Summary: A practical message on outreach using the early church’s growth as a model for us.
The Church: It’s A Productive Place
I want to introduce you to “the plant.” The reason I say, “The plant” is because it is the only plant in our home that is alive. In fact, it’s probably lived longer than any other plant we’ve ever had. My wife will tell you that we don’t have a green thumb.. If it’s any color we have a black thumb. The only plants that do well in our house are the plastic ones. But this plant is different. This one is special. We’ve cared for it very carefully because it was given to us by the nursing home personnel who took care of Deb’s mom who passed away in September, 2004. So, we have done all we could to nurture it and it has grown. Now, it wasn’t always this size. It started small, we’ve had to transfer it to a larger pot, we’ve put a couple of sticks in it to hold it up. We’ve watered it, given it plant food, made sure it has sunshine. We even carried it with us in the car 1800 miles when we moved from Colorado Springs. All because we wanted it to live and grow. And why has it grown? Because of a very simple and true principle: healthy things grow! We all understand that’s true of all living things.
I have 3 children. They looked like this when they were young. But they grew. They grew into young men and women and now they two of them are married and have children. The youngest one isn’t married yet but wants to be! So why didn’t they stay small? Well, because they did what all healthy humans do... grow. If a living thing doesn’t grow, we know something is wrong. And whether it’s a plant, a child or a pet... we know it’s true: healthy things what? Grow!
The same is true of the church. When a church is healthy it will naturally grow. You say, “Yeah but is a church a living thing?” According to the Bible it is. In fact the most often used metaphor to define the church is a body. Eph. 4:15-16 says, “ We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”(NLT) That’s what we have been talking about this month. We’ve been looking at the first century church in the book of Acts and seeing that it’s health barometer was good.. Dennis taught us it was a peaceful and powerful place. Last week Arron helped us understand it was a positive place. Today we want to look at the final phrase in our study from Acts 9:31 (quickview) . Let’s read this together.. Would you read it out loud with me? “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”(NIV)Today, I want us pay special attention to the phrase, “it grew in numbers,” and to see that the church was a productive place, a growing place.
I. CRITERIA FOR A GROWING CHURCH: