Last month we were in Israel, for the umpteenth time :) It has been more than thirty years ago that we first set foot in that country. And yet, each time we go again we discover new places; villages, beaches, forests, parks and excavations that we skipped during previous visits.
This is so much like my travels through God's Word. I am currently reading, for the umpteenth time, through the book of Acts... and yet, I discover news things again. In chapter nine, verse 31 I read the following: Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
We have come to believe that the church grows best during times of persecution and crisis. This is a principle of all times and places. But here it clearly says that the church grew during a time of peace. So, that is a possibility we should not ignore. It seems to me a great encouragement for the church in the Western world. We do not have to wait for persecution in order to grow.
I have been reading many articles recently about a general decline in church membership. But something has to be wrong in the way we think. From a biblical point of view the number of believers can grow in a country where there is freedom of religion and peace. According to the above scripture there are only two conditions:
- living in fear of the Lord, and
- encouragement by the Holy Spirit
The NKJV says in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. Well, that is surely good news for all churches decreasing in numbers. Let's put aside our plans, ideas and strategies and designate a few (Sun)days for all members to fall on their knees and to cry out to the Holy Spirit to do His work.
I would love to hear good reports.