God has really blessed us. We started with 75 people and now we have about 4000.Matt quotes from Ecclesiastes and then says,
Only by casting my eyes out farther than the temporal horizon which is visible to me can I have any hope of seeing purpose in this life. It is only in God's eternal plan for my life that things can make any ultimate sense. Because whatever happens in this life, we all go to the same grave, where all our works are forgotten by this cursed and mad world.I’ve thought about this same issue for some time. What is it about seeing a church overflowing with congregants that causes us to consider it blessed? Are we justified in concluding that a church which is losing members is not being blessed by God? Do we measure the success of a church by tabulating how many souls have “given their lives to Christ” each Sunday? The entrepreneur is interested in keeping the numbers at the bottom-line in the black. Profits equal success. Have we let capitalism so shape our worldview that it has also shaped our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus? Critics may raise the point that the early church, as found in the Book of Acts, experienced tremendous growth under the blessing of God. In my opinion, though, such comparisons fall flat. While we see examples of growth in Acts we also see that the dispersion of Christianity was mainly due to persecution. Being a Christian in the first century was costly. We see nothing of that sort in the 21st century West. Yet, somehow, we feel justified in considering ourselves blessed. We think that if we’re growing, then we must be in the black, and if we’re in the black, then we must be in “God’s Will” and… blessed. In A Stunted Ecclesiology?, an article for Touchstone Magazine, J. I. Packer posits that the modern evangelical mindset, as found in the West, has wavered from the Biblical teaching in which the church is declared to be the fullness of Christ, the beloved bride for whom he laid down his life. He lists, as the primary factor in this departure, “evangelical salvation-centeredness.” He writes,
No one should fault evangelicals for their loving attention to the task of unpacking the gospel message that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). Nothing is more important than that the gospel is fully grasped, and exploring it and emphasizing it is a thoroughly churchly activity. But it has led to a habit of man-centered theologizing, which sets needy human beings at center stage, as it were, brings in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit just for their saving roles, and fails to cast anchor in doxology, as Paul’s expositions of the gospel lead him to do (see Rom. 11:33–36; 16:25–27; Eph. 3:20–21; 1 Tim. 6:13–16; cf. Rev. 5:9–14). Too often we evangelicals relegate the truth of the Trinity to the lumber-room of the mind, to be put on display only when deniers of it appear, rather than being made the frame and focus of all adoration. The church then comes to be thought of as an organization for spiritual life support rather than as an organism of perpetual praise; doxology is subordinated to ministry, rather than ministry embodying and expressing doxology; and church life is thought out and set forth in terms of furthering people’s salvation rather than of worshiping and glorifying God. The antithesis is improper and false, to be sure, but the man-centered mindset is real, and is one facet of a stunted churchliness.Mother Teresa once said, “I do not pray for success. I ask for faithfulness.” Matt closes his post with,
Only the context of eternity can teach me the truth of what happens on earth. Trying to understand the events of this world without an eternal perspective is like using a tape measure with no numbers on it. You might know which dash the end of the board falls on, but you don't know what the dash means, or how it relates to anything else. When we measure the world without the eternal perspective, all we're left with is the judgments of man, and so we think a church with 4000 people in it is more blessed than the one with 75.Let us pray to be faithful.