Summary: What was it that transformed a semi-defeated Bible study group meeting in an upper room in Jerusalem into this highly energized, Holy Spirit empowered, life-giving local church? The inundation of 3000 new converts on Pentecost Day.
Building Bigger Hearts for Lost People
I would like to start with a multiple-choice question: Which of these would most likely transform the average sleepy, tradition-bound local church into a dynamic, fired-up, community of faith? Which of the following events?
A) Burning the hymnbooks, and switching over to worship choruses and a band with back-up singers;
B) Pitching the choir and switching over to MTV style programming for the first thirty minutes of every service;
C) Ditching the Pastors for doing all of the switching I just talked about;
D) Or, the conversion of fifteen seekers and the subsequent challenge of integrating them into the local church and growing them up.
That’s a no brainer! The answer is E! And I guarantee you that 15 brand new; baby Christians wandering around the average local congregation would ignite all kinds of conversations, all kinds of activity. It would force that once sleepy, little church into all kinds of new thoughts and prayers and activities.
I have been a student of Church Growth for the past 15 years, and I have seen some local churches do the strangest things to try to get out of their deeply formed spiritual rut. Most of what they try fails miserably.
By experience nothing gives a tired, old, comfortable church a jolt like the inundation of a batch of freshly redeemed people.
As Bill Hybels has said, "Dusty, old saints start to talk to these fired-up new believers, and it does wonders for their dusty, old souls. And before you know it, instead of the deacons fighting over what color to paint the church kitchen, they are asking God and each other, ’How are we going to get these new Christians grounded in the Word? How are we going to get them established in small groups for nurture and fellowship? How are we going to help them find their spiritual gifts so that they can serve with joy and effectiveness in the church?’"
Church leaders are really focused on the right priorities. Veteran believers are discipling and shepherding the "rookies" who are showing up. Everybody is buzzing about the new atmosphere of spiritual vitality they feel around the church. Everyone is developing a taste for seeing God touch more lives, and more lives in the future. And it begins to feel like the church is alive again, like the church has a future and a vision.
What started the ball rolling? What started the revolution in that church? Do you remember? Fifteen seekers coming to faith, a batch of freshly redeemed people wandering into the church that day.
Ever wonder what it was that ignited the first century church in Jerusalem. We read of the breathtakingly beautiful dynamics going on in the early church, Acts 2:42-47. We read about the people’s devotion to the Word of God. Fellowship, deep community, going on. Masks coming off. No more relational pretending. We read about the breaking of bread and prayer, vital worship; the rich caring for the poor, people sharing their property and possession; a spirit of unity and love; eating in one another’s homes. We read Acts 2, and we stand in awe at what was going on in that early church.
What was it that transformed a semi-defeated Bible study group meeting in an upper room in Jerusalem into this highly energized, Holy Spirit empowered, life-giving local church? The inundation of 3000 new converts on Pentecost Day. You think about that. You talk about a spiritual adrenaline rush.
Sometimes when I read these texts I think those early leaders had no choice but to call an all hands on deck staff meeting to figure out how they were going to integrate all these baby believers into this fellowship. How are we going to establish them in the faith? How are we going to grow them up?
When you read the book of Acts, and you see what God did through that first church, you will stand in awe at what God did through a local fellowship. That local fellowship became the launching pad for the spread of the church around the world.
If you are like me when you read Acts, and you look at a churches vital signs, signs like those mentioned, you find yourself saying, "God, I want more of that kind of spiritual activity in my church. I would give anything to witness the explosive power of the Holy Spirit in my congregation. I’d give anything for my church to become an Acts 2 church."
To which God responds, "I would too."
But then when you ask the follow-up question: "How can we get started? How can the revolution get going?"
I think the answer from heaven will be "Start by training and inspiring those who have accepted the Good News of Christ to share that news with others who have not yet accepted it. Build bigger hearts for lost people. Just doing that begins the revolution."