Why numerical church growth is not all it is cracked up to be, and what is

17 04 2013


In fact, we should focus less on numerical growth and more on having the hand of the Lord with us. If we have His benevolent hand, we will see the numerical increase He desires. And numerical increase without His blessing—which seems quite possible—is merely a shadow of a church, lacking the substance of God’s favor.

This should lead us to learn from Antioch what it means to have the Lord’s hand with us.

The hand of the Lord, in and of itself, is not a desirable thing. We sometimes see God’s hand against the nation Israel (Ezek. 3:14) and against false prophets (Ezek. 13:9). Even in Paul’s upcoming ministry, the Lord’s hand of judgment (through blindness) will be upon Elymas the Magician (Acts 13:11). So, we only want the hand of the Lord if it is with us.

What does that look like? The hand of the Lord is with a church as He chooses it and uses it as His instrument. This is the sense in which the phrase is used of John the Baptist’s ministry (Luke 1:66). The hand of the Lord is with a church when God is making Himself known to them in a real way; this is Ezekiel’s sense of it in Ezekiel 3:22 and 8:1. And here in Antioch, the Lord’s hand is evident, not only in the numerical growth, but in the entire story of the church—both the outward results and the inner conditions. That’s why we must read between the lines to discover the spiritual environment that God granted them.

In our churches today, we are very keen to have numerical growth. But we might be closer to the target if we ask God to reveal any ways we are preventing His hand from being with us.


A lengthy session could be given to praying and discussing how this applies to your church, both historically and at present. What seasons in your church’s past were characterized by God’s favor? What can be learned from these observations?  To what degree do you feel the hand of the Lord is, or is not, with your church now?



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