I recently read a new book titled Spiritual Warfare, written by Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board. It is a dynamic, Scripture-filled book that points us to spiritual power and victory. I truly commend it to every believer. The author does not provide a formula, but a pathway to walk in victory.
As the leader of Southern Baptist international mission work, Rankin travels the world. He sees every kind of church at work. Some are small house churches and some are large churches with multiple ministries.
In one chapter of his book, Rankin identifies three characteristics of growing churches that are impacting their world. They are very instructive. I share these marks of a growing church along with my comments in hopes that you will measure your church by them.
First, the people of the church had a passion and zeal for sharing Jesus Christ. They did not know the word discretion. They had been radically transformed by the grace of Christ and knew that the people around them were lost. These followers of Jesus held nothing back in order to share Christ, although it placed them in jeopardy of persecution or even death. Embarrassment never entered the minds of these saints as a reason not to boldly tell others about Jesus.
Our American brand of Christianity is steeped in the secular world’s Kool-Aid, which suggests we should not disturb people by trying to convert them. We rarely share our faith, and there is certainly nothing bold about us. Our churches attempt every kind of program hoping someone will “get it.” Well, they get it when we are bold enough to share with them the good news of Christ.
Second, they had a faith that really expected God to work. Faith in an awesome, powerful, and need‑meeting God was the norm. Their faith was practical. When someone was without a job, they prayed and expected God would provide. If someone was under oppression from the evil one, they expected God to deliver them. Nothing was too small or large for God to accomplish. Bold and expectant faith was a part of the daily life of believers and the regular worship experience of the church.
Contrast this with our normal approach. We ask God to meet needs, but do we really believe He will? Is it our expectation that God can and will deliver us and provide for us? When faced with personal and corporate trials, do we turn to God with bold faith, or do we verbalize our need with little faith or expectation He will do anything?
Third, common among these churches was devotion to prayer. Around the world, God is doing some remarkable things in response to the prayers of His people. These dynamic churches are marked by a pattern of early morning prayer meetings and all-night prayer and fasting. Prayer is not perfunctory. Prayer is life to these growing churches that are impacting their cultures and the people around them. Believing prayer is central to the growth of the church around the world.
Too many of us as leaders of our churches are waiting for a magic bullet or growth pill that will cause our church to soar to new heights. Well, from his experiences around the world, Rankin has handed to us the magic bullet or pill. The three characteristics can really be boiled down to two—bold witness and dynamic, faith-believing prayer. Take all of our unique programs and ministry events, pile them in a heap, and they will not produce the results that bold witness and bold praying achieve. These programs and ministry events are not bad in and of themselves. They could be powerful—but only when used in the context of people who are mighty in witness and mighty in prayer. Sounds awfully New Testament to me.