I, the Lord, am the vineyard’s keeper; every moment I water it. I guard it night and day so that no one can harm it. Isaiah 27: 3
My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and prove to be my disciples. John 15: 8
There are those who say that the future of the church is bleak; we will see church after church close or severely curtail its ministry programs. Some even say this would be a good thing: we have too many offerings and too much busy-ness. Whether or not churches will curtail their offerings, or the future of individual congregations is bleak remains to be seen. It is certain, however, that God’s hand of protection is over his people and the visible gatherings of believers around the word and sacraments whatever form that may take.
I think of the church in China when Chairman Mao removed all foreign missionaries from that country. Rather than crippling the church, the result of God’s keeping and nurture, even more came to faith and the church grew dramatically. I think of churches like Mekane Yesus in Ethiopia with 7.9 million members and 10,000 congregations. I recently learned that there are 6 million Lutheran Christians in Indonesia.
Our efforts to see the church grow, and the strong commitment to making disciples who gather together for worship and edification is not only pleasing to God, but something he guards, guides, blesses and sustains. For the Church does not exist for itself
Jesus made it clear, furthermore, that God is interested not just in large successful churches, but much more in dedicated followers of his Son, Jesus Christ. Because disciples, followers of Jesus Christ kept the church alive in China. Disciples of Jesus Christ continue to share the Good News in Ethiopia so that 500,000 new believers are brought into the church every year there. Followers of Jesus Christ build churches so that people may come to hear the Word, celebrate God’s mercy, be strengthened in their fellowship, refreshed by the sacraments, and leave from those churches to follow Jesus, and (in the words of my good friend, Greg Finke), Join Jesus on His Mission.