One of the pastors, JR Vassar, from Apostles Church in NYC, encouraged us to not "settle for the manifestations of the works of the flesh, but instead to pursue and expect the manifestations of the Spirit." Read that again and make sure you do it slowly this time. That was timely advice. There is a tendency in American Christianity (brought on by our specialized culture and our incessant need to hyper-analyze something to death) to reduce church growth and development to a series of nuts and bolts, systems, and curricula. If pastor "a" would simply insert cog "3" into system "x" and if the planets align at just the right spot, then your church will triple its size in a matter of 7 minutes without any conflict. If you want your church to "grow," then send us $19.95 for an instructional DVD to solve your ministry issues. If you act now, you can even get a tremendous discount on a jumbo coffee grinder/brewing system guaranteed to give your Sunday School ministry the needed spark. The reality is quite simple - church growth isn't rocket science, if you define that by gathering a crowd of people. People tend to be "attractional," they'll go places to see things. But growing the church of Jesus is something so different than attractions.
Attractions are prevalent, but what we have to offer people isn't. The work of the Holy Spirit of God, moving through His inspired Word, opening the eyes of people's hearts, convicting them of sin and rebellion, leading them to Christ for forgiveness and restoration - that isn't offered anywhere but the church. And those things - those works of the Spirit - are things that natural abilities and skills and slick programs simply can't produce. I was convicted that too often pastors (and let's be honest here - I'm talking about me) put an over-emphasis on the works of the flesh and forget that the real power in the church of Jesus is not her marketing or fund-raising or programs or teams of greeters driving golf carts through the parking lots. The power in the church of Jesus is the Holy Spirit of God working through His people to bless the community of faith and to invite those outside to come in. For that, there is no substitute.
Much more was said that day and all of it was helpful, but nothing stood out to me more than that great piece of counsel. I'm praying that God would pour out His spirit on this place and allow us to see and experience His power to change lives, to build up His body, to grow His church.