Thursday, March 19, 2009

Biblical Church Growth

As a pastor, I have occasion to read a great number of books about the Church-analyzing its problems, castigating its failures, and even occasionally, celebrating its successes (there are darn few of those books to read!). But as I lead our people through the book of Acts, here's what I find there:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
-Acts 2:42-47
Now obviously, there are some things about the early church's practice which cannot be replicated today (no apostles, for one thing; no temple for another; and we can debate "signs and wonders"). But many parts of this description remain doable, if difficult. We could still devote ourselves to the apostles teaching much more than is the case in the average American church. We could certainly be more devoted to prayer and relationships with one another. We could all decide to view our possessions less as "ours" than as "the Lord's" and use them to a much greater extent to relieve suffering in the Body of Christ. If we did this last thing, we might even experience the "glad and generous hearts" part, leading us to praise God and toward favor with all our neighbors. And if we did all that, can there be any doubt that the growth in numbers described in verse 47 would be far behind? After all, who could stay away from a community like that?

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