The Reading: Acts 1:15, 2:47, 4:4, 16:5
“Many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of men came to about five thousand.” (Acts 4:4) RSV
There is great emphasis these days on ‘Church Growth’. This is a false emphasis. It reflects the panic of shrinking churches. Jesus never told us to build the Church. He said it was his Church and he would build it. Our task was to go into all the world, to love, to serve and to preach. Church growth can become a selfish indulgence, whereas we are told to forget about ourselves.
Certainly we want and need church growth. But that will follow if we spend our energies on loving God and loving his world. The early disciples devoted themselves to learning, communion (hospitality), fellowship and prayer. They then lived out in the world bearing witness by their manner of life and being prepared to give a reason for the hope within them (1 Peter 3:15).
The result of this selfless activity was church growth! Exponential growth: 150 to 5000 (men – quite apart from women and children), and thereafter ‘daily’ growth.
In nature everything that is healthy will, as a rule, grow and propagate. The church which is made up of living people is no exception. People who are alive in the Lord and in the Spirit will, if they follow the above instruction, grow and develop.
David Watson once said, when as a raw young vicar he took on St Cuthbert’s in York: “I believe that if anyone really preaches the simple gospel of Christ, trusts in the power of prayer, and opens his life to the renewal of the Spirit, this church will be full in no time!” By the grace of God those words became true.
Heavenly Father, make us a people who love you with all our heart, soul and strength, and who love our neighbour, especially those outside the church, as ourselves. Thank you that you have promised to build your Church. May we trust you to do so. Amen.
1 If we trust and obey, does church growth always follow?
John 12:38-40, Mark 6:4-6
2 What can cause church growth?
Acts 8:1-8, 26-30, 35-38