If you are following Jesus, but it’s never hard and never unpopular, we're not following Jesus.
What does a church need to grow?
Over the years, the following suggestions have typified the popular response to that question:
--A happy congregation;
--Sermons that emphasize the blessings of the Christian life;
--Longstanding reputation in the community;
--A pleasant atmosphere;
--Appealing to the felt needs of seekers...and more.
"But," you may be wondering, "what are some unpopular ways to help a church grow?"
Okay, I know very few people are actually asking that.
But God -- in His perfect sovereignty, providence, and power -- grows His church in some amazing ways ways even through things like:
In the passage in Acts, the church’s strains were neediness and diversity of languages. This led to misunderstanding, distrust, and complaining.
The Bible is clear that Christians aren’t perfect. At our church, we’re here because we know we are lacking. We assemble as a testimony of our neediness. All humans sin and do what we want, not what God wants.
Christians do have a track record of caring for others.
Practical application: consider how much you are willing to give to care for others? Watch any tendency to complain. It’s a distraction from the real work of the church. Strive to be a peacemaker.
These verses are what we refer to for our structure of deacons. In Acts, the deacons serve each other to promote unity. Deacons served to meet: physical needs, unity of the body, and allow others to conduct the ministry of the Word.
Complaints aren't always legitimate, of course. But how we respond to complaints can help stir the growth of the church.
Stephen’s point is that God’s messengers are always rejected, but God goes on to use them for His glory anyway. Stephen was the first Christian martyr.
As Christians, we understand part of our natural depravity is to reject God’s truth. It’s how we explain why we do bad things. By nature, we are defensive against God’s truth. Be cautious about rejecting God’s word when it convicts your heart and the penetrating rays shine in.
Read the account of Stephen on your own. Accounts such as this put our struggles in perspective and show us how God always prevails in the end. Work to find your joy in Christ so you can withstand whatever opposition God calls you to and still be an accurate and joyful witness. Read the Bible and biographies of Christians to see the history of what God has done throughout the ages.
What is the effect you’re having on others? Are you helping them become confident rejoicers in what God has committed to do?
Christians were dispersed through exile and shared the Gospel with those around them in their new locality.
They shared that our only hope to be accepted by God isn’t by righteously reforming our own lives. But it’s by God’s righteousness in Christ—the perfect life that Christ lived His death on the cross, specifically giving Himself as a substitute and taking the punishment for sin that we all deserve. And we are called to receive the forgiveness of sins from Christ.
How do we know that what Christ taught about His death is the truth? We know because God raised Him from the dead. We can have confidence in Christ’s plan succeeding.
Did you notice in this passage it’s not the pastor/elder or deacon who’s evangelizing, but a regular member of the church?
Friend, are you prepared to share the Gospel? How can you better prepare your self? Two Ways to Live is a great resource that will help you prepare.
And practice and be available to evangelize. It’s not just when you’re happy that you should share the Gospel.
Pray also for God to use your trials as opportunities for evangelism. Hard times are often the best because that’s when you’re most aware of your need.
Often, we share examples of evangelism in our gathered time to encourage others to evangelize. Our church is committed to seeing the Gospel spread through out the world. Nearly 12 percent of the current budget goes to missions.
God used Saul’s persecution and the miracle of his conversion to grow the church.
Non-Christian, what in your worldview explains the change that Saul went through? Jesus Christ is the risen Lord and He changed Saul’s life.
Christian, proclaim the Gospel, be patient, and pray for fruit Why should we ever despair of anyone? Share the Gospel, wait and hope. Marvel at God’s grace in Paul’s life. No sinner is too great for God’s grace.
The former slave trader turned pastor and evangelist John Newton said “I have never despaired of any man since God saved me.”
Christian, get to know your own heart well. Get to know your own sin against God so that having seen how He saved you, you will never despair of any man.
We hope that in our church there is a joyful perseverance in evangelism. Pray that we will take appropriate risks to share the Gospel. Our confidence is based not in ourselves but in Christ.
Stephen rejoiced in such imperishable things even as the stones hit him. What about you? Can you conceive of God’s good plans for His church despite complaining?
We’d rather have our reputations, our rights, our homes, & our lives rather than an expanded Christian church. The first Christians made their choices and priorities, and we are making ours.