Lesson 12 – The Increase and the Spread of the Church
After seeing the vision of the church and how the church may be built up, we must proceed to see the matter of the increase and spread of the church. Many Christians think that after they are saved initially, they simply wait to go to heaven. They have no idea that they were saved as members of the Body to build up the church. Some among us may think that we have nothing to worry about, because by His mercy, we are in the church. It is true that all of our sins have been forgiven. It is also true that we are in the practical local church life. Yet, we must labor diligently in building up the church.
THE INCREASE OF THE CHURCH
The Need to Increase
The increase of the church is to impart Christ to others and make them a part of Christ. The branches of the Vine bear fruit by imparting the life of the Vine to others and making them a part of the Vine. If the branches of a vine do not bear fruit, there will be no increase of the vine. The fruit-bearing of the branches is the increase of the vine tree. So the increase of the church is by the fruit-bearing of all the members. All the members must bear fruit; otherwise, there will be no increase of the local church.
The proper way to preach the gospel is to impart Christ into others as life. We should not trust in the great preachers; we have to trust in ourselves. Every member of the church is a branch to bear fruit. Consider the fruit tree. Every kind of fruit tree bears fruit at least once a year—this is a natural law. I do believe that as living members of the local church, we must bring at least one new convert a year to the Lord. Suppose a branch of the vine does not bear fruit year after year. What do they do with it? They prune it or cut it off. Every local church must encourage every member to bring at least one new convert to the Lord every year. Even to bring in ten or twelve a year is not too many, for that is simply like a cluster of grapes.
The Wrong Concepts
In the gospel preaching, there are some wrong concepts that I must point out to you. In some of the denominational churches there is much activity in the outreach of the gospel. This is good, but the problem is that there is too much human effort and struggle. This is wrong, but this does not mean that we should retire from fruit-bearing and not bear fruit. We should not be old in bearing fruit; we should always be renewed. There is no retirement in the spiritual life. Another kind of concept in Christianity is that we must wait and pray for a great revival—then the Lord will send a giant speaker, and we will come together to have a gospel campaign. This is abnormal.
The Normal Way
What is the normal way? The normal way is not to use our human effort; nor is it to depend upon a revival campaign with a giant preacher. Fruit-bearing is the outflow of life; so we must grow in life and also take the responsibility of fruit-bearing. The church should encourage every member to pray for the bringing in of new converts to the church. We should spend at least two or three hours weekly to take care of some new ones. It is not right for a church to remain the same in number year after year. Suppose that after five years we still have the same number. This is absolutely wrong. This means that we do not have the exercise of the flow of life.
What do I mean by the flow of life? I mean that we must abide in the Lord and enjoy the riches of His life. Then we must be burdened for fruit-bearing. We must pray, “Lord, my daily life is to bear fruit.’’ Then the Lord will give us a deep realization for two or three persons for whom we should care. We may know 50 persons, but at that time the Lord will burden us with only two or three. We will pray for them, mentioning their names to the Lord. Then we need to seek the Lord’s guidance regarding how to contact them. Perhaps we will invite them to dinner along with some of the brothers and sisters; then there will be others to help in ministering life to them. The brothers and sisters in the church should help one another in a mutual way in the matter of fruit-bearing. We should not do this just once in a while, but constantly. This is our daily life. We should spend at least two or three hours weekly in this matter. Do not expect a quick job. It is by doing it steadily and constantly that we will see the results.
If every year each one would bring in one new convert, within a year’s time the church would be doubled. And after another year, it would be doubled again. The young people should bring in one new one every six months. It is not too much to bring in one new convert in one hundred and eighty days. In fact, it is too little. If each one could bring in two a year, by the end of the year, the church would be doubled twice. This is the increase.
The God-ordained Way to Increase the Church
Going out to visit people is the most effective way to spread the gospel for the kingdom of God. Actually, visiting people by knocking on their doors is not a new way but an ancient way. This way began from the garden in Genesis 3. Every Christian should knock on people’s doors to bring others the gospel. To knock on people’s doors means to visit people. To visit people by knocking on their doors is actually the God-ordained, Christian way to spread the gospel that has been picked up by the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses to spread their heretical teaching. It is regrettable that the proper people, the Christians, have nearly given up the God-ordained way to spread the gospel. But now the Lord is leading us back to this way.
THE SPREAD OF THE CHURCH
If we read the Book of Acts carefully, we will see that the spreading of the gospel had two lines. The first line was the migration of the saints—not the going out of the apostles. Acts 8:1 says very plainly that all the saints were scattered abroad, except the apostles. We have always thought that the apostles had to go out and the saints had to stay. But the Lord scattered all the saints and kept the apostles in Jerusalem. The sent ones stayed, and all the others were sent out. This was the first spreading of the gospel. It was not by the apostles going, but by the scattering of the believers. This is what we call migration. The spreading of God’s kingdom really does not only depend on the apostles, but also on the believers migrating from city to city.
According to Luke 21:24, Jerusalem has been returned to the people of Israel. This is the strongest fact that the time of the Lord’s return is very near. Therefore, locally we must have the increase, and universally we must have the spreading. As a local expression, we must have many saints going out. We are not here for our interest; we are here for the Lord’s recovery. And the time is near; the Lord is coming back. We must take care of His interest. We must look to the Lord that some will be burdened to go, and all of us should be willing to be burdened to go. We are the descendants of Abraham. Abraham was a stranger who continually sojourned on the earth. It is not right for us to be so settled in one place. We have to move from one place to another. We must be here for the Lord’s interest. If we are here as a local expression of the Lord’s Body without an increase locally and a spreading universally, we are wrong. Do not think that we are more spiritual than others. If we do, we are too proud. We must be so living and burning all the time for a certain amount of increase locally and for a measure of spreading universally.
We are living today in the richest country on the earth. Everything is so available, and we are in the very center of the populated world. It is exceedingly easy and convenient for us to go north, south, east, or west. We must spread the Lord’s testimony to many cities in this country and Canada, as well as to Mexico, Central and South America and Europe. We must look to the Lord that we will have such an increase locally and such a spreading universally.
The increase and spread builds up the church in each locality as well as the Body of Christ throughout the earth. The Lord will come for His bride when there are built-up local churches spread throughout the inhabited earth. We must give ourselves to pray, to read the word, and to be trained to preach the gospel that we may be part of the great work for the increase and spread of the church life throughout the earth to bring the Lord back. If we are diligent in this matter, we will have a great reward.