This past weekend I was listening to Audio Adrenaline in my car. The CD I was listening to has the song “Beautiful” on it twice, and with several trips to various places I managed to hear that song probably 7 or 8 times. The lyrics of this song took my thoughts in 2 entirely different directions, both of which I want to share today. But first, a video of the song:
The first direction this song took my thoughts was based on the lyrics:
Your name is, beautiful
It drips off of my lips like drops of gold
There are so many beautiful names of Jesus in the Bible. Prince of Peace, Son of God, Spotless Lamb of God, Savior, Lord, Son of Man, Immanuel (which means “God with us”), the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, and more. Each of these beautiful names truly does drip off of my lips like drops of gold. As the name of Jesus is on our lips, we become a blessing to others and to those who do not know Him.
Which brings me to the second direction this song took my thoughts in, based on the lyrics:
When I lift You up they come running
When I sing Your song the world’s turning to You
Just the sound of Your name is a beautiful thing
I love You, I love You, I love You
A couple of years ago I was on the leadership team at my old church. We were talking about ways to increase membership in the church, and someone suggested we turn to a consultant who helped churches with church development and growth based on a program called “ABC’s of Natural Church Development.” This program was based on an extensive survey of churches around the world to determine what made people join churches and stay there. It was a pretty good program that identified the 8 characteristics of growing churches as:
- Empowering Leadership
- Gift-based Ministry
- Passionate Spirituality
- Effective Structures
- Inspiring Worship Service
- Holistic Small Groups
- Need-oriented Evangelism
- Loving Relationships
But as we went though the steps outlined in this program to determine which of these two areas our church was weakest in, I kept thinking that there was something missing, but that it was also more complicated than it needed to be. It seemed to me that 2,000 years ago Jesus told us what was needed for church growth. It was the method He employed and that the apostles employed with great success. After God the Father had spoken from heaven that His name had been glorified and would be again, Jesus said:
“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. John 12:31-33 (NIV).
Jesus drew people to Himself through His willing sacrifice for our sins, through His divine love revealed when He was lifted up on the cross. He did not say it was His great teaching or example that would draw people to Him. He did not say it was effective church structures that would draw people to Him. He did not say it was empowering leadership that would draw people to Him. He did not say it was inspiring worship services that would draw people to Him. He did not even say that it was loving relationships that would draw people to Him.
Now don’t get me wrong. I believe the characteristics set forth in the ABC’s program are important for a church. And men and woman who are in love with Jesus, who are truly sold out on His love and sacrifice, should and will work to exhibit these characteristics in their congregations.
But when it comes to church growth, to adding numbers to the church membership roll and Christian souls to the Kingdom of God, the way to do that is to lift up Jesus. We must lift up His name and His sacrifice on the cross, and by doing so we will draw people to Him. They may not join our particular congregation, but that should not necessarily be our aim. Our aim should be to draw people to Jesus Himself. Once drawn to Him, He will do the work necessary to inspire His believers to gift-based ministry and need-oriented evangelism. He must be the center of all that the church does and teaches. We must do as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:
Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (NIV).
When we lift Him up, they will come running. Let us never forget the power of the name of Jesus Christ and Him crucified to draw people to Him for their own salvation.