Among the things that few churches can survive are: division; moral failure; and a sustained period of either plateau or decline. Church growth studies show that, just like most things God created including people, churches also have a life cycle. These studies further show that very few churches which exist longer than 50 years will experience continued growth. Most will plateau, decline and eventually die.
The church in Corinth was not that old but certainly its life span was in jeopardy because of the other issues. The question facing them in Paul’s first letter was – will they repent, accept correction and turn things around? The monumental problems they faced made that possibility very tenuous. Churches are notoriously difficult to change once set on a downward path.
But occasionally there is hope and good news. There are some incredible stories in modern church growth that highlight “breakout” or “turnaround” churches. These are churches that were locked into mediocrity, traditions and sinful practices, but found God’s grace and power sufficient to see changes occur and a growth pattern reestablished. Usually that comes with a combination of: a “godly sorrow” that leads the members to repent; a gifted and passionate leader surfaces; the sinful element being purged; and a period of revival that allows joy and evangelism to resurface.
Corinth was the poster child for amazing comebacks. Paul writes his second letter to tell how happy, proud and thankful he was for them and their heart to still follow God. Amidst that joy, he and others were going through some painful sufferings and challenges. And so this letter comes to them, and remains for our benefit, to be encouraged that in spite of sufferings, issues, and sin, God still loves, cares and empowers his people and his churches!
Here’s the five-day reading plan for 2 Corinthians:
Day 1 – Chapters 1-6 – Discover who you are in Christ
Day 2 – Chapter 7 – The crux of the matter
Day 3 – Chapter 8-9 – A life of trust and generosity
Day 4 – Chapters 10-11 – Paul’s defense
Day 5 – Chapters 12-13 – Paul’s “thorn” and his heart for them