Church Growth God’s Way

The following comes from Solid Joys, the daily devotional app from the ministry of John Piper. View online, or download the app on Google Play or iTunes.

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It is not the children of the flesh that are the children of God, but the children of promise are reckoned as seed. (Romans 9:8)

Picture Abraham as a pastor. The Lord says, “I will bless you and prosper your ministry.” The church is barren and bears no children.

What does Abraham do? He begins to despair of supernatural intervention. He is getting old. His wife remains barren. So he decides to bring about God’s promised son without supernatural intervention. He has sex with Hagar his wife’s handmaid (16:4). However the result is not a “child of promise,” but a “child of the flesh,” Ishmael.

God stuns Abraham by saying, “I will give you a son by Sarah” (17:6). So Abraham cries out to God, “O that Ishmael might live in your sight” (17:18). He wants the work of his own flesh to be the fulfillment of God’s promise. But God says, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son” (17:19).

But Sarah is now 90 years old. She has been barren all her life, and now she no longer menstruates (18:11). Abraham is 100. The only hope for a child of promise is supernatural intervention.

That is what it means to be a “child of promise” — to be born “not by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). The only children that count for children of God in this world are supernaturally begotten children of promise. In Galatians 4:28 Paul says, “You [Christians], like Isaac, are children of promise.” You are “born according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh” (4:29).

Think of Abraham as a pastor again. His church is not growing the way he believes God promised. He is weary of waiting for supernatural intervention. He turns to the “Hagar” of mere human devices and decides he can “attract people” without the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

However, it will not be a church of Isaacs, but Ishmaelites — children of the flesh, not children of God. God save us from this kind of success.

How will he? By moving us to build our ministry around prayer and fasting.

“O Lord, Give Us Children of Promise, Not Children of the Flesh!”

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We find it’s hard to follow God’s path and interventions, don’t we?

During my junior high school years, the time I was a self-claimed agnostic, I once asked God about why I was not picked for the national math olympiad. God did not reply me, and I tried to do it by my own. I ended up not getting picked for math olympiad.

Now, as a grade eleven, I have competed for 2012’s math olympiad, and I am now waiting for 2013’s selection announcement. During the period between junior high school and senior high, I began to be ready for anything God would gave for me and decided to let Him work.

The grace has been given and it will be given more abundantly to us.

Lord Jesus blesses you!

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