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Our Blueprint for Church Growth: Acts
In the movie “Field of Dreams,” Kevin Costner’s character hears a voice that says, “If you build it, they will come.” While this quote has become iconic, part of Hollywood folklore, the truth is, if we let God build His church the way He intended, He will come. And when He comes, He will bring with Him the power to transform lives, just like we see in the Book of Acts.
Can you imagine what it would be like for today’s church to look like the early church? We would experience prayer meetings with power that would shake the very room we were in (Acts 4:31). We would have boldness in the face of governmental persecution, no matter how harsh it was (Acts 4:19-20). There would be miracles and great signs from God authenticating our faith and His message (Acts 3:6-7). And if we suffered for Him, we would rejoice that He considered us worthy to suffer shame like His Son (Acts 5:41). Just imagine what Christian life would look like if we lived as they did in the early church.
But sadly, that seems like just a dream. And many have lost hope of ever experiencing the power and wonder of God we see displayed in the pages of the Book of Acts. Did you ever wonder why?
Remember what Jesus said:
“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock (Peter’s affirmation of faith in Christ) I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
And note, Jesus emphasized the “I” part of this promise. He said He would build His church, and when He did, nothing, not even the gates of hell, could keep His light from shining in the enemy’s darkness. So this is a promise, an if/then promise. If we do our part, then He will do His. And our part is to let Jesus build His church and get out of the way of what He is doing.
Do you think we could do that? I hope so, but I’m not so sure. Let me tell you why.
Three Things They Did We Don’t
When we look at the Gospel accounts and the Book of Acts, we see people respond to Jesus in ways we don’t encourage today. For them, it was a life-altering, “all or nothing” choice. It was a decision to embrace either life or death, to follow light or darkness, or to travel the wide road of destruction or the narrow path that leads to salvation (Matt. 7:13-14). There was no third option.
But for us in the church today, we live for the third option. We want to follow Jesus, but just not as close or as committed as those we see in Scripture. Their life was full of blessings and hard times. And for those in the West, the dread of hard times overshadows the joy of His blessings. So we err on the side of caution.
But that is not how life played out in the early church. Let me close by sharing three things the early church did that we balk at today. For us, their lives seem extreme, and we feel more comfortable, and safer, watching from the stands than playing on the field.
They Forsook All and Followed Him
And yes, they really used that word, forsook, to describe what they gave up for Him. You can read about this in Matthew 4:18-22, 19:21, 27-29, Luke 5:27-28, 9:23, and 14:33, among other places in Scripture.
They Met in Their Own Homes
There were no church buildings on every street corner at that time. So the early church opened up their own homes, something we shy away from today, and allowed others, including strangers, to come in and sit on their sofas and worship the Lord. This was the original way God built His church, yet we think we have come up with a better program. I’m not so sure. Are you? You can read more about this in Acts 2:46, 5:42, Rom. 16:3-5, Col. 4:15, Phil. 1:2.
They Met Daily and Not Just on Sunday
This one hits hard, doesn’t it? The early church met daily in the temple ministering to others and evangelizing, and then again at night, where they shared meals together. Their lives were intertwined in ways that cannot be done meeting once a week in a neutral building. Read it for yourself, in Acts 2:46-47.
So continuing (how often) daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread (where) from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.
And what did God do?
And the Lord added to the church (how often) daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:46-47).
I wonder, could there be a connection? Is there something more we could be doing to encourage God’s blessing in our churches today? And if so, could the answer be found in the Book of Acts?
I think so. Do you?