Though born John of Antioch, he has come to be known as Chrysostom (i.e., "golden mouth") because many church historians have dubbed him "the greatest preacher of the early church." Eventually, he was banished. Though popular with the faithful, the less-than-faithful "powers that be" succeeded in getting rid of him. He died in exile in A.D. 407 at the age of 60.
You know how that goes.
And yet God used him to heal lives, save souls, and expand the kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven." He brought energy and excitement to the pulpit. He was passionate about the possibilities for people who become personally related to God through faith in Jesus. And his passion for Jesus was contagious. He was so popular with the people at his first preaching station that he had to be kidnapped in order to move him to a new post. In spite of his protests, the people often burst into wild and spontaneous applause during his sermons.
How odd that must sound to too many of today's highly-starched, wing-tipped, wearing-neat-and- clean, decent-and-orderly pulpiteers and pew-sitters whose level of energy and excitement about Jesus bring to mind those commercialized characters so desperately in need of Duracell batteries.
Some church folks don't seem very charged up about Jesus. Some folks have forgotten to praise the Lord. Some folks have put away the trumpets, tambourines, dancing, loud cymbals, and clapping. Some folks have worked so hard to keep their emotions from showing.
What's the problem?
I've long believed that Donald Grey Barnhouse concisely captured the cause of dysfunction and decline in too many quarters of the contemporary church in this one sentence from The Love Life
(1973): "Oh, if you aren't joyful, I mean radiantly, abundantly joyful, you do not understand what God has available for you."
That's the difference between a growing church and a dying church. Rather, He's the difference between a growing church and a dying church. Jesus!
Some church growth experts sound like real estate agents with their location-location-location litany. I've discovered church growth can be enhanced by a good location, but I've also discovered a good location doesn't insure church growth. I've discovered church growth is much simpler than feasibility studies, demographic reports, fund-raising consultants, church management seminars, and so on. It's very simple. Very basic. I think of it as Church Growth 101.
Lesson 1 -- Focus on Jesus!
I have a favorite story which illustrates the difference between a growing church and a dying church. It's about a children's sermon in which the pastor said: "When I say a word, I want you to say the first word that comes into your mind." So the pastor said "Frog." A little boy blurted out "Jesus!" That confused the pastor who asked "Why did you say Jesus when I said frog?" And the little boy answered, "Because I knew you didn't call us down here to talk about frogs."
But let me ask you this question: Do they talk more about frogs or Jesus at your church?