In recent weeks, God has been speaking to us as a church about His plans for moving and doing a new thing and about the need for growth and development in the church. With this growing anticipation have come frustrations and opposition: the church building was broken into recently and some equipment stolen; the boiler for the main room failed last week as we were about to host a funeral; the roof has developed a leak. It’s easy to be distracted by these practical things from the primary task we have of preaching the Gospel, but we need to avoid complacency and remain focussed on seeking God and finding out what we need to do to ensure that God’s church grows.

Jesus’s ministry shows us that He attracted crowds, that people flocked to listen to Him, even travelling great distances to hear Him. Dave looked at some of the reasons for the success of His ministry:

1) He loved people
Jesus loved spending time with ordinary people; he was known as the ‘friend of sinners’, which infuriated the religious people of His day. We need the same passion for the lost that Jesus had. 1 John 4:8 reminds us that God is love and that our love for God is shown in our love for people. Love needs to be reaching out to others, not just comfortable with fellow believers. We need to be hospitable to visitors and strangers (see Heb 13:2) and understand that ‘growing curches love and loving churches grow.’

Love is not just a feeling. It is behaviour. Our behaviour towards people who come into church needs to be welcoming, accepting and caring. Acceptance is not the same as approval, but we need to understand that it is unreasonable to expect those who do not yet believe in Christ to act like believers until they actually become believers! When we truly welcome and accept people into our midst as Jesus did, then we create an atmosphere of love in which God becomes visible to people.

2) He met their needs

Jesus is seen in the Gospels meeting people’s needs, whether these needs were physical, emotional, spiritual or financial. Jesus often asked people ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ It does not really matter why people come to Christ, we are thankful when they do! At our church, our desire to meet local needs has resulted in the Mother ‘n’ Toddler group, in the coffee morning and in the youth group, for example: community outreaches which may not seem directly spiritual, but which allow us to get to know people we might not otherwise meet and which allow us to provide a service for those who need company and help.

3) He taught people in an interesting and practical way.

Jesus often used parables to teach people, teaching deep truths in a simple manner. He responded to questions, often using examples from everyday life to illustrate His answers. He taught ‘according to their needs’ (see Eph 4:29). His intention was to transform, not inform.

Dave challenged us to avoid ‘churchy’ language and to prepare ourselves for sharing the Gospel by writing out an explanation of the Gospel, including a ‘sinner’s prayer’ which avoided language which would not readily be understood by someone who does not regularly attend church.

How do we learn from the example of Jesus, therefore? Dave urged us to ask God (see James 4:2) – to ask God to give us His love for people, to ask God to give us strategies for meeting people’s needs and to give us the words to use to teach people in interesting and practical, relevant ways. What part will you play? Will YOU serve the Lord?