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How Effective Is Your Congregation?

by Gilbert Alexander

Evaluating a local congregation and its effectiveness in a community is not a simple task. Population shifts affect the number of members in a local church. Such shifts may be caused by economic changes, persecution, or the relocation of people who have an interest in spiritual things. If some or our modern evaluators had visited Jerusalem in the time stated in Acts 8:1-4, they might have concluded that the work there was falling apart and that anyone supporting preachers there would be putting their money into a dry hole. Numbers were surely decreasing as people were scattered by persecution. Little hope for a change for the better could be seen in the immediate future; and with the Lord's prophecy of the destruction of the city looming ever nearer, some people perhaps would have favored closing the doors of the kingdom there and moving to more fertile fields.

The scattering of the saints at Jerusalem to many other places did not destroy the influence of the church there. It rather worked to the spread of the gospel in many other places as those who were scattered by persecution went everywhere preaching the Word Acts 8:4. If the ones scattered had been discouraged and had not dared to speak out for the truth lest they be persecuted still more, then the church at Jerusalem would have been well on the road to oblivion. The fate of the church at Thessalonica would have been similarly distressing, for they suffered affliction from the early days of the church there (Acts 17:1,2; I Thessalonians 1:6). Yet from them the Word of the Lord sounded forth in Macedonia and Achaia and elsewhere, so that their faith became an influence for good wherever people heard about it (I Thessalonians 1:8).

Even so, little churches today can be great influences for good in the Gospel, even in other nations. Many little churches have had and are having fellowship in preaching the gospel in Australia The Philippines, Africa, Asia, Europe, and South and Central America. Those who are quick to judge the effectiveness or lack thereof of little churches would do well to exercise discretion and caution, remembering that they may lack vital in formation concerning the work and influence of those little groups of saints.