complete measure of the success or failure of a Bible Study or a Sunday School class?  Is that an accurate and complete way to measure the success or failure of a church?
     Can a church that is not growing in attendance ever be a successful church?  In Jesus' ministry, there were actually times when the numbers decreased rather than increased.  Was He unsuccessful at those times?  He set high goals, and He turned away those who were not willing to pay the cost of following Him. (see Lk. 9:57-62, 14:25-34)  Are we willing to declare to our group of Christians the high cost of following Jesus, even if some leave the group or the church?  Jesus actually sent away a rich young ruler.  Would we turn away a man like him today?  Are there people in our churches only because we have lowered the cost of following Christ?  Are there rich young rulers in our church today because their presence gives the impression that our church is a successful church?  Are there very well-attended churches in our country who are filled to capacity because people are not regularly confronted with the cost of following Christ?  The crowds did turn away from Jesus when He taught them what did not tickle their ears. (see Jn. 6:25-71)
     According to the Bible, our churches are successful when God is truly working in our midst—when people are becoming born-again, are growing in God's Spirit, are growing in loving relationships, and are growing in becoming servants of Jesus Christ.  These God-blessed churches can be small or large.  They can even be losing members as people leave because the cost of following Christ is too high for them.  This can be what has been called a back-door revival.  The success or failure of a church cannot be measured by numbers alone.
     Churches, to be successful, also need to be exercising a discipleship process whereby Christians are growing in their obedience to Christ.  This discipleship process fulfills the Great Commission given to us by Jesus, the Head of the church.  "Then 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 am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" (Matthew 28:18-20)
     Jesus taught us that it is only the few and not the many who will be willing to follow Him on the narrow road.  "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)  If we are expecting large numbers to truly follow Jesus, we will be expecting more than what He taught us to expect.  The ministry can be disappointing as people who were once excited about following Christ lose their enthusiasm and drift away.  Are we, then, unsuccessful?  Jesus predicted that this would take place. In Jesus' Parable of the Soils in Matthew 13, we see that there will be those who are excited at first, and then fall away.  But, the good news is that there will also always be those who are the good soil.  So, we are successful when we continue to labor in the harvest field.  Success is measured by persevering in the work.  A church that is successful is a church that continues to labor in God's work in spite of the ups and downs of the ministry, and in spite of the fact that our message is popular with only a few.  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)
     We are not successful, then, unless we, in the power of the Holy Spirit, persevere in loving and serving each other, persevere in growing in our obedience to Jesus, and persevere in laboring in the harvest field.  We are successful only when our lives, our relationships, our marriages, and our families are changing for the good as God is changing us from the inside.  And we are successful when we are giving God the glory for all that is taking place.  For apart from Him, none of this can happen.  Dynamic men can build large attendances at a church, but only God can build new people, new relationships, new marriages, and new families.  There obviously is a great need for prayer and for a constant dependence on the Holy Spirit for this to happen.
     A church is successful when it is growing first in quality.  The very first church in the book of Acts grew first in quality and then it grew in quantity. (see Acts 2:42-47, 4:4, 32-37)When churches in a community are growing in humility, in unity, in loving relationships with each other, in love for those outside the church, and in pulling for the other churches in town to grow in these ways; then, the churches in that community are successful in God's eyes!  They are successful because it is God who is strengthening and enabling them to be successful.
     There have been and there are today zealous Christians who are seeking after this type of church experience.  This pursuit led in the past to monasteries and communes being formed.  For some, though, the ideal church is for their church to stay the same way it has always been—maintaining church traditions and even keeping only the same members or the same type of members.  But, there have always also been those who are seeking after being part of a church that is alive in God's Spirit in the same way that the church described in Acts two and four was alive.  What were they seeking, what are those like them today seeking, and what, hopefully, are we also zealously seeking?  It is really very simple.  What Jesus desires above all is that we experience growing, pure, and genuinely loving relationships with Him and with each other.  Whatever the structure, the bottom line is that we have holy and loving relationships with God and with each other.  It is not all about the numbers; rather, it is all about the relationships!  This requires that we wholeheartedly seek to grow in our relationship with God and in our relationships with each other; and that we develop structures that most easily facilitate spiritual growth and loving relationships.  Small groups, small discipleship groups, and other times together that encourage loving relationships and spiritual growth can produce the type of love between Christians that the Acts 2 and 4 church experienced.  Churches weak in these type of loving relationships are unsuccessful churches no matter how many people attend.  Love, though, requires that sacrifices be made as we become aware of each other's needs and lovingly respond to them.  That is a cost of fully following Jesus.  We lay down our lives for each other.  True love for others will cost us financially, time-wise, emotionally, and in other ways.
     Acts 4 describes what a church is like when loving relationships are supernaturally present.  "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet." (Acts 4:32-37)
     This was a truly successful church.  Surely, there are also churches and Christians like this today.  Should we not all want to be part of church that is characterized by growing loving relationships?  This true type of success, though, can only come from God; as we seek Him with all of our hearts and as we depend on His Spirit to enable us to grow in our relationship with Him and grow in our love for each other.

The Silent War In The Church

Table of Contents and Brief Intro Table of Contents
Introduction Introduction
The Silent War Inside our Churches - Part 1 Part 1a
The Silent War Inside our Churches - Part 2 Part 1b
The Silent War between Churches Part 2
The Silent War with Satan and his Demons Part 3
The Silent War can be Won by God's Love in us Part 4
The Silent War can be like the Wars in the World Part 5
The Silent War between a False and Coerced Unity and a True Unity Part 6
An Essential Requirement Needed for Ending the Silent War Between Christians Part 7
The Silent War Caused by Turning the Church into the Kingdom of Man and not the Kingdom of God Part 8
The Silent War inside of Each Christian Part 9
The Silent War in the Church with the World Part 10
The Silent War Over Divisive Issues Part 11
The Silent War caused by a Mysterious Invading Army Part 12
The Silent War Caused by Seeking Worldly Success Part 13
The Silent War Always Results in Persecution Part 14
The Silent War Caused when Godly People Divide Part 15
The Silent War Caused when Godly People Cause Divisions Part 16
The Silent War Caused by the Church or a Church Dividing over an Important Issue Part 17
When the Church is Winning - Part 1 Part 18a
When the Church is Winning - Part 2 Part 18a
The Bible's Description of Victorious Soldiers in the Silent War Part 19
How Victory in the Silent War can Lead to Revival in the Church Part 20
Conclusion Conclusion
Addendum: The Silent War caused by "the onlys" "The Onlys"
Addendum: A Pastor's Authority by Ray Stedman A Pastor's Authority
Addendum: Galatians 6:1-3 (my commentary on these verses) Galatians 6:1-3
Addendum: John Wesley's sermon at George Whitefield's funeral George Whitefield