The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:2-3 NIV)
Christ envisioned the kingdom of heaven in terms of growth – like a seed planted that produces a crop, bearing a hundred times, or sixty or thirty times what was originally planted. Or like a small seed that grows into a tree that even the birds can nest in the branches (Matt. 13). Any pastor who does not have the growth of the church on his heart has certainly not grasped the reality of the work of Christ in this world.
But how does God grow His work? That is the question. Does He grow it by manipulation? Does He grow it by worldly means? Does He grow it by worldly advertisements, or by the preacher promising people will become richer or healthier or happier?
The passage from Psalm 147 above says that He grows it by love, by tenderly and graciously dealing with the brokenhearted, the hurt, the hopeless, the wounded, the damaged souls of this world. The gathering of the exiles back into Jerusalem was emblematic of the work of God in the growing of the church, and the ones whom God calls to come to Him through faith in Christ are touched by the love of God for them.
It is the great need of the church and of each individual Christian to experience God’s love on a deep personal level. Love builds up like nothing else can or ever will. That God so loved the world that He sent the Son to die on the cross for our sins is the seed of the gospel. Christ, who had no sin of His own, died voluntarily for yours and mine, and this is the heart and soul of the gospel.
Hurt people hurt others, and loved people love others. The one who is being healed by the love of Christ for him is the one who is also loving others in Jesus’ name. Love builds up. Love is patient and kind, encouraging, and tenderhearted. Love listens and blesses and hopes all things. To be a loving Christian must be achieved by the Spirit in us. This must be the great means by which the church of Jesus Christ grows. We are to love people into God’s kingdom. And we are to love them until they grow in grace and become His instrument to love and reach others.
…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph. 4:15-16)