God’s Plan For Growing Churches

The church in Nepal is a growing church! One study online compared the growth of the Christian population from 2001-2011 throughout all 75 districts of Nepal, and found a growth of 101 976 – 375 699. That is a growth rate of 268%, the church approaching nearly a tripling in size over just 10 years. We are continuing to see encouraging growth amongst the students and church planters we are privileged to work with in Nepal.

Our national Nepali co-ordinator recently shared with us that over the last 5 months, around about 1700 people have heard the gospel through our church planters, 28 people have been baptised and three new fellowships have commenced. This is encouraging news!

What is it that causes the growth of a church? It is a question that many of us in the western declining church are eager to learn about. In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul describes the growth of the church. Note the underlined words particularly.

“11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

This is what every Christian longs for, isn’t it? The church building itself up in love. But how does it happen? What does Paul say causes the growth of the church? Well, Paul says the growth of the church is stimulated by five gifts Christ has given to the church. These five gifts are five types of leaders, and these leaders equip the saints for the building up the body to allow growth. What are these leaders? There they are in verse 11: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers.

When you think about it, each of these brings a vital ingredient for spiritual growth. Working backwards, the teacher brings truth, the shepherd brings relationship, the evangelist brings mission, the prophet brings encounter with God, and the apostle brings leadership and replication. Now some may object that the gifts of apostles or prophets were only present for the foundational years of the church, but their flavour of gifting undoubtedly still persists. There are some people who have an apostolic heart, who are gifted in pioneering new ministries, raising up new leaders and multiplying God’s work. These people we sometimes call missionaries today, and that in fact is the same word as apostle, meaning somebody who is sent. Similarly, there are certainly at least some prophetic-like people today who excel in bringing a sense of an encounter with God, who call us to prayer and fasting, and speak with a sense of the power and presence of God.

These five gifts are given for the growth of the church. In Nepal, it seems to me that they excel in at least the first three gifts. They have visionary and courageous leaders, they know how to pray and see God supernaturally intervene and reveal His presence, and they are extremely bold and active in evangelism. IF they have a weakness, it is probably in the area of truth, with so many new Christians not being properly discipled and receiving foundations in the scriptures. This is where our Engage ministry is seeking to serve and bless the church in Nepal, by conducting our 2 year training program for up and coming Nepali leaders. Thank you for your support of us in our ministry to contribute to the growth of the church in Nepal in this way. There is much we can learn from the way the Nepali church is implementing the five growth factors in the west, and we are privileged to be able to have input into their church’s growth as well.