Why Some Churches “Succeed”

“They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.” (I John 4:5)

It’s not all about numbers in the work of God’s Kingdom — although judging “success” merely on the basis of the increasing numbers of those in attendance is a trap that many Christian workers do indeed fall into. And unfortunately by focusing merely on these outward standards they end up implementing all kinds of ungodly changes in order to increase attendance. But John reminds us here that all “attendance” is not good.

Referring to the false teachers whom he just indicated were abundant in our world, John teaches that “they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.” The false teachers, he says, will attract quite a following: “the world listens to them.” So we should expect that there will be many “churches” in the last days which attract a lot of people — but that does NOT equate to God’s approval or blessing.

The LAST thing that sincere Christians need to do is to “study” such “churches” and imitate their practices, hoping to achieve similar results. What we would “learn” from them is the worldliness and compromise that fueled their so-called “success.” Instead we need to discern the worldliness makes these organizations so attractive to the world, and avoid that kind of compromise.

Remember: just because you see that a church or ministry attracts a lot of people, you cannot necessarily attribute it to the work of the Spirit of God. Especially in an increasingly ungodly culture, it may be more of an indicator of their worldliness. Just think about it: if you’d had a church that was “popular” and “growing” in the degraded atmosphere of Sodom in Genesis, it wouldn’t have been a measure of your success, but of the depth of your compromise with the world.

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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