(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Thursdays is my day to talk about God’s way for our congregations. Right now I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the fifth post in the series. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)
Continual Growth not 10,000 Members
I like to talk about the Jerusalem church a lot. I see it as an exemplary church of growth and work. I know we claim to want to be what they were and do what they did, but how many congregations achieve what they achieved?
As I talk about this example, I’ll mention that according to Acts 2:41 they started with about 3000 members. By Acts 4:4, the number of men came to be about 5000. When you add in wives, widows, and children, this means the congregation could have been between 10,000 and 15,000. Yet, somehow many brethren tend to believe if a congregation gets over 150 they must be doing something wrong. Either they are doing something wrong to attract that many members or simply having that many members is wrong all by itself (after all, how can the elders know everyone in a 10,000 member congregation?). Yet, Jerusalem did it.
A sad byproduct of talking about this aspect of the Jerusalem church is missing the actual vision. Some people have a vision of getting a church to be so large. Maybe their vision is to get to 100. Maybe 500. Maybe 1000. Maybe 10,000. The problem is what happens when you accomplish that number? Will the church continue to reach out and save the lost? Usually not. We have a tendency to reach our goals and then take breaks.
When we look at Jerusalem, however, we don’t see a church with a goal of 10,000 members. We see a church with a goal of saving one more person. More than giving the life-changing gospel to one more person, they made sure they could handle adding one more person as part of the congregation. This is the real issue for us today. Most churches know well enough to claim they want one more convert. What we often miss is that how we run the congregation on a practical level, the kind of facilities we have, the kind of leadership we employ, the kind of relationships we develop all limit our ability to grow.
The Jerusalem church was not simply about baptizing one more person. They were about conducting their work, even changing their work, in such a way as to handle having that one more person be a viable part of the congregation.
If we are going to really grow congregations today, we must do more than simply work on baptizing people. There are many churches that baptize people ever year, but they never grow. We need to be like Jerusalem, expanding and adapting our leadership and work to allow for the growth many of us claim to want.
Keep coming back and we’ll discuss the keys of the Jerusalem church’s success in this growth and expansion.
I hope you are enjoying and learning from this look at the Jerusalem Church. Come back next week as we learn that the Jerusalem vision is not about hiring enough workhands, but about getting all hands working.