Church Growth 101
Lord, give to me Thy love for souls,
For lost and wand’ring sheep,
That I may see the multitudes
And weep as Thou didst weep.
Help me to see the tragic plight
Of souls far off in sin;
Help me to love, to pray and go
To bring the wand’ring in.
From off the altar of Thy heart
Take Thou some flaming coals,
Then touch my life and give me, Lord,
A heart that’s hot for souls.
O Fire of Love, O Flame Divine,
Make Thy abode in me;
Burn in my heart, burn evermore,
Till I burn out for Thee.
We need a burning passion for souls. Ira North wrote, “The goal is always ‘one more for Christ.’ If a church has 20, it should be striving for 21; if it has 200, it should strive for 201; if it has 2,000, then it should aim for 2,001. This is the spirit of the New Testament church.”
The spirit of the New Testament church was always looking for one more convert for Jesus. Acts 2:41: “There were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Acts 5:41: “Believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” Acts 6:7: “The word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied.” Acts 9:31: “The churches . . . were multiplied.” Acts 13:49: “The word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.” Acts 18:8: “Many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and they were baptized.”
How did the early church do it? What caused them to grow so rapidly and so well? We want to examine Acts this morning and see what lessons we can learn for church growth today.
The Early Church Prayed Before They Preached
After the Sanhedrin forbade Peter and John from preaching in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18), the disciples came together and prayed for boldness as they preached (Acts 4:23-31).
The amazing thing is that the apostles prayed that they would preach boldly rather than for protection from their enemies. God answered their prayer. The place where they were was shaken. They were filled with the Holy Spirit. They spoke the word of God with boldness.
God will continue to answer our prayers. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matt 7:7). “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 Jn 3:22).
We, too, need to pray for this congregation to grow. We need to pray for boldness. We need to pray for God to send forth workers (Matt 9:38). We need to pray for the lost.
The Early Church Preached without Apology
The early church did preach without apology.
After Peter and John healed the lame man, the rulers, elders, and scribes came together (Acts 4:4-12). They asked Peter and John by what power they had performed this miracle. Peter said it was by the power of Jesus. The rulers perceived the “boldness” of Peter and John (Acts 4:13). When the Sanhedrin forbade Peter and John from preaching, they said that they could not but speak of the things they had seen and heard (Acts 4:18-20). When the Sanhedrin called the apostles together and reminded them of this command, the apostles said that they should obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).
We, too, need to preach without apology. We cannot change what we teach about any subject to soothe the ears of our hearers. We cannot change what we teach to be more “up-to-date,” or politically correct.
That doesn’t mean that we preach just to offend people. Peter and John did not set out to offend the Sanhedrin; Peter and John simply told the Sanhedrin the truth. We cannot set out to offend people; we need to tell them the truth, and tell them the truth in love, out of a concern for their soul; but, we must preach without apology.
In the Early Church Everyone Preached
Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4). Every single Christian was evangelizing. They didn’t say, “We have the apostles; let them do it.”
Everyone of us needs to be active in evangelism. We cannot say, “We have a preacher and elders, let them do it.” The preacher and the elders are not going to stand before God for you; we cannot evangelize for you.
The Early Church Preached to Everyone
The early church preached to everyone they could.
Peter and the others preached to the multitude at Pentecost (Acts 2:5-11). Many nationalities were present at Pentecost, and many different languages were spoken. Peter and the other apostles could have said, “We’re not preaching to these people. Sure, they’re all Jews, but they don’t sound like we do.”
Philip preached in Samaria (Acts 8:5ff). Jews and Samaritans could not stand one another; remember the woman at the well asked Jesus, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (Jn 4:9). John adds the parenthetical statement, “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” The Samaritans were a half-breed and had built a rival temple to the one in Jerusalem on Mt. Gerizim. But Philip did not care that they were Samaritans. He preached to them.
Philip also preached to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26ff). The eunuch had been to Jerusalem to worship, but he wasn’t allowed inside the temple, for he was a eunuch (Deut 23:1). He was probably a proselyte, not a Jew by birth. This was probably a black man, for he was an African.
We, too, need to preach to everyone. Regardless of skin color. Regardless of nationality. Regardless of what “side of the tracks” he’s from.
The Early Church Preached Every Opportunity
The early Christians used every opportunity they had to preach the Gospel. Paul customarily preached in the synagogues (e.g., Acts 13:5). Paul and Barnabas preached to the women at the riverside (Acts 16:11-15). When Paul was on trial, he preached (e.g., before Agrippa, Acts 26:1ff). When Paul was under house arrest, he preached to all who came to him (Acts 28:30-31).
We, too, need to seize every opportunity to preach the Gospel. A friend may ask us a question that allows us to share our faith—let us use that opportunity. When we have a meeting or special even here, we can invite our friends and family—let us use that opportunity.
The Early Church Preached by Living
The early church preached with the lives they lived. Paul and Silas “preached” in the Philippian prison (Acts 16:25-30). Paul and Silas were praying and singing while the other prisoners listened. When the earthquake occurred, the prisoners didn’t try to escape. The jailer came and asked Paul and Silas what he needed to do to be saved. Why did the jailer go to Paul and Silas instead of one of the other prisoners? Was it not their behavior?
Paul lived a good life among the Ephesians and taught them (Acts 20:18ff).
We, too, need to preach by the lives that we live.
The early church knew the glory belonged to God (Acts 21:19-20).
We, too, need to give glory and honor to God.