Summary: Believers are called to come together as an evangelistic community.
Our passage does not specifically tell us that the early church devoted themselves to evangelism, although we may conclude that they did, indeed, share the message of the Good News with those who did not know Christ. What we are told is that they devoted themselves to learning ("to the Apostle’s teaching"), to caring ("to the fellowship") and to worship ("to the breaking of bread and to prayer"). As a result, they became a "contagious community," in the sense that unbelievers observing them said, I want to catch whatever has caught hold of them!"
Consequently, the early church grew. By virtue of their coming together as a Christian community, they were used mightily of God to reach the Jerusalem community.
God calls His church to grow! Now, some argue that we shouldn’t be concerned about church growth. They often say things like, "God isn’t interested in numbers," or "we should focus on quality, not quantity."
But the fact is that if we are truly concerned about what God is concerned about, we will be concerned about reaching more people for Christ and seeing our church grow. There are at least three reasons why our church must never stop growing. We must never stop growing . . .
1. Because God loves people.
"The Lord is . . . not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."
- 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV)
2. Because God commands us to reach out.
"Go out into the country . . . and urge anyone you find to come in, so that My House will be full."
- Luke 14:23 (Living Bible)
". . . you will be my witnesses . . ." - Acts 1:8 (NIV)
3. Because growth is God’s will.
"Under Christ’s control, the whole body is nourished . . . and grows as God wants it to grow."
- Colossians 2:19 (Good News For Modern Man)
"I (Jesus) will build my church." - Matthew 16:18 (NIV)
I want us to think together today about how our church might grow as we consider the example of the Jerusalem church. I once had a seminary professor who told us that the church should grow in three ways. It should grow better, bigger, and broader. This is how God worked to grow the early church in Jerusalem.
1. Growing bigger.
The fact that the church in Jerusalem grew bigger is testified to again and again through-out the book of Acts.
"Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church-
-about three thousand in all." - Acts 2:41 (NLT)
"But a lot of people who had heard the message believed it.
So by now there were about five thousand followers of the Lord." - Acts 4:4 (CEV)
"God’s message was preached in ever-widening circles. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too." - Acts 6:7 (NLT)
"The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord."
- Acts 11:21 (NIV)
God wants our church to grow bigger. He wants to see more people in worship, more people in Bible study, and more people coming to faith in Christ through the ministries of our church. There’s nothing wrong with seeing numbers as evidence of God at work. The danger is seeing numbers as statistics rather than people. Our church is in the people business, because we are in God’s business. People are God’s business.
"Shall We Strive For Numbers?"
Someone recently said, "I am not interested in numbers. I would rather have a spiritual Sunday School class than a big one."
I found myself agreeing and determined to pray and prepare my lesson unusually well for next Sunday. At least MY class would be a spiritual one. I didn’t send the usual little cards as reminders to the class; nor did I visit any prospects; I just let them go, but I did have a lesson well prepared. And then came Sunday.
David was absent. Had his dad, so recently saved, taken him fishing again? Were they slipping away from Sunday School and away from God? My heart felt a sharp jab of pain. Jimmie wasn’t there. Could he be sick again? What about Charles? Did he ever get those new shoes and was he sitting out on a woodpile feeling "blue" because he didn’t make it to Sunday School?
I gave my prepared lesson. But those three - what good did it do them?
This week I sent then the prettiest cards I could find, I called them over the phone, I visited them even.
The constant cry in my heart was, "God, don’t let them slip away and grow up in sin and careless living. Please, God, bring them back."