1 Thess 2:16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!
The third indicator that a church is growing is that it is reaching the lost and hurting. The Jewish synagogue was trying to prevent Paul and then the Thessalonians from preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. Judaism is a very exclusive group. While they accept Gentiles into worship in the synagogue they remain second class citizens because they are not Jewish by blood. When Paul came into Thessalonica he started by teaching in the synagogue and many of the Jews, Gentiles, and prominent women followed him (Acts 17). You could imagine how the synagogue leaders felt about losing most of their congregation. They set out to prevent Paul from teaching a Gospel of grace to everyone. Add to this that many of the Gentiles were turning from their idols and now you had two groups extremely upset at Paul. It was the perfect recipe for a riot.
It is real easy to think that it isn’t that way anymore today but ask yourself two questions: First if your church began reaching the poor and homeless community and those people started coming to your Sunday services would you feel threatened? Many people do but cloak it by saying that they are looking out for the safety of their families. Second if your church started focusing on reaching the lost would your first response be to remind the leadership not to forget about the people we already have? Both of these responses show a hindering spirit towards reaching the lost and hurting.
As a church we need to reach and receive everyone God brings into our path. We also need to understand that ministry is messy and sometimes the sinfulness of people is going to rear its ugly head. If we stop reaching out though it will be the sign that the church is beginning to decline and eventually die. So many churches are dying today because they have hindered the work of evangelism for the sake of focusing solely on discipleship. A growing church is one that does both.