St. John the Evangelist, Smiths Falls. Rev. Brian A. Burrows.
Text: 1 Corinthians 9:16b..”Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel.” NRSV.
Title: Necessary steps to Church growth!
How do we get anyone's attention when we talk about the faith and how to spread it? The world seems to be changing rapidly, yet deep down, I sense, people are the same with the same anxieties, doubts and fears! It seems to me that if we sincerely believe in Jesus Christ, then there are certain steps that we can take to give hope and encouragement to those who as yet have not found faith in God! Personally I lay great store in the use of stories, songs and scripture.
Step One – Stories!
In the New Testament, ordinary people, like widows, fishermen and tax collectors, etc., were entranced by the stories with a hidden meaning, which Jesus told to the crowds that followed him.
We all have a story, or should have, regarding how the faith came alive to us. Many years ago a Church Army Captain, who had been a missionary in China came to our Sunday School. His story so moved me that I had shivers in my spine and I resolved there and then to serve God as a missionary. Of course, I was far too young, but that feeling never left me.
What is your story about God moving you? It is by telling the story of how you came to faith that you can take the first step in reaching out to others. We all have stories of how we came to be worshippers in this church. It is time to share them with others!
Step Two – Songs!
We read that Jesus and his disciples sang hymns. The Jewish people have given us a great tradition of singing and music. The human heart responds to the sounds of music. Songs are sung in battles, in times of distress and peril. Songs and tunes can captivate the heart. From the very beginning the early Church used popular songs to attract new believers.
I know that children and young people react positively to catchy and memorable tunes. They like them. Let us then, use great tunes and songs, not only to attract newcomers, but to praise and glorify the God who loves us. Believe that songs can lead us to what God is trying to say to us.
Step Three – Scripture!
A hymn which impressed me as a young soldier began with the words,”I know not why God's wondrous love to me has been made known, nor why unworthy as I am, He claimed me for His own,”But I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” The chorus is in fact a quotation from 2 Timothy 1:12.
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16. Scripture is full of positive messages for people in crisis or in need. We can take this step to assure people that the message is true and real, because God's love for people is true and real. In our Anglican tradition we have a great store house of scripture readings in the Prayer Book. Let us then, help others to know that God speaks to them and us through Scripture.
The work of reaching out to others is never ending. It is easy to be put off in taking these necessary steps. To give encouragement to the fellowship. I remembered the verse from John Bunyan's hymn in Pilgrim's Progress,”Whoso beset him round with dismal stories, do but themselves confound, his strength, the more is.”
There are lots of dismal stories and dismal story-tellers, who say, “This won't work, it's hopeless, we've tried it before! Jesus said Matthew 7:7,”Ask, and it will be given you, seek and ye shall find....”