Who does church growth depend on?

In many places around us and in this nation, when we ask how to grow a church, many people will answer that we must have good programs (something offered for every age), that we must have a preacher that appeals to a more charismatic group, that we must use the latest technology and that we must have the most contemporary music. In arguing for each of these, though they may not be intrinsically evil, I believe that we miss how to actually grow the body of Christ, in quality and in quantity.


“When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech. There were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were astounded and amazed, saying, Look, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that each of us can hear in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those who live in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs — we hear them speaking the magnificent acts of God in our own languages. They were all astounded and perplexed, saying to one another, What could this be? But some sneered and said, They’re full of new wine!” – Acts 2:1-13 HCSB


The day of Pentecost was a day for all believers

            During this time we refer to as Pentecost, about 120 believers were gathered with the eleven and the eleven were appointing Matthias to replace Judas as an apostle.[1] So concerning the tongues of fire, which most likely represent the entering of the Holy Spirit, rested either on the twelve apostles, or on the full number of believers in the household with them, which was about 120. I am more inclined to think, due to John the Baptist’s prophecy in Luke’s gospel, that at this time the Holy Spirit entered into every believer, not only the twelve.[2] Even if the Holy Spirit was given to only the twelve at this time, we can know that it was never just one person who bore the responsibility of growing God’s church. That responsibility belongs to all believers because all believers have the Holy Spirit. Notice that it was the act of everyone speaking in other languages as the Spirit gave them power that drew ‘devout Jews’ to the place they were. It was the action of the greater number of people that caused others to come and hear the sermon that Peter would give. It was not Peter’s work alone.


Some things to notice

The believers in the house with the apostles and the apostles looked ridiculous to those observing. In fact, many of those observing thought that they were drunk. Instead of being hateful toward this society or judging them, Peter stood up and used the opportunity to reason with those people concerning Christ.[3] Because of this, the Church added about 3,000 people to its population. Our number one priority is to please God. The world will think that we are weird because we choose not to get drunk, because we choose not to use unwholesome language, because we choose to stay sexually pure and because we talk about God all the time. Do not judge them for their resentment, use it as an opportunity to reason with them concerning Christ!

Though there were synagogues, temples and theatres, God chose to work out of someone’s home, where believers were gathered. There was no stage, no singing priests, no ceremonial baths and no alter. God worked through people who were willing to give control of themselves over to God. We do not need a church building. We do not need a stage, lights or an awesome band. These things are blessings above and beyond what is necessary. What we need, and what far too many churches miss out on, is a church body (people) who are willing to give control of themselves over to God, who are willing to serve God and do whatever it takes to reach others concerning Christ: not concerning worship style, style of preaching, secondary doctrine or Calvinism. We must be concerned with Christ and what God has accomplished through Christ.

Finally, God used the church body to bring others in to hear the message of the church. It cannot be the responsibility of the Pastor or the ministerial staff to reach others and to bring others into God’s church. It is the responsibility of the entire church body, including the Pastor and ministerial staff. God will work through relationships that we build with others, so build good relationships. God will work through the impact we have on those we have not built relationships with. God will work even as others think we are ludicrous for believing what we believe. We must not be afraid to act separate from this world and we must not be afraid to reason with this world concerning Christ.


A living church

Who then does a thriving church depend on? The answer is simple. God is always the same and He always loves all people. If this were not true then He would not be God. God will do the work that He has set forth to do. If one local church fails to do the work that God has put forth for it to do, He will choose another. Thus, a living church depends on the commitment of the local church body. Will we be used by God in order to grow His Church, or will God remove our lamp stand because we have become worthless to the growth of His kingdom? As for me, I will serve the Lord.

[1] Acts 1:15-26

[2] Luke 3:16 HCSB- “I baptize you with water, but One is coming who is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to untie the strap of His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” John was speaking to all of the Jews that had lined up at the Jordan and were waiting on their ceremonial cleansing. It is unlikely that many of the twelve were even present for this event, since none of them had yet been called by Christ and since not many of them were very religious.

[3] Acts 2:14-36

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