EVANGELISM AND GROWTH OF THE FIRST CENTURY CHURCH

 

God wants the church the church to grow in 2 ways.

 

1. He wants it to grow spiritually.

 

2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

 

Every individual and every congregation must grow in this way and the way we do it is found in.

 

1 Peter 2:2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,

 

When Paul was speaking to the Ephesians Elders he tells them.

 

Acts 20:32 "So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

 

The only kind of congregation that is going to be pleasing to God is one that is growing spiritually.

 

2. He wants the church to grow numerically.

 

When a person obeys the Gospel they are added to the church by God. Acts 2:47

However God is not interested in a great increase of number just so we can say we have x amount of members because He wants people who are who willing to grow spiritually. He would rather have a congregation made up of 20 people that were growing spiritually and who were seeking after Him with their who heart, mind and soul than a 1000 or 2000 people who are not growing spiritual and who were doing things their way instead of His.

 

While numerical growth is important, numbers donít reflect upon the faithfulness of a congregation. Instead their spiritual growth is what determines that. With that being said lets examine the growth of the church in the first century.

 

On the day of Pentecost The Great Commission began. The apostles began to proclaim Jesus death, burial and resurrection before all the Jews that gathered there. Because of this great message, some of these Jews were pricked in their heart and wanted to know what they must do.

 

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.39 "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation."41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

 

Just as Jesus said the message had to be preached and His apostles followed this command. Then the people that heard the message had to choose to accept it or deny it. While many denied the truth that was being taught 3000 souls believed and obeyed the Gospel call and were baptized into Christ for the remission of their sins and they were added to the church by God Acts 2:47.

 

Acts 2:47 - And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

 

Notice they were growing on daily basis. In fact Acts 4:4 lets us know that they had grown to 5000 men and Acts 5:14 tells us that multitudes of men and women were being added to the Lord.

 

Acts 6:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying,

 

Acts 6:7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

 

Acts 16:5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.

 

Acts 21:20 talks about how there were thousands of converted Jews in Jerusalem alone. There is no doubt that the first century church grew in number, but they also grew spiritually as well as we see them caring for one another and standing firm on Godís Word. We can also see that the Word of God was their primary objective from passages like:

 

Acts 12:24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.

 

Acts 19:20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.

 

How did they grow spiritual and numerically? Before we answer that question let first look at what didnít cause them to grow this way.

 

First of all their growth had nothing to do with having a nice church building to meet in. Instead, we find them meeting in peoples homes or any place they could find to gather together.

 

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

 

We are just told to assemble and the place of that we assemble is just a matter of personal judgment. While there is nothing wrong with having a church building with cushioned pews, air conditioning and heating and all the other conveniences that go with a physical building it should not be the primary reason that causes a congregation to grow. They didnít have such luxuries in the first century and it certainly wasnít a factor that led people to Christ.

 

When you look around at other religions, you are starting to see a trend of where they are putting all their money into building bigger and better buildings and they are building million dollar gymnasiums to try and entice younger folks to be a part of their denomination. Friends, when we get to the point where we think we have to bribe people to come by building extravagant structures then we have missed the point of evangelism.

 

Remember people are called by God through the good news of the Bible 2 Thes. 2:14. No physical building can ever truly convert someone. We have to be careful that we are using worldly tactics to increase our numbers, instead our numbers must increase by honest individuals who are being converted by the Word of God.

 

Now I am not condemning church buildings or making them big enough to accommodate the members, but we have to realize that the church building is just a convenient place for us to meet and to fellowship with one another.

 

We can also know that the early church did not grow because it tried to entertain its people or attract them by worldly means.

 

Not once will you find in the NT where they had a drama teams or praise teams being used to try and entertain the people. This is big problem today. We have become so used to being entertained by TVís, movies and other performances that we have come to expect it even when it comes to worshipping God. Many have the mentality that if the worship service isnít peppy enough then they will turn the channel and find a church that is.

 

There are many in the religious world who have conformed to this need and have traded in Godís Word and it truth to put on their entertainment hats. This is why we see some having two services. They have one for the older more conservative folks and then they have a second service for the young where they pull out the rock band and they jam out and the young folks jump up and down and run up and down the aisles.

 

Now, this can be very entertaining and you could can see why this would attract many, but the problem is they have put God on the backburner and have put their wants and desires over his. When we worship God it is not to please ourselves it is to please God by following His way found in His Word.

 

The Bible teaches us to worship God in spirit and in truth and that Godís word is what is to be taught. So, we have to be careful that we donít find ourselves trying to lure people to Christ through entertainment instead of His Word. We certainly know that the 1st century church didnít use this tactic and they grew rapidly without it.

The church did not grow because morality was better in the first century. Now, it is true that in Jerusalem the Jews did have mindset of serving God, but the church was planted and grew in many places that were filled with people who had little or no spiritual integrity.

 

For instance the Corinthians were known for their sinful lifestyle, yet this became a place where the church was planted and grew. The Cretans were known for their laziness and evil ways, yet they established a church there with qualified elders. Even though we live an morally bankrupt society, the church can still grown just as it did in the first century.

 

Another thing that didnít cause the church to grow in the first century was by avoiding controversial issues or having debates or compromising with false religions.

 

Some today have adopted the idea that we should just all get along and not say anything when we disagree and that we should hold hands with everyone that says they are following after Christ so that we can grow the church together.

 

Friends this concept is foreign to the Bible because this was not done in the first century. In book of Acts we can see where these Christians were willing stand upon the truth and they were not willing to compromise even if it meant they lost their life. For instance Stephen could have conformed to the Jews that were questioning him, but he did not. He taught them the truth knowing that it went against what they believed and he died for that cause and this did not cause the church to stop growing, instead it grew even more.

 

Paul went around and debated or reasoned with the Jews in the Synagogues on the Sabbath (Acts 17:2) and in the market place daily (Acts 17:17). He also did this at Ephesus (Acts 18:8-9).

 

We should never forget what Peter and John told the Jews that were trying to get them to compromise about teaching the truth.

 

Acts 4:18 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.20 "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."

 

Even though some Jews wanted the Gentiles to be circumcised because of the Old Law Paul was not willing to compromise in Acts 15 and it was determined by the church at Jerusalem by the apostles and by the Holy Spirit that circumcision is not part of the new covenant.

 

This teaches us that holding hands with the denominations and agreeing to disagree is not going to cause the church to grow. We must not be afraid to stand up on the Word of God and engage in debate and point out what is wrong and what is right from Godís Word.

 

The first century church did not grow because they compromised the truth to conform to what has been deemed morally acceptable by the world.

 

If the world had its way they would want the church to accept everyone where they are. This is why we have seen some that have started allowing active homosexual to become leaders in their congregation. Even though the Bible forbid the women as serving as the minister or an elder many have allowed this to happen as well. Even within the church some have compromised what Godís word says on marriage, divorce and remarriage and they are allowing couples that are living in adultery to become spiritual leaders in the church as well.

 

Friends, doing this may increase the numbers, but it wonít be pleasing to God and it is not in His plan for us to compromise with worldly morality.

 

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.16 For all that is in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

 

Another thing that did not cause the church to grow in the first century was by asking around in the community what they would like to see in a local church.

 

Its thinking like this that has led some churches to become community churches. They try and appease the needs of the community. However, in the first century they didnít do this. They simply preached what God wanted by teaching His word. Itís important that we never lose site that we must conform to Godís way and not our own or the communities.

 

Galatians 1:9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.10 ∂ For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.11 ∂ But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

 

Now that we have examined several ways the first century church didnít grow, lets take a look at some of the things that did make them grow in spirit and in number.

 

1. The book of Acts teaches us that they prayed (Acts 2:42; 4:23ff; 16:25).

2. They were united having the same desire to spread the good news (Acts 2:42-46).

3. They were a courageous church as they did not compromise the truth.

4. They were a caring church as they cared for each other and for those that were lost (Acts 4:32- 37; 6:1-7; 9:36-39).

5. The practiced discipline so that other would know that unrighteous behavior would not be tolerated (Acts 5:1-11).

6. They were actively involved in teaching the Gospel to the lost.

 

Acts 5:42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

 

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

 

7. Teaching the lost was not just done by a few apostles, elders or minister it was done by the common people of the church.

 

Acts 8:3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.

 

Notice those who were scattered would include those who were not elders or ministers.

 

8. They these Christians had a great zeal and enthusiasm for teaching the good news. They took time each day to tell someone about Christ.

 

If want to grow both spiritually and numerically today, then we must be willing to follow after their example and zealously reach out to the lost with the Word God and emphasize the importance of following after Godís will and not our own. If we can get people to get back to the Bible and diligently seeking to please Him, then we are going to have a church that is growing both spiritually and numerically as God would have it.††