Many pastors are interested in Church Growth. On the one hand that could be a good desire as more feet means more hands to do ministry and support the Church budget. But if Church growth is just that, we miss the purpose of Church growth. I prefer Kingdom growth. Growing God’s Eternal Kingdom ought to be the most important part of doing Church and growing a Church. The reason is that Kingdom growth is all about saving souls. Marching orders took this shape:
Mt 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(1) The King of the Kingdom has all authority in heaven and earth. This demonstrates the power of His reign.
(2) He sent the disciples out to duplicate themselves … “make disciples of all nation”.
(3) There would be identification with the King and His Kingdom through baptism.
(4) There would be one mind as to governance and behavior through edification.
(5) There would be an enjoyment of the King’s presence all the time. Then … Luke says
Ac 1:8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
(1) The Kingdom is a Spiritual and Eternal Kingdom … implied by
(2) The power required to accomplish Kingdom growth comes from the Holy Spirit. We have seen that the Provocative, Penetrating, Persuasive, Pentecostal Preaching of Peter resulted in
Ac 2:41 those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
That is Kingdom growth resulting in Church growth! This is the point … all pastors and Church leaders need to change focus from growing their “little kingdom” to them being part of growing God’s Eternal Kingdom. Then, in the process God will add to their Church numbers as a reward for them growing His Kingdom.
1) One of the sad results of Growing a Church is that most of the people are not duplicated into disciples. All too often in our day, Church People are just that … Church People and Church People are not easily identified from World People. The objective of Jesus requiring baptism is that those who identify with Him demonstrate this identification and the transition that has taken place by willingly agreeing to the process of discipleship making. Most Churches today do not show the “new convert” that they need to conform to Christlikeness, growing in His image and likeness. In other words … they are not aware that a demonstration of “image lost” in the garden is “image restored” through being born again.
2) The most practical example and vivid picture of the New People of God comes powerfully to us in the next passage in Acts:
Ac 2:42 they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
(1) The first matter to notice is that these early converts were not forced, pressurized or coerced into fulfilling the things they did in verses 42 to 47. You see, where there is genuine salvation, God the Holy Spirit impresses various things upon the heart causing a willingness to comply to Kingdom requirements … or if you like … to Kingdom Philosophy. Seriously, this part of “believing” seems to be lacking in many local Churches and it could be because of a variety of reasons. Maybe the pastor or leaders were not discipled. Maybe there is an ignorance as to what the shape of discipleship ought to take. Maybe it is related to laziness … they want the people and as long as they have them that’s good enough. Maybe the Church is focused on social activities or politics or something else that prohibits them from doing the “main” work … preparing the people who are converted for service within the Church on earth in preparation for the Church (Kingdom) in glory.
(2) The phrase “they devoted themselves” is interesting and exciting because this is the first description we have of this new body of people, radically transformed by the Holy Spirit. It means to join; to adhere to; to be ready; to give attention to; to be faithful, to spend much time together and to be fully committed to. In other words they were totally committed to be prepared for ministry to each other as they reached out to the world with the Gospel message for the King of the Kingdom. Before we get to explore verse 42 … note that the word “devoted” controls each of the four components in the verse … apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
(a) Devoted to the apostles teaching. There would be two components to the “apostles teaching”. The first would be the Gospel of the Lord Jesus and the second would be how the Gospel Message and the Messiah are found in the Old Testament (consider Peter’s Sermon) and fulfilled in their teaching. Their teaching was what Jesus taught them coupled to their witness of Jesus death, resurrection and ascension. Today we have the complete Bible and Kingdom people need to be devoted to being taught the whole counsel of God … for in it is found everything for life and eternity. Before any person born by the Spirit can enter the world, he or she needs to be firmly established in the Scriptures. We need to pray urgently that God will touch the hearts of new converts (and old ones too) to desire being educated in the truths flowing from the pages of Scripture. Conversion does not equal education. The Book of Hebrews reminds us of the need to move from “milk” to “solid food”. This amounts to the same as a person eating junk food instead of a square home cooked meal. Are you eager to eat heartily from the spiritual food God has prepared for you in the Bible?
Father, thank You for the Bible. Grant me a hunger for Your Word and as I use it, grow me in godliness, equipping me for Kingdom ministry that brings You glory. Amen.