I attend a small church of Christ which is faced with challenges, such as members leaving to go to other churches, brethren falling away because of their selfish ambitions, and family issues. The reason I bring it up is that we have so much potential to grow as we have a beautiful church building and committed members. We are faced with the challenge of bringing in people, but we are making an effort via different programs in place. I understand that fervent prayer avails much and I am confident God would bless in due time. Is there any advice you can give to help us to be focused and not allow daily situations to deter us from God's will?
I have worked almost all my life among small congregations. The group here in La Vista has only about fifty in attendance at the moment, so I understand the difficulties that you face. One member once added up all those who were members here and have since moved to other parts of the country and figured we would have had over 500 if everyone had stayed. In the eleven years that I have been here, I know of two men that have gone to other congregations and became elders and four men who became preachers. We could look at the situation and see how little the attendance has grown over the years, but it is more satisfying to look as see the impact that we are making throughout the United States and the world.
The best advice is the one Paul gave: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (I Corinthians 15:58). Growth in numbers is nice, but it is not the essential quality in a church. How faithful is the congregation remaining to the Lord? That is what should demand our focus. Unfortunately, numbers are easier to quantify, so we often let ourselves get distracted.
I met a man from the northern reaches of Vermont. He was converted to true Christianity while he was a sailor in the Navy during the Korean War. When he returned home, he was the only Christian in a 100+ mile area, of which he knew. He first taught his girlfriend who became a Christian and eventually his wife. They then started having Bible studies around their kitchen table. Eventually, they had so many, they had to get a building. The numbers grew to about 30 and then everything collapsed. So they started all over meeting around their kitchen table. Three times the effort collapsed and they had to restart. But the last time it took hold. The congregation, the last I knew, had about 100 members. They made it because no matter the situation, this couple was going to do what needed to be done at the moment.
No matter what happens, stick with it. If the group should ever collapse, start the work again. If it should grow, help each member stay the course. Yes, Satan is operating in the world. Yes, despite our best efforts we are going to lose some of our brothers and sisters to his schemes. But that loss doesn't mean the work is hopeless. Look at all the people around you who need the gospel. "Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences" (II Corinthians 5:9-11).