Growth Without Depth?

The Lord in His providence is pleased to send His messengers into the world at various times to accomplish specific tasks which He sovereignly assigns to them for His own purposes and for His glory.  Some are sent to break the ground and thus “prepare the way” for the gospel.  Some are sent to sow the “Seed” of His Word while others are sent to water the Seed.  Some are sent as harvesters to reap what others have sown.  The One Common Denominator in all of these various callings is of course, the Lord God.  He is the Only One who “gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

It is indisputable that men such as Dr. David Livingstone were called by God to do the hard work of breaking the ground and preparing the hearts of many unconverted Africans for the “Seed” of the gospel.  They no doubt did this work by faith trusting that the Lord would one day be pleased to give the increase.  There is no proper record of how many people came to saving faith as a direct result of Dr. Livingstone’s ministry.  But one thing is sure – millions of African Christians can trace their spiritual birth to this man.  For generations now, Africans have been converted to the Christian faith in their masses in an unprecedented fashion.  A cursory look at the church in Malawi bears clear testimony to Dr. Livingstone’s words:

“Our work and its fruits are cumulative.  We work towards another state of things.  Future missionaries will be rewarded by conversions for every sermon.  We are their pioneers and helpers.  Let them not forget the watchmen of the night, we who worked when all was gloom and no evidence of success in the way of conversion cheered our path.  They will doubtless have more light than we, but we served our Master earnestly and proclaimed the same gospel as they will do.” – David Livingstone

There were no indigenous Christians when Livingstone first arrived in Malawi in 1859.  Today, Malawi registers 11,925,756 Christians with a 3% annual growth rate.  This number indicates that 76% of the population of Malawi is Christian (see Operation World, 7thEdition, p.552).  Certainly, this is a remarkable growth and praise be to the Lord for He alone can save sinners!

However, this growth seems devoid of real depth in the lives of many Christians.  When asked to describe the church in our day, one of the leading evangelical leaders described it in three words, “growth without depth.”  Such is the sad description of the church today.  It is something with which every serious Christian must be concerned especially those who have been called to minister the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Looking at the current landscape of the church in Malawi, one hardly sees any depth accompanying this growth.  Much of what is seen is evangelism without discipleship.  While many of our churches are full on Sundays, it is shocking to note that only a handful of these people have a deep and firm grasp of the Christian faith and doctrine.  This problem is compounded by the fact that this is also true among a good number of clergymen not in many of the evangelical churches in Malawi.

There is therefore a great burden laid upon the shoulders of the church and all ministers of the gospel in Malawi and around the world today.  First, the church needs to make sure that its ministers are receiving adequate theological education from Christ-centered institutions which take the Word of God seriously.  Secondly, for the ministers, they need to strive under God to help their congregations grow not only in numbers but especially in depth.  The Lord expects all Christians to “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18); and that beholding the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, they might be “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).  This, the Bible says ultimately comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.  May all those who have been called to be ministers of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, pray and preach for growth with depth to the glory of God!