When the Word Grows

Sharing Options

I am filling the pulpit tomorrow at All Souls in Lewiston.

Introduction:
The congregation here at All Souls is a church plant, and so one of the things we should consider is a theology of church planting. If we don’t have a biblical basis for what we are doing, then the mere raw fact of whatever it is we are doing will soon become our de facto theology of it. This is just another way of supplanting the Word of God with the words of men.

The Text:

“And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).

Summary of the Text:
Notice how God loves to identify with His people. Recall how, when Stephen was being stoned, Stephen looked up and saw Christ standing at the right hand of the Father. When the Lord Jesus confronted Saul on his way to Damascus, as Saul was on his way to persecute Christians, the Lord asked Saul why he was persecuting Him. And here, we are told that the Word of God increased, and how was that occurring? The Word increased through the numerical growth of the Jerusalem church.

The Baseline:
In biblical theology, church growth is normative. It is the pattern; it us the baseline. In the Great Commission, the Lord Jesus told us to disciple all the nations, baptizing them, teaching them to obey all that Jesus taught. There is absolutely no way to obey this command without long-term, generational,

On not despising small beginnings . . .
On not despising small beginnings . . .

sustained, robust growth. Growth is therefore normative, as we see in our text. We see the same thing elsewhere in Acts.

“And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord” (Acts 11:21).

What happened when God set His hand to the work? Which direction did the work go then?

“And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily” (Acts 16:5).

We see that this means qualitative growth, and not just numbers. They were established in the faith, and they also grew in number.

Yeah, But . . .
The fact that church growth is normative does not mean that it can be considered an ultimate stand-alone standard, all by itself. Cancer grows. Morning glory grows. False teaching, like that of Hymenaeus and Philetus, eats like a canker (2 Tim. 2:17), growing in its influence daily. More is not automatically good. We always have to ask, more what?

Mission Central:
Growth is teleological, which means that it is directed toward a particular end. If that end is assigned in Scripture, and if it is faithfully pursued using the means that God has given, growth is good. We should pray for it, look for it, work for it.

What God Wants:
When we gather to worship, we are serving God. “To worship” means to make yourself available for works of service. Worship is Isaiah saying, here am I, Lord, send me (Is. 6:8). Present your bodies a living sacrifice, which is your spiritual worship (Rom. 12:1-2). Worship is putting yourself on the altar. Worship is making yourself available.

So we don’t want a small church so that we can feel cozy. Neither do we want a big church so that we can feel important. We want a church of whatever size would most effectively help evangelize the valley here. Returning to the Great Commission, the two assigned tasks given to the church are birth and growth.

A right understanding of worship requires a Copernican revolution in your heart. You are not the sun, around which all your activities revolve—including your religious activities. No, Christ is the sun, and we are called to revolve around Him. What size church does He want? And why?

Reflecting On What God Has Done:

Don’t despise small beginnings (Zech. 4:10). Big oaks come from little acorns.

Expect challenges. The growth in our text was the result of how they faithfully dealt with a challenge that arose from previous growth (Acts 6:1).

Expect personal heart challenges. In other words, when confronting the challenges I just mentioned, always run a spiritual inventory in your own heart first. Don’t assume that the problem is always in the views, opinions, and actions of those others over there. I mean, what are the odds of that?

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
2 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
timothy
timothy
8 years ago

When we gather to worship, we are serving God. “To worship” means to make yourself available for works of service. Worship is Isaiah saying, here am I, Lord, send me (Is. 6:8). Present your bodies a living sacrifice, which is your spiritual worship (Rom. 12:1-2). Worship is putting yourself on the altar. Worship is making yourself available.

Very nice. thx.

Andrew Lohr
8 years ago

“Paul did not plant churches in order to evangelize. He evangelized in order to plant churches”–Gene Edwards. (Not to plant 11am services merely, but to plant local branches of our Father’s family of love–love as defined by Him not zeitgeist, e.g. no fornication of any kind nor catering thereto–whose activities include growth both natural and by intentional effort).

“The spontaneous expansion of the church and the causes which hinder it”–title of book by Roland Allen.