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Exodus 23:30, “By little and little I will drive them out
from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.”
Deuteronomy 7:22, “And the LORD thy God will put out those
nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once,
lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.”
May I point out why come leaders
face problems and stumbling blocks and give up. May I explain why some leaders
give up on their followers? May I detail why some leaders feel like their
followers will never become what they envisioned them becoming. May I take
liberty and tell you why many churches fail and why some preachers have given
up and resigned. This of which I am about to speak of is why Sunday school teachers,
bus captains, and many volunteer leaders falter and end up throwing the towel
in and quitting.
In our two Scripture references
God lays out his great plan for the future of the nation Israel. He tells them
that as they go toward the Promised Land he is going to help them drive out
their enemies. God tells them he is going to give hem the Land of Canaan, which
was from the Nile River on one side to the Tigris and Euphrates River to the
East side. This is much bigger than we all the Land of Canaan today.
God said not only am I going to
bless you, drive out your enemies, and give you that land forever I am going to
make you more blessed than all the people of the world. However, God startles
them when he said this would not happen all at once. God tells them it will not
happen in one year. God says yes I’ll give you the victory, but it’ll not be in
one year. Then God uses a little term twice in the Scriptures. God says in our
language, “little by little” I’ll give you the victory. Not all at one time, but
“little by little.”
If there is to be real growth it
will have to come from God himself and not man. Jesus said he would build his
local church and not on a cursing preacher named Peter. God is the Lord of the
I Corinthians 3:6-8, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God
gave the increase. So then neither is he that planted anything, neither he that
watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that
watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his
own labour.”
Why should God reward man for
what God does? God will reward each of his children for their “own labor.” God
brings about the increase. All real growth is of God.
We are to go deputize, organize,
and evangelize. The pattern is simple we obey God’s commands and provide not
just exhortation but example via our laboring in God’s field and he will bring
about the increase and the harvest.
Every leader is to provide the
material for himself and those who follow him. If there is no spiritual labor
there is in essence no labor. All work is spiritual work for the child of God.
Marital responsibility is spiritual responsibility, parenting responsibility is
spiritual responsibility, financial responsibility is spiritual responsibility,
job responsibility is spiritual responsibility, and everything the child of God
does is for God. Jesus was a carpenter and that was spiritual work for the Son
of God and so is your daily labor.
A church goes soul winning and
leads a soul to Christ, brings that person to church, the convert follows the
Lord in baptism, joins the church, and hopefully will go soul winning himself.
God decides where each person fits into the local body, but we decide if there
is going to be material for God to build with. Local churches that do not
provide the material of souls are not providing material for God to use in his
local church. Failure is the result not by God, but by his children.
Whether it be a crop, a nation, a
marriage, child rearing, finances, business, church, Sunday school class, bus
ministry, missions, or a bus route when we obey the rules given in God’s Word
we are placing ourselves in the position of blessing.
One can choose to disobey God’s
rules and borrow the rules of the ruler of this world and have numerical
success, but that is far different than spiritual success. This emerging
movement led by Southern Baptist Convention is infiltrating
independent Baptist churches. They may find numerical success, but they will
end up at the end of the day like Evangelical Bill Hybels whose own internal
study reported they produced the crowds, but failed to produce Christians.
When I came to pastor the
Longview Baptist Temple of Longview, Texas, I was asked if a great church could
be built here? I said I did not know, but I will give it my all to built great
Christians! You see it is really up to God to give the growth.
It is up to God to provide the
increase, thus God’s children must be satisfied with whatever God gives while
pressing to grow as a leader and to win souls and teaching them so they will
grow. The growth of a church is measured by the growth of the Pastor and
leadership and God does the measuring. God is giving you what in essence is
equivalent to your spiritual growth and the spiritual growth of those whom you
have chosen as leaders.
Lack of visible growth is not an
indication of failure or the presence of visible growth is likewise an
indication of success. Ask famous missionary Adoniram Judson for he faithfully
went soul winning for 7 long years in his field of service with not one convert
among the Burmese people. Yet his name is on the lips of every soul-winning
missionary on planet earth to this day.
A parent does not notice the
growth of his or her child. The movement of the hand of a clock is a refection
of life. You cannot see the day develop. The great churches of the 60’s and
70’s grew on an average of 1 ½ per Sunday over a span of 30 to 40 years.
Dr. Wendell Evans, Chancellor Emeritus of Hyles-Anderson College, used to call it
“decade growth.” He would often tell the students you do the right thing long
enough and one day you will see the fruit of your labor. Do not measure it by
your attendance, but rather measure what it takes to win people to Christ. The
same is true for every field of endeavor for a leader whether it be parenting
or a business venture.
Dr. John R. Rice while preaching
at Hyles-Anderson College gave me a rare opportunity to speak with him and his
advice was this. “Son, every preacher wants a 1,000 on Sunday without paying
attention to what it takes to have a 1,000 on Sunday. Tell me how many you have
on soul winning night and I’ll tell you how many you’ll end up on Sunday in
attendance. Everyone counts and publishes the Sunday attendance, but rarely
do they publish or emphasis the soul winning night numbers. Give me 10 on soul
winning night and you will run 100 on Sunday. If you want more than put more
into it.”
All real
growth is of God
growth, which is real growth, is slow growth
children provide the material for God to use
children obey the rules of growth and God provides the growth
children provide the input and God then gives the output
growth is not an indication of success or failure
growth is not usually seen
Whether it is the growth of a
local church, a business, a ministry, marriage, or child rearing it will be
slow growth and it is usually things that went unseen that pleased God so he
felt he could trust you to help others. All growth is of God for no man can
decide to grow. Man cannot decide to grow a crop, rear a child, grow yourself,
grow a bus route, or a church. Why, because all growth is of God and it is
slow. All God’s children can do is provide the input of material or the proper
God’s children must obey the
rules of growth realizing that visible growth is not an indication of success
for real growth is usually unseen.

I returned from a trip of
preaching out of town one time. I went to the church and pulled up to find the shrubs
out front seemingly chopped up. I went to Jeff Walters, our resident
horticulturalist, and asked what he was doing to the shrubs. He said preacher
this is the time for them to be pruned in order for them to have healthy future
growth. The shrubs looked terrible, but he was right and after a few months
they looked bigger, fuller, and better than ever before.
Such is the work of God on his
work when he prunes. It is not without pain, but it is necessary.
John 15:2, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every
branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring for more fruit.”
If you run away from Christ you
will be punished and if you run toward Christ you will find yourself being
pruned. WOW! It looks to me like we are going to get it one way or the other. I
would rather suffer fruitfully than fruitlessly. Pruning is necessary!
The truth is we should not think
more about God’s growth than we do about our work. Leaders should think more
about the input than the output, the ingredients more than the outcome, and
focus on responsibility more than the results and God would respond by giving
the results.
Matthew 16:18, “…upon this rock I will build my church…”
It is not my business to build a
local church it is Jesus’ business. Our job is bringing the material to him so
he has someone to build with. Within that you will find the pruning process at
work. God gives the increase while our job is to plant and to water what has
been planted. That is the secret to child rearing, health, marriages,
businesses, ministries, and churches.
Matthew 5:48, “Be ye therefore perfect even as your
heavenly Father is perfect…”
God is saying be ye therefore on
your way to perfection, or be ye be becoming perfect. This is a future perfect
tense! Be on your way. Thus, our part is to be on our way while God’s part is
the perfecting. You see God is the one who makes you a better wife, husband,
pastor, bus captain, Sunday school teacher, Sunday school Superintendent, or
staff member. You put the ingredients in and God is allowed to respond to your
ingredients with growth.
II Peter 3:18, “Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord
and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
It does not say be grown in
grace. It says simply “grow” which is in the linear or “grow and grow and grow
and grow” or be on your way to becoming grown.
The Israelites became discouraged
in waiting. When God told them as they were leaving Egypt when you arrive at
Canaan I’m going to drive out the people, but I’ll not do it in one day or one
year. It will be little by little.
Later on when they arrived at the
door of the Promised Land God said the same thing once again. He said yes I’ll
help you drive them out, but it will not be in one day nor in one year for it
will be little and little.
Maybe you are a new Christian.
You used to say some bad words. You vowed you’d never do it again, but all of a
sudden you hit the wrong nail with your hammer and you swore. All of a sudden
it dawned on you what you just said. Wait a minute; you’ll not grow up over
night physically or spiritually. Little by little! Don’t give up and do not
become discouraged.
But I’m an alcoholic and I never
thought I would take another drink. Yet, I did it again! Wait a minute God said
little by little. You growth will be little by little. Now as leaders this must
be applied to others and cause us to be patient with each other. Christian
growth is little by little. Businesses grow little by little. Child rearing is
little by little. Ministries grow little by little.
Some of you reading this who are frustrated with people it is ironic to me that it took some of you 20
years to give up cigarettes and yet you want your converts to give them up in
20 days. Growth is little by little.
Many a young pastor has ruined
his church by expecting more growth than God is giving through his people.  It is always little by little and is a
reflection of the leaders own spiritual growth. This is the only way God will
work for in every area it will be little by little.

Married couples need to quit expecting an A+ on their marriage when it’s been a
D+ for years, by letting it be a D-, C-, C+, B-, B, A-, and then someday an A.
This improvement does not occur overnight.
If those who follow you do 2 out
of the 10 things you desire that is 2 more than they did before. Becoming a
good staff member comes little by little, or a pastor, or a husband, or a wife,
or as parents, or as employees. Growth is little by little whether it be a
pastor, staff member, church member, Sunday school teacher, bus captain, school
administrator, husband, wife, or as a parent.
A ministry that grows on an
average of one more a week than last year is growth. The great churches over 30
to 40 years only grow by 1, 1 ½, or 2 per Sunday. Keep on praying, keep on soul winning,
keep in your Bible daily, keep on learning, keep on loving, keep on reaching
people, and keep on teaching by example and exhortation.
It is dangerous ground when you
begin comparing results with the Scripture declaring we are unwise when we do
so. Quit comparing your husband to other husbands, your wife to other wives,
your children to other children, and your church to other churches.
Pruning is not very pretty, but
it is necessary. The chart of the growth of any aggressive soul winning local
church has always been up and down, up and down, up and down. It is two steps
forward, one step backwards, three steps forward, two steps backwards, etc.
The secret and a valuable
principle to growth is in the little statement little by little for little by little
will build a church, a bus route, a Sunday school class, a marriage, a
business, in rearing children, being a good husband, being a good wife, and
being a good leader.

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