The Growing Church
If you've ever read the book of Acts, it's pretty crazy (in my opinion, at least) how fast the church grew. The body of Christ went from about 120 believers to around three thousand believers in just one day (Acts 2:41). And from that point onward, "the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:47)But the church wasn't growing in numbers from other churches. One reason was simply, there weren't other churches for other members to come from. The main factor in people coming to know the Lord was due to people devoting their lives to preaching the gospel. The numbers being added daily to the church were from the lost; not from other churches.
This makes me wonder why we as the church don't take the ministry of preaching the gospel very seriously; it makes me wonder why I'm not one of the Christians who are daily preaching the gospel. I would love to see the numbers of churches skyrocket due to people coming to know Christ. Wouldn't that be something? But as it is in America, we're not out there preaching the Word. Peter and John were always out preaching the gospel, and in one case the Lord healed a lame man. After persecution, and being told by the authorities to never speak the name of Jesus again, what did Peter and John do? They told their brothers and sisters in Christ what the Lord had done, and prayed for boldness to continue speaking with great boldness, and prayed that the Lord would continue to heal and perform miraculous signs by the name of Jesus. Then they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 3:1 - 4:31)
I wonder why we don't have that longing to preach the gospel... after persecution, their prayer showed their desire to go back out and keep preaching. Yet sometimes we have a tendency to give up at the first sign of failure. We fail to have the faith to obey the Lord's command to "go and preach the gospel" and trust him to take care of the rest. Even after being warned by the authorities not to preach the gospel, they continued to do it. Then Peter and the apostles were arrested and thrown in prison for doing so. That night, an angel of the Lord set them free from the jail and told them to go in peace, and not to worry about preaching the gospel, right? Wrong. The angel of the Lord told them to go back into the temple courts to keep preaching the "full message of this new life" in Christ. The next day, they were detained again and flogged for preaching the gospel of Jesus. Again, they were ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus. The apostles' response? They left "rejoicing ... because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ" (Acts 5:41-42). No one could shut these guys up! They were determined to go and preach the good news that Jesus is the Christ at any cost: imprisonment, flogging, rejection...
The result? "In those days when the number of disciples was increasing..." (Acts 6:1). "So the word of God spread. The numbers of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7). Even the priests, the religious leaders and scholars were being changed by the message of Jesus because people were faithful and committed to taking it wherever they went. That's what I want to be. A witness to the "full message of this new life" in Jesus Christ. And not a watered down version of the gospel... not the message of "believe in Jesus and all your problems go away." The apostles had plenty of problems because they obeyed Jesus. I don't want to preach "Jesus Christ died so that you can be successful in all you do." That's not why He died.Jesus died in order to restore the relationship of creation with the Creator; He died in order to pay the price for my sins in full, and now eternal life with God the Father in heaven is mine. Jesus died so that we could abandon this life and "store up treasures in heaven." Jesus died so that we might die to ourselves, and experience new life in Him."But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Through His death on the cross for our sins we can be reconciled to the one true God. And this is the message that caused the early church to grow in rapid numbers. Jesus is the Christ (not was, He is), and He died, was raised to life again, and through Him we have eternal life. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus is the only way; His name is the only name by which we can be saved. The message that was preached in the early church is the same message we should be speaking. It won't guarantee throngs of people beating down our church doors, but who knows what the Lord could do if we would preach the gospel with the same consistency and determination as the early church. Who knows what the Lord would do if we were praying for boldness and opportunities, if we were praying for the Lord to display his power. And I suppose we'll never know unless we ask.I want to see Jesus lifted high. I want to see the Father glorified. I want to see people coming to Jesus. But the gate is narrow, and this is the gate we should be preaching.
About The Author
- Tim Atchley
- Knoxville, Tennessee, United States
- I currently serve as Senior Pastor of Harvest Church in Knoxville, Tn. I was sent out from Trinity Chapel of Knoxville in 1993 accompanied by my wife Sheila our four children Sarah, Hannah, Josiah & Isaac and a handful of bold, brave and committed believers determined to plant our first church. Pioneering is hard work but well worth the journey. That is why we desire to make disciples of Christ who will, like us, also embrace the call to plant churches.