This Book is Not About Growing Churches
by Josh Hunt

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Alison Curry was a student teacher at Dunblane's Primary School. She was leaving the school around 9:20 one March morning when the sound of gunfire stopped her in her tracks. Her mind raced to Ryan, her five year old son. When she found him, he had two bullets in his chest. Ryan was one of the lucky ones. He lived. For the families of 16 other five-year-old children that March day will always have a dark, dark cloud over it.

The school's headmaster described the macabre in a sentence, "Evil visited us yesterday and we don't know why. We don't understand it and we don't think we ever will."

Why indeed. What would cause a 43 year old man to walk into a school gymnasium, pull out a gun and shoot and kill 16 children, wounding 12 others? He picked them off in cold blood like shooting ducks at the carnival. But these are not ducks, they are little innocent children, screaming for cover. What would drive a man to that? Who was this man?

He was known in the community as Mr. Creepy. He had been kicked out of leading a Boy Scout's group, so he started a boys club of his own called the Rovers. He used to hold meetings in the very gymnasium where he brutally took the lives of these innocent children, until he got kicked out for his weird behavior. He was a notorious menacing oddball. No one really every caught him doing anything; he just seemed so weird, so the shunned him. He was like every other weirdo who menaces our society: the single male who has no hope. He was an embittered loner and suspected [though not proven, or even tried] pedophile. Even his father refereed to him as a monster. What can society do about such menaces?

In the case of Thomas Hamilton himself, we needn't worry ourselves with him. He took care of that only minutes after he did his devastation. If I had done what he did I would probably end my life as well. Reality is, as you know as well as me, Thomas was alone, but not alone. He has counterparts in every city in America, in Scotland and around the world. We see their work every night on the evening news. They walk in to McDonalds and spray bullets. They high jack airplanes. They blow up Federal buildings. What are we to do?

The Bible has an answer to this question, but it is pretty hard to swallow. This teaching is not for the faint of heart. The message of the bible is that "There is no difference, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:22, 23) In other words, help begins when we swallow the bitter pill of belief that "except for the grace of God, it was me in that Dunblane gymnasium." The Bible teachers we are are all cut from the same bolt of cloth. We are all capable of the worst of sins. We are all guilty enough to send us to the same place of punishment. Until we admit that we are not fundamentally different from Thomas Hamilton, we have not yet understood the gospel. We are in no position to help society. We have not hope to offer to society. We have no remedy for our sick society. We simply have a cast system that says we middle class people are good and you weirdos are bad. We are in danger of the same fire that will demonstrate God's justice on behalf of Thomas Hamilton, Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson.

The beginning of every great movement of God has always been repentance. Repentance of that smug piety that believes I am better. Repentance of the belief that I am not capable of certain things. Repentance of the belief that I am different and better.

There is no grace without repentance. Repentance is the starting point. But we must go beyond repentance to grace. Grace that accepts us. Grace that accepts us in spite of our sin. Grace that empowers us to be a people of grace. Grace that empowers us to love when we would rather spit. Grace that empowers us to love the Thomas Hamilton's of this world. This is the radical message of the gospel. Anything less is mere religion. And religion will never cure what society has.

Perhaps you cannot do that. Perhaps you cannot love Mr. Creepy. I understand. I too have a tendency to walk on the other side of the street when I see certain types of people. I invite you to consider three things with me.

What is impossible with man is possible with God. I invite you to open your heart to the possibility that maybe some time, some where some way, God could tender your heart and mine to be able to love Thomas Hamilton.

God has not called you to love Thomas Hamilton. Thomas Hamilton is dead and is being dealt with by God. Justice has been served. He is gone. We are not called to love him. You are called to love the people that come across your path today. Just those people; no more. No less. If you can't love all of them, love the ones you can. Pray that God will grace you in time to love more.

Recognize the ripple effect. As we love the ones we can, we lend to them strength to love others. Perhaps you could not love the Thomas Hamilton's of this world. Could you love someone who could love someone who could love Thomas Hamilton? That person needs strength and grace and someone to give to them. As we give to others, they can give to still others.

This book is not just about growing churches. Jesus did not call us to grow churches. No where does the bible say, "Go therefore and grow churches." Growing churches is the necessary and natural result of making disciples. Those disciples are called to be salt and light in this world. Being salt and light means loving people. Maybe you can't love everyone. Love who you can.

This book is not about growing churches. It is about making a better world. It is about love the Thomas Hamilton's of this world because love is the only thing that will help. I don't know about you, but I am absolutely convinced that Thomas Hamilton would never get better except someone love them.

I believe education should do what education can do. I believe government should do what government can do. I believe industry and business should do what they can. But I believe they cannot do enough. I believe the church is the only cure for what ails society. If we do not love, it won't get done, and will sew what we reap: a loveless world. A loveless world is a sick world--a world full of Thomas Hamiltons. The only answer is love.

This book is not about growing churches. It is about building a better world. It is about ushering in the Kingdom. It is about giving a better place to live to our children. Government cannot do that. Education cannot do that. Business cannot do that. They cannot do that. Only we make a better world because only the church has the remedy for what ails the world. What the world needs now is love sweet love.

I challenge you to take up the calling to love. Start with your family. Grow a church with love. The world will wait in line to find love. We must deliver the goods. By loving, we make a better world, one person at a time.

I challenge you to dream. I challenge you to believe great things from God. I challenge you to believe that you and I can do all things through Christ, including turning a world upside down by loving people others will not love. Dream great dreams for God? What are you dreaming for your life that would be impossible unless God worked through you?

I challenge you to act. The time is now. If not us than who? If not now than when? We must make a better world because only the church can. We must make a better world because God told us to do it. We must make a better world because our great God deserves to be obeyed and glorified.

20 Questions

1. If this book is not about church growth, what is it about?

2. Let's make a list of the ten most pressing problems in America today?

3. What is the need behind the need? What are the issues behind these issues that are the real cause of the problem?

4. Would you say things are getting generally better or generally worse?

5. If we don't do our job, where will America be in twenty years?

6. In addition to the church, what are some agencies or institutions that can help with society's problems?

7. What help can come from each of these sources?

8. What limitations do schools and government agencies and so on have? Why is the church the only hope for society's problems?

9. Will we address society's problems by evangelism and church growth, or is something else needed?

10. What are some examples of front line ministries that churches can get involved in relating to the problems of society?

11. There are about 100 million Christians in America. Why are we not more influential than we are?

12. Is the percentage of Christians in America today greater or smaller than it was in Ephesus when Paul wrote to them?

13. How would you compare our influence on society, relative to theirs?

14. What ideas do you have for maximizing the church's salt and light potency?

15. What are some key "positions of influence" in society?

16. How could we encourage our young people to get involved in these positions of influence?

Closing thoughts:

17. What has this group meant for you?

18. Would you like to continue meeting in some form?

19. When and what would you like to study?

20. Let's end our meeting in prayer for our churches and our nation.