Friday, May 5, 2023

Understanding How the Church Grows—Elimination

By Brian Mitchell


    Understanding how the church grows can be difficult because sometimes it forces us to face difficult situations. Sometimes we have to go backwards before we can move forward. Sometimes the church grows through the subtraction of ungodly and immoral members. God neither approves of, nor blesses, congregations of His people who wink at or overlook the glaring existence of sin among the lives of its members--1 Cor.5:9-11. Thus, healthy congregations are those which take seriously God’s call to practice discipline among its own members (including withdrawal of fellowship when necessary), however painful it may be.

    The discipline of disorderly Christians serves several purposes: it serves as a warning to other Christians living in sin. It expresses love for the soul of the one disciplined. And it shows a congregation’s faithfulness to all of God’s Word, not just the parts that are easy. When done properly—in the right spirit, with the right intentions, and with great patience—the practice of church discipline will lead the church to grow in strength, if not in number.

    Sometimes the church grows through the subtraction of ungodly and immoral characteristics. The local church will also experience growth when its members seek to rid themselves of the cumbersome weight of sin which the Bible says “so easily ensnares or entangles us” (Heb.12:1). The act of pruning a rose bush is done so that that which is dead and actually hindering the growth of the roses can be eliminated.

    That same act is also needed in the individual lives of Christians. There are personal characteristics and traits that must be eliminated from the lives of Christians before they will experience the kind of personal growth that God intended for them to experience. Thus, we must be ever committed and vigilant in our efforts to cull out the sins in our lives that are hindering us from growing personally.

     Sins like what? Immorality and worldliness, jealousy and envy and doctrinal impurity. As we examine each of these areas it will become readily apparent why they must be eliminated if we are to have a healthy growing church full of healthy growing Christians. These are characteristics which ought to be extinct in God’s church. Thus, again growth comes by the elimination of worldly members that will not walk in the light and the elimination of ungodly and immoral characteristics in the lives of those who belong to the local church.

    Why must we do this? Part of the mission of the church is the act of being a positive influence in the world we live in. This becomes impossible to do when we have lost our flavor and extinguished our lights by tolerating members who live in sin and by being composed of members that are no less worldly than those around them. How can worldly Christians influence others to give up the world? Thus, again we grow in part through our commitment to actually live the Word of God and taking appropriate measures to correct the behavior of those who do not.

    That kind of commitment makes an impression, not only upon the church, but also upon those in the world. The remainder of our lesson today will focus on the fact that if this church really wants to grow then every member must truly be committed. To the other things we have discussed in this series but also to eliminating those characteristics which are hindering our ability to personally grow as we should and which are destroying our ability to positively influence the world.

- Brian Mitchell serves as a minister with the Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, MO. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at

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