1 Thess 2:14-15 For you, brothers,became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind
The second indicator that a church is growing is that it is refined by the fire. A big theme of Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica is Imitation. He tells them in chapter 1 to imitate him and Jesus Christ, in the first part of chapter 2 he tells them to follow me, and now he is telling them that they have imitated the church in Judea which has gone through a ton of suffering.
Suffering is a touchy subject because we all go through it but we don’t really want to discuss it. We may talk about the hard times we are going through but get down to the nuts and bolts people want to generalize why it is happening. “Oh, God is trying to do a work in me” is often how it goes but have you really inspected what he is trying to do. 1 Thess 3 talks about being shaken by afflictions. Often suffering is the process of us being shaken to see what remains. Lately I have been shaken personally and it has driven me back to my knees. As a church we have come through a difficult season and it has refined us as a church.
A sign of growth is when we as a church, and personally, come through the fire refined by it. Just as silver is put into the fire to remove impurities until the silversmith can see his reflection, we are put through the fire until Jesus can see His reflection in us. If we stop short of the process by giving up or resorting to some kind of vice or sin we truncate what God is trying to do. A church can do the same thing when it resists the changes that God says are necessary. Some people don’t want to see any kind of changes and you have to be willing to go forward without them. That is tough because it is usually people you love but it is better than going in circles trying to drag them along.
If you are in the midst of a fire right now stand firm and let God do the work in you. You will come out of it purer and renewed.