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Keys to Growth:
Teaching from the Bible


      Just a few weeks ago, we took a look at what the “church growth experts” tell us are the key essentials for successful church growth. Our concern, of course, was that these experts might believe something unscriptural would be necessary to grow the congregation. In fact, all nine of the keys are biblical keys which we can have right here in the Franklin church.

      1. Teaching from the Bible

      2. Maintain high standards of commitment

      3. Maintain high standards of morality

      4. Convince every member they are needed

      5. Increase love and warmth among the brethren

      6. Have enthusiastic Bible classes

      7. Have good, calm, steady leadership

      8. Portray our collective worship as special

      9. Have an evangelistic method that produces results

      We can and must do all nine of these. Over the next several months I want to take a look at each of these keys individually and see what they mean for us and how we can internalize them within this congregation. The first and fundamental key for church growth is teaching from the Bible.


I.         The purpose of the church

A.      In I Timothy 3:14-15, Paul told Timothy that he was writing to him “so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” The entire purpose of Christ’s church is to hold up His truth. To support it and propagate it. Everything we do is to be for the purpose of edifying (I Corinthians 14:26) and that building up happens through the word of Christ (Acts 20:32).

B.     I recently read one man’s definition of the local church: “Independent workgroups of disciples.”[1] A congregation is independent because it is to be non-denominational and autonomous (cf. I Peter 5:1-4). It is a workgroup because we are all to be workers, heading for the same goal (Ephesians 4:16). It is a workgroup of disciples because we are all to be learners (II Peter 1:5). Despite the several things I believe this author got wrong, I believe he got this right. We are supposed to be an independent group of working learners. There is absolutely no way we can be a group of learners apart from teaching and studying the Bible. II Timothy 3:15-17 drives that home.

C.     Does this definition apply to us? Are we an independent workgroup of learners? In this lesson we are focused on the learners. I would like to read a quote from the author of that definition.

If we say that some person is a student of mathematics or history, we expect that he has some books on the subject, reads and studies those books, has a real interest in the subject, and is accustomed to talking about it. If we ran into someone claiming to be a math student, and he had no math books, never read about math or studied it and hardly knew anything about math, we would seriously doubt the validity of his claim.[2]

The same would be true for students of the word. We would expect them to read it, study it, know it and be excited to talk about it. Is that us?

D.     One final comment in relation to the church growth experts and their statement. I think we recognize that many of the “growing” congregations these people studied are not really teaching the Bible. They are teaching man’s doctrines and twisting the Bible to support their view. But they look like they are teaching from the Bible. Let me point out, that we can fill our pews by merely looking like we teach the Bible. But we only fill heaven by actually teaching the Bible and getting people to respond to the actual teaching of the Bible (James 1:21).

II.       Accomplishing the purpose

A.      In our assemblies

1.       Obviously, the number one way in which we will fulfill this goal in our assemblies is to have Bible based sermons. In II Timothy 4:1-4, Paul charged Timothy to preach the word, whether it was popular or not. He explained that a time would come when people didn’t want to hear God’s word preached, but we must not be those who gather up teachers who will tickle our ears. It is ironic how many people complain when the preacher says something they don’t like, but don’t complain when he says nothing from the Word.

2.       We remember that everything in our assemblies is to be done for the purpose of edification (I Corinthians 14:26). And we have already pointed out that the word is the key to edifying (Acts 20:32). That means that we need to tie everything we do in the assembly back to the word of God. Certainly, this means we need Bible backing for everything we do, but more importantly the connection to Scripture needs to be evident. We must make sure our songs are scriptural and highlight their connection to scriptural teaching. How would our prayers improve if we took the time to pray the word in our assemblies? For instance, instead of just praying, “Father, forgive us.” How about praying, “Father, forgive us as we confess our sins just as you promised in I John 1:9”? Instead of praying, “Father, please help our congregation to grow.” How about praying, “Father, as we plant and water, please provide the growth as Paul taught in I Corinthians 3:6-7”? I think we do a great job with the Lord’s Supper, always having someone discuss some scriptural aspect of the Supper before we partake. With the giving, I think it would impress the purpose of giving on our minds and impress any non-Christian guests if we pointed out the scriptural precedent for what we do.

3.       I do not want to leave the impression that we have to read or mention a verse with every statement, song or prayer. However, we must make sure that when people leave our assemblies they know this congregation and its collective work and worship is built upon the word of God.

B.     In our classes

1.       There is really not much to add under this heading that was not mentioned regarding the assemblies. However, I think it is important for us to comment on this, especially since we are now working on new classes and curriculum.

2.       We need to remember that the church is not a babysitting service. It is not an entertainment industry. Our responsibility is not to keep children entertained and active for an hour while their parents learn the Bible. The church’s responsibility is to hold up and support the truth (I Timothy 3:15). That is true in our classes. I certainly think the Bible authorizes us to teach the Bible in age appropriate ways. We need to remember we are to be conducting Bible classes, not craft classes. We are to be focused on learning, not entertainment. When we are done with a class we need to be able to pinpoint what we were teaching from the Bible and how every part of what we did really teaches the Bible. Sadly, too many tell a Bible story and then simply do crafts that they can say somehow connects, but with little teaching and then they justify it saying, “We’re hands on learners.” Too often we think short term, thinking we have to make a class fun so the kids will come back next week. Instead we need to be thinking long term, thinking about what our children need to learn each week so they will be faithful to the Lord’s plan when they grow up instead of being enamored by the latest fun gimmick the liberal churches and denominations throw at them.

3.       Our adult classes must also be Word centered. Are there a lot of great self-help books out there? Sure. But our job is not to teach the latest pop-psychology approach to a better life. Our duty is to teach God’s Word. Whether we are studying a book, a doctrine or a topic, everything we teach and every class we conduct must be centered in the Word.

C.     As individuals

1.       In Acts 2:42, the earliest Christians were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching. For them, that meant they had to be around the apostles. They had to seek them out, ask them questions, listen to their answers. It meant they had to be present when the apostles were teaching. For us, it means opening our Bibles, reading and studying them. The reality is, our assemblies and our classes will only be Word-based to the extent that we as individual Christians are. If we do not know our Bibles, we are not going to be able to make them part of what we do when we come together.

2.       There are essentially four things we as individuals need to do with the Word.

a.      Read the word: In I Timothy 4:13, Paul told Timothy to give attention to reading of Scripture. While Paul’s intent may have been as the NASB translates it, referring to public reading, the point for us is the same. We need to read the Scripture. What kind of plan do you have to read the Bible? We are all at different stages. You don’t have to read as much or for as long as the person next to you necessarily. But we all need to be reading. Whether your goal is to read one chapter a day or ten, whether your goal is to read one hour a day or fifteen minutes, the point is you need to be reading the Bible every day.

b.      Study the word: In II Timothy 2:15, Paul said we must be diligent to rightly divide the word. That rightly dividing is about studying. It is about digging deeper than merely reading. It means cross-referencing and comparing scripture with scripture. It means figuring out how what we read applies to us. While we need time to simply read the Bible, we must make sure we go beyond that and actually dig into it, studying it. Figuring out what it means with words like faith and grace, learning the lessons from the lives of characters like David and Esther, knowing how to apply Leviticus and Hebrews to our modern lives appropriately. We individually must be growing students of the word.

c.      Memorize the word: Psalm 119:11 says, “Your word I have treasured (hidden) in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” Getting the word implanted in our hearts, knowing it by heart, so to speak, provides us a great defense every day. Memory work is not just a kids’ Bible class activity (though it ought to begin there). It ought to be part of our adult lives as well. I think sometimes we get overwhelmed. The Bible is a big book and there is so much of it we might want to know by heart we simply throw up our hands and say, “What’s the use? I will never know all of it.” The point is not to know all of it. The point is to grow in knowledge. God will not judge us based on whether we know it all, but whether we are growing. If you only memorize one verse per week, that is one more verse than you knew last week. If you memorize only five verses per day then you would have the whole New Testament memorized in less than five years. Imagine that. Someone says, but that is impossible. Maybe, but don’t you think we might be better Christians and know the word better if we tried?

d.      Live the word: In II Timothy 3:14-15, Paul told Timothy to continue in the things he had learned. That is he was to continue living in the things he had learned. It does us no good to know the word if we won’t follow the Word. As James 1:25 says, we should not be forgetful hearers but effectual doers. People need to see that we live the word. That means we should even talk about the Word. When people asked us what we did today, we could say, “Well, I read from Luke this morning about when Jesus taught about prayer…” When people ask us why we act a certain way, we should be able to say, “Because the Bible says…” As the song says, we may, in fact, be the only Bible some people see. We need to make sure they can see it in our lives.


      The experts tell us that teaching from the Bible is one of the keys to effective congregational growth. This is something we can do. We need to examine ourselves and make sure we are doing it in every aspect of our work.


[1] Dawson, Sam, What is Wrong with Most Churches of Christ & How They Can Avoid Extinction, Gospel Themes Press, Austin, TX, 2006, p. 9.

[2] Ibid.

Glory to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Franklin Church of Christ