Summary: This sermon was preached to introduce our LIFE Groups to the congregation
They were the ultimate church plant. They started with 11, grew to 120, then to 3000. Not bad, as a matter of fact very good. But how did they do it? I guess that question has to be asked by anyone who is even remotely interested in church growth. What was the secret that they had that allowed this group to grow from a diverse gathering to a world changing movement? We can probably find the answer in the scripture that was read for us earlier in the service.
That was the earliest description of the Christian church. During the past 2000 years many churches have tried to duplicate or at least replicate what they saw as the perfect church, and that really is impossible to do. That early church existed in a completely different culture then we exist in today, it was separated from the crucifixion and resurrection by months not centuries and its leaders had spent the past three years of their lives walking side by side with Jesus.
To duplicate it today would be impossible, and to be truthful we glamorize the early church and skip over the problems they had. Because here is the reality: they were made up of people, just like the church today, and because of that there were times they had issues and that they had problems.
That had to deal with sexual sin. Did you think that was a new problem? They had to deal with substance abuse. Did you think that was a new problem? There were personality clashes, and people who didn’t want to get with the program. There were people who wanted to be Christ followers but who still wanted to live like the devil, there were folks who had weird doctrinal ideas who wanted to be in positions of leadership.
But it was also an incredibly powerful time of miracles, prayer and God’s outpouring of his spirit. And was no doubt the most powerful period in church history.
To bring you up to speed, Jesus has been crucified, buried and has risen from the dead. For forty days he teaches his disciples and appears to any number of people. After forty days he instructs his disciples to stay in Jerusalem and to wait for the Holy Spirit to come to give them power and courage. And then he returns to his Father and they wait. For ten days they wait. And then it happens. Fifty days, seven weeks after the first Easter, during a Jewish celebration, called Pentecost, which means fiftieth day. Sometimes it was called the Feast of Weeks. Seven days, seven weeks get it? The city is packed with pilgrims and the Holy Spirit arrives.
This is what is written by Luke in the book of Acts: Acts 2:1-4 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
And while that is really cool, it’s not what I’m talking about today.
What we are looking at today is what happened later on that morning.
Peter, you remember Peter he was the one who denied Christ three times. The same Peter who wouldn’t acknowledge Jesus in the presence of a handful of people begins to preach to the crowds who had gathered for the Pentecost celebrations. And he tells them the entire story of Jesus, you can read all about it in Acts chapter 2 and then the story climaxes with these words. Acts 2:41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.
So, first thing in the morning there were 120 believers before the day was done there were 3,120 believers. And that was the foundation of what we now refer to as “The Church” The fact that there were 3000 converts was amazing, the fact that they appear to have kept most of those 3000 converts was miraculous.
In 1990, the year we moved to Australia there was a church on our district that was averaging 289 in their morning service, that year they reported 541 converts as the result of a drama that had been presented in their church. Last year, 23 years later that same church reported an average morning attendance of 263, hmmm. Sometimes it’s easier to get em then it is to keep em.
If you’ve been in Cornerstone over the past month or so you’ve heard us talking about our “Life Groups” and perhaps your reaction is, “Oh yeah, same old, same old.” Or perhaps you’ve decided that we’ve just starting using a new name, but it’s more then a name it is a philosophy concerning our small group ministry.