In 1881 churches were tempted by the same things that tempt churches today. The unending temptation is to rely on human skill and natural ability to build a church. These efforts have produced large churches but they have done so to the neglect of the most important. These methods build churches full of people, but empty of the Spirit. Charles Spurgeon said, “Attempts have been made to do something without Christ as the truth to be preached. Ah me, what folly it is! They preach up intellectualism and hope that this will be the great power of God, but it is not. ‘Surely,’ they say, ‘novelties of thought and refinements of speech will attract and win converts! If the preachers aspire to be leaders of thought— will they not command the multitude and charm the intelligent? Add music and architecture and what is to hinder success?’ Many a young minister has given up his whole mind to this—to try and be exceedingly refined and intellectual—and what has he done with these showy means? The sum total is expressed in the text—‘Nothing.’” Churches today strive to appeal to the masses in much the same way as those in Spurgeon’s day. They have the right band, the right venue and a cool preacher who wears the most fashionable clothes and presents a compelling motivational speech about life improvement.
Natural methods must be rejected because they are unable to fulfill the Great Commission. The Great Commission is not fulfilled by drawing a crowd. The Great Commission is not fulfilled by encouraging people to live a better life. The Great Commission is something far greater than getting families in the pews or people down the aisles. The Great Commission is only fulfilled when the Spirit of God transforms a heart. Natural ability cannot convict of sin, make someone a new creature or produce the fruit of the Spirit. As a result, true fruitfulness in ministry cannot be measured by the visible metrics. Large crowds, big budgets, architectural magnificence and massive popularity are not accurate indicators of true heart change or of growth in Christlikeness. Any entertainer can draw a crowd. The Packers, the President, Pink and Pinnochio all draw huge crowds, but none of them things lead men to salvation or produce spiritual fruit.
The Holy Spirit works through the church to shape men into the image of Jesus. The Spirit’s work of salvation and sanctification is not dependent on audience size, venue or musical excellence. The Great Commission can be accomplished in a crowd of 5 and 5,000. The Spirit works through the right application of Biblical methods: preaching and teaching of the Word, prayer, edification, service and love for one another.
Christians are to in the business of lifting up Christ. Oratory, entertainment, motivational speeches and high production values do not lift of Christ. Only the faithful declaration of the Word of God exalts the Son of God. When Christ is lifted up, He will draw all men to Himself. Only the supernatural working of the Spirit of God through the Word of God will lift up the Son of God. Let us make Paul’s commitment our own that we may see God produce fruit for His glory in our church. “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (2 Corinthians 2:4-5)