Thursday, March 11, 2010

Added to their Number...

This past week I've spent some time in the book of Acts and have been amazed yet again at the early church movement as the good news of Jesus was proclaimed. The power and rate at which the early church grew is staggering and worth celebrating. In the same vein, I also had the privilege of spending some time with one of the Executive Directors of a church that just passed the 10,000 number for average weekend attendance throughout their various sites. With these two experiences in mind, here are a few observations;

First, the book of Acts does not make any apologies for talking about growing in their numbers. (Acts 2:41, 2:47, 4:4, 5:14, 6:7, 11:21, 14:1) As one reads the following passages of Scripture, there is great excitement about the proclamation of the good news of Jesus, even amidst persecution. There is also great joy at the growth that comes when people believe and move from the darkness into the light.

Secondly, I was amazed at some of the stories my friend told me about the resistance they have faced both internally and externally as they have grown. Now I understand that there are different philosophies of ministry out there, but surely all Christ followers both internally and externally can celebrate with those that faithfully proclaim the gospel and currently sees the mighty hand of God at work. They are getting ready to baptize 80 new believers soon and that's worth throwing a party for!

Thirdly, I am still convinced there is a balance to be found. I believe with all my heart that a marketing genius could grow a "church" in America whether the good news of Jesus was preached or not. There are many ways to entice and seduce people into half truths that keep them coming even though truth may not be taught. But, I am equally disappointed with ministries that have a multitude of excuses for not wanting to grow and see numbers increase through people coming to know Christ. There's got to be a balance that sees the passion and faithful teaching of God's Word seen in the early church as God's people rely upon Him to "add to their numbers" regularly.

It's been an interesting week of reading in the book of Acts and it was a encouraging lunch meeting with my friend to hear of a modern "added to their number that day" story. Jesus is still building His church and I count myself privileged like all Christ followers to be a part of it day in and day out.


Jill said...

Pastor Tim,
I too have been studying Acts this year with the Jr. Bible Quiz team---and have certainly gotten a lot more out of the scriptures in Acts than ever before. As I read your of the team's memory verses popped into my mind..."Boldly and without hinderance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 28:31---without hinderance....makes ya stop and think, doesn't it? Keep running the race well...boldly and without hinderance.

Timothy said...

Some of the criticism that is leveled at the evangelical church in America is that many times we seem to confuse the purpose of the church gathered on Sundays for worship.

Is the church gathered together a called out community of believers meeting for the purpose of glorifying & worshiping God? Or can we "market" our worship gatherings to the broader unbelieving community with the purpose of having them gather with believers for worship? And once we market our worship gathering in this manner, how far can we go and what means can we use before we transform genuine worship into something else? How did they do this in the book of Acts?

The warnings and problems associated with this second view are many, and they come from many within the church. I have heard David Jeremiah and a host of others warn against this particular philosophy.

The balance to be found doesn't seem to be in the area of marketing or even the hundreds of different ministry ideas. We should attempt (however imperfectly) to worship together as a group of believers (the church gathered) on Sunday mornings as biblically faithful as we can. That means we faithfully preach the word, practice church discipline and administer the sacraments among other things. Then the Church should leave Sunday morning gatherings refreshed from receiving God's grace and enabled to go into all the world with a burning, unstoppable desire of making disciples and baptizing them, thus "growing the church".