Growing the Church Through Biblical Training
Implementing Overall Training
Let’s return to this overall process of training. Training then needs to take place on several different levels depending upon on the level Christians are presently at. It is helpful if we first look at this scheme of things from the broad perspective. At this point refuse to only think about the recent problem cases. There will be time later for this. Here is a practical project for your church given in two stages.
(1) Train the Leaders. Focus on the whole church. Have the leadership jointly clarify the three levels of growth. Determine what characteristics qualify a person to be at each level. Map out all the individual members and regular attendees into one of John’s three growth categories. Add a group for non-Christians that might attend.
This project will help the leaders develop the important concepts of growth, evaluation and training. The different patterns, hopefully some of them good, will give you insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the church and its training program. The leaders will be prodded to more objectively think through the needs of the congregation rather than simply thinking of how long they had attended the church.
(2) Train the congregation. Preach from 1 John 2:12-14. Explain the three growth categories. Provide them a handout with the chart and a simple definition of each category. Remind them that this has nothing to do with how long they have been Christians.
Then have the individual members place themselves in one of the categories. They might struggle a bit; that is fine. It is part of the learning process. Many of them have never thought about themselves this way. They should put their names on the charts and pass them in. Tell them that you will share the general results at some later point.
One might add a question, “What are two of the two biggest struggles that he or she has as a Christian?” This reminds them that they need to keep growing. Through this process the congregation will better understand these important growth concepts. Have a follow-up meeting and share the results.
This analysis, done publicly or privately, becomes a good springboard to help them think of themselves in two new ways. They think of what they have learned and what they still need to learn. This understanding helps them both understand that they can help those who are earlier in the growth cycle as well as to be eager to do what they need to keep growing. In the analogy of the Parable of the Sower, this would be called preparing the soil. Training includes shaping the attitude and general approach (vision).
The Means of Training
There is one important principle that has so far been left out here. We must ask the question, “How are these people to be trained?” Jesus did not just say to make sure everyone is discipled but commanded all of His disciples to make disciples. A healthy Christian, therefore, is not one that only has been discipled, smug and satisfied, but one that uses what God has given to him or her by discipling others. From my experience as a teacher, I can vouch that the topics I know best are the ones I have taught.
The Christian then is to use what he or she has learned and applied to ones life, and then to pass it on to others. This is the power behind the image of the flowing river. We do not just see one object on top that is flowing along. We see every water particle on the move. The more the individual components flow, the larger and more powerful the river current becomes. The harder it is to resist the sway of the current.
There is nothing as bad as see a still and stagnant pond. Many churches are admittedly best described as stagnant. This deadness comes from the lack of spiritual growth. Usually there are a few ‘alive’ people trying to make the other ones come alive, but this is so very difficult and often results in church splits. Real church growth occurs where individual people are growing spiritually.
Please don’t misunderstand my intention. Preaching and teaching in public groups are good and necessary. They are just not being effective. Just compare the amount of time that people are watching movies with studying the Word of God. Movies and the sort are not only distracting our people but wrongly indoctrinating them. Once indoctrinated by the secular world, they loose their thirst for God’s Word. Perhaps if our people were more zealously guarding their hearts, the work of the pulpit would be sufficient. Perhaps, if there were a revival going on, people would come out more often to hear God’s Word and read it at home. But any simple analysis of the church in Western countries and many other places will find that the church is dying off.
God gives us this means of effective training to ready His people to combat the enemy’s tactics. We in fact believe that God desires more effective training of each individual member. Baptism and confirmation classes are hardly adequate. They purposely have a very limited focus. But the facts are that many believers have not received specialized training unless they find it from another source. These are new biblical concepts for many. Let’s look at the scriptures more carefully to see what it really tells us to do.
Let's look at the purpose of God's flowing design next.
Biblical Foundations for Freedom
by Paul J. Bucknell
 We should be careful to distinguish this from organizational growth. Largeness does not prove growth but only affliction.