Summary: The real secret to how the church gre so successfully - the Holy Spirit!
If we’re honest with ourselves, sometimes, coming to church can be a little bit depressing. Here we sit in a sanctuary designed clearly designed for hundreds, and yet we probably aren’t much more than 10. Once upon a time, this church was the leading church of our association – we even started it! But that’s no longer the case. Even worse, we live in a country that was formed by our greater church, and yet when we hear about Congressmen literally well-stocked with cold, hard cash, we wonder what went wrong. When we learn of entire families, like the one in Indianapolis, executed in their homes with assault rifles, its fair ask, ‘Where is the church?’
Well, we shouldn’t despair. You see when we look around, we may only see 10, but we are part of a larger inheritance. Just within this association, there are thousands who are worshipping the same God we do, praying to the same God we do, begging him to preserve his planet just a little longer. And you and I both know that we love a God who listens!
But I should tell you, it’s not just 10 or even a few thousand who crying out to this good God this morning. In the United States alone, there are nearly 15 million Southern Baptists doing the same thing. There are nearly 10 million other Baptists loving the same God we do, praising his name and calling for revival. Indeed, there are nearly 100 million of us, worshipping in churches without any formal organization. (Ok, I wanted to say without any organization whatsoever, but that might be a bit unkind.)
But I don’t want to leave you thinking that its just Baptists, because our God has given us a far greater inheritance than that. There are nearly a billion people who claim to be Protestant Christians, and more who are part of the Roman Church. That’s more than 2.1 billion people, calling on the name of Christ on any given day. If a space alien, were come down to this planet and randomly select three people, chances are one of them would be Christian. If you want to include Muslims, who claim that Jesus is a prophet, the odds jump to one in two.
From a church of just 11, Jesus’ name has certainly spread.
This morning is the birthday of the church. It’s the feast of the Pentecost – literally the feast of first fruits. The harvest is just beginning; there is a long season of growth of and ripening ahead of us. If Easter was the seed of our faith, this morning represents the first bud.
The account we read is the birth rite – the right birth of our Church. Jesus had ascended into heaven, and the disciples were eagerly waiting what came next. That morning, a rush like no other blew through their midst. Tongues of fire rested on them. They spoke in languages they had never studied.
The Spirit had come. In just one morning, their little band of 11 expanded to nearly 3000. It’s like little Long Branch had become a mega-church overnight. The growth was explosive. It was fast, furious, and unquestionably the work of God.
For 300 years, this little bad of slaves and other downcasts were persecuted. But somehow, they grew. When Christianity became legal under Constantine, it had grown into a force that changed empires. Only 100 years after that, it was the only religion in the entire Empire.