“By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land” (Exodus 23:30).
“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” (Deuteronomy 7:22).
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 him 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 call 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 word little twice in the Scriptures. God says, “little by little” I’ll give you the victory; not all at one time, but “little by little.”
ALL REAL GROWTH IS OF GOD
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 harvest.
“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” (I Corinthians 3:6-8).
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. This is “his harvest” not our harvest.
GOD’S CHILDREN SIMPLY PROVIDE THE MATERIAL
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.
GOD’S CHILDREN OBEY THE RULES OF GROWTH AND GOD PROVIDES THE GROWTH
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 church movement led by the 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, in 1980, 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.
GOD’S CHILDREN GIVE THE INPUT AND GOD GIVES A PROPORTIONATE OUTPUT
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.
VISIBLE GROWTH IS NOT AN INDICATION OF SUCCESS OR FAILURE
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 seven 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.
REAL GROWTH IS NOT USUALLY SEEN
A parent does not notice the growth of his or her child. The movement of the hand of a clock is a reflection of life. You cannot see the day develop. The great churches of the 60’s and 70’s along with a few in the 80’s grew on an average of one and a half to two per Sunday over a span of thirty to forty years.
Dr. Wendell Evans 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 visitation night and I’ll tell you how many you’ll end up on Sunday in attendance. Every body counts and publishes the Sunday attendance, but rarely do they publish or emphasis the soul winning night numbers. Give me ten on soul winning night and you will run 100 on Sunday. If you want more than put more into it.”
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 ingredients.
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.
PRUNING IS NECESSARY FOR GROWTH
I returned from a trip of preaching out of town. I went to the church and pulled up to find the shrubs out front seemingly chopped up. I went to Jeff Walters, our resident horticulturist, 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 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.
“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” (John 15:2).
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.
“…upon this rock I will build my church…” (Matthew 16:18).
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. 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 tell us how much to grow, but simply too “grow”. It does not say be grown in grace. It says simply “grow” 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 will 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 are frustrated with people, it is ironic to me that it took some of you twenty years to give up cigarettes and yet you want your converts to give them up in twenty 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 two out of the ten things you desire that is two 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.
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 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.