Vol. 9, No. 1
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The true strength of a congregation is not found in the large number of people on the roll, the amount of money in the treasury, the host of prominent citizens found among the membership nor the beautiful and expensive building that might be owned by the local church. Such could be in evidence because of a strong, spiritual group of saints, but would not necessarily and always be true. You can read the history of the early church and learn that this statement is accurate. The kingdom of God is manifested in such qualities as "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Against such there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23). Please observe that the word "fruit" is singular. This means that all the qualities mentioned are aspects of single life, that is, one that is committed to living for the Lord and governed by the Spirit. While we sometimes pride ourselves in the fact that our attendance has increased and our monetary contributions are at an all time high, we must understand that true strength is to be measured in the spiritual development of individual Christians.
Such growth is not necessarily reported in our brotherhood papers as progress reports. For example, a Christian lady related to me that if she worked two days in a week, one day's salary would be given to the Lord. That's just wonderful! A brother related to me once that he had the chance to have his overseer fired because of personal differences, but didn't since the man would not have financial support for his family. That is growth because prior to this brother's conversion to the Lord, the two men had actually fought. You witness a sister who at one time neglected the worship assemblies, but now is attending faithfully because of her love for the Lord--that is growth. You notice the increased interest in Bible study in a brother and hear him talking to others about the need of obeying Jesus Christ--that is growth. A husband and wife who once fought and fussed all the time, but are now living in peace and harmony and rearing their children in the way of the Lord--that is growth.
It is a beautiful thing to witness Christians growing in "the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). We all should heed the exhortation found in Hebrews 6:1, "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection." Each one of us should strive "to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:29). However, we must understand that by ourselves, we cannot accomplish the desired results. Our help comes from above. As Paul said, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).