In short, growing a church is hard work! It takes effort, time, patience, and persistence. When we hear reports of great revival and church growth, we should rejoice, but we should not think that there are shortcuts to growth. Instead, we should realize two important truths.
By David K. Bernard
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient (James 5:7-8).
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (II Timothy 4:5).
James explained that we must wait patiently for the coming of the Lord, just as the farmer waits patiently for the harvest. The farmer is totally dependent upon the blessings of God—the sunshine, the rain, and the miracle of life in the seed. He cannot force growth to take place but must allow it to develop and unfold naturally. Yet he does not sit by idly and wait for God to work. He cannot do what God must do, but God will not do what he can do. Therefore, the farmer works diligently and at the same time waits patiently. The combination of diligent effort and patience is persistence.
The Christian life requires persistence. Jesus taught the need for it: “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Paul’s life was characterized by persistence: “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
Christian ministry also requires persistence. Despite persecution, the apostles continued to preach and teach daily in the Temple and from house to house (Acts 5:40-42). To establish the church in Ephesus, Paul held discussions in the school of Tyrannus every day for two years (Acts 19:9-10). As the New Testament repeatedly records, the apostles persevered in their ministry despite intense opposition and hardship.
Paul described the circumstances in which he and other apostles ministered: “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the off-scouring of all things until now” (I Corinthians 4:1113). “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (II Corinthians 4:8-9).
Paul exhorted Timothy to work hard to fulfill his ministry—continually being watchful, enduring afflictions, and reaching for the lost (II Timothy 4:5). He compared the preacher’s responsibilities to those of a soldier, an athlete, a farmer, a workman, a vessel, and a servant (II Timothy 2).