A very revealing study was done, leading to a book detailing how 300 churches went from declining or dying, to growing. In Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, there is a list of 30 different barriers to church growth. Having received permission from the publisher (B&H Publishing Group), I would like to discuss a few of them.
“People do works for their own honor and not the glory of God (Matthew 5:16).”
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16
Why do we do good works? Why do we feed the poor, shelter the homeless, tend to the elderly, etc? Do we do these things so that our Father will be glorified, or do we do them in order to get glory for ourselves?
To be Seen.
Some people do good works with the sole intention of being seen and considered especially spiritual. Jesus said that “Everything they do is for show” (Mt. 23:5 NLT). Jesus spoke of those who wanted to be seen as pious and holy by wearing boxes containing Scripture on their foreheads or arms. The bigger the box the better. All this was in an attempt to say, “I am keeping the law better than you!” (See Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
Then there are other people who do plenty of good deeds without even acknowledging God. For example, go to any charity ball held by your local “high society” club. There you will find plenty of people who willingly give thousands to worthy causes but smile as big as they can when the magazine photographers come around.
They may even be members of local churches and give large offerings to the building fund (as long as it’s named after them); buy the pastor a new car, or pay for a youth mission trip. “And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the [congregation].” – Matthew 23:6 NLT
To be Accepted
Some people do good works in order to be accepted by God. They give away fortunes and spend their lives doing good deeds, but not to be seen by men. They want to be seen by God and thought of as worthy of His love. The only problem is that salvation is “not of works, lest any man should boast.” They work themselves to death in order prove their loyalty, thereby supposedly ensuring a place in heaven. But the glory goes not to God, for attached to the works is an expectation of reward based on merit.
Soli Deo Gloria
All glory should be to God alone. If our works are done in order to receive praise, then God is not getting the glory. If our works are meant to earn credit with God, then God is not getting the glory. If we work ourselves silly to meet the legalistic requirements placed on us by men, then God is not getting the glory. However, if out of a heart of love we do good works without expectation for reward, recognition, or acceptance, then God will receive the glory.
When all glory, honor, and praise is given to the Lord, He will draw all men unto Himself. Church growth will be unstoppable. Yet, if we expect credit for anything, then what should we expect but further decline? “For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.” – Isaiah 48:11 KJV
We want others to see our good works, but not for our own glory. May they “glorify [our] Father which is in heaven.”