Just how does the Church, the Body of Christ, grow? As with any living body, to survive, it must grow, or die. We know that the beginning of the Church occurred on the Day of Pentecost, but, once born, how did it grow?
God calls individuals and no one can come to Him unless God draws him. However, the body of Christ has a vital role to play in making disciples.
The book of Acts is a history of the spreading of the gospel. With concrete examples it documents how the Church expanded. By studying this account it is possible to see three broad categories pertaining to growth in the Church:
1. Godly Character
The followers of Christ were and are doers of the word and not just hearers. Being a doer gives evidence of Godly character. We are, just as the early church members were, “boots on the ground,” there for others to see our example. In the years of rapid growth in the era of Church history of the Worldwide Church of God, many new members came into the Church through the examples of Godly character in action of other members. Our personal example matters!
2. Signs and Wonders
Signs and wonders, done in Jesus’ name, have a very specific purpose, they validate God’s word and provide evidence of God’s authority, power and sovereignty. They were given for two reasons, first, so that men would believe God. Secondly, they confounded and confused unbelievers.
In Acts chapter 5, the apostles did many signs and wonders on Solomon’s porch at the Temple in Jerusalem. People came from far away to be healed miraculously and many believed. When finally they were arrested by the Sadducees, God miraculously released the apostles from prison and they returned to preaching. The authorities were confounded, they couldn’t explain how it happened, but they could see that it was supernatural. As a result, a wise leader of the Pharisees, Gamaliel, convinced the others to leave the apostles alone.
By far the most effective example of how the church grows is preaching. Preaching God’s word has always been a part of God’s plan of salvation. Noah was a preacher of righteousness. We also have Christ’s command to preach to and teach all nations. Paul tells us clearly that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17), which is preached by those who are sent.
The most dramatic growth of members added to the Body of Christ was done through preaching. On the day of Pentecost, in Acts 2, three thousand people were added to the church through Peter’s message. But in Acts chapters 3 and 4 an even more impressive growth incident occurred following the healing of a cripple by Peter and John, and Peter’s subsequent preaching about the resurrection. As a result, five thousand people were added to the Body of Christ!
The book of Acts could be called “A Manual for Church Growth”, so plentiful are the examples of these three factors: Godly character, signs and wonders, and preaching. And two of these are directly available to us today. We can teach others by setting a Godly example. And we can pray for and physically support those “who are sent” to preach God’s word.
We can’t “grow” the church using man-made ideas and approaches. But that doesn’t prevent God from using us in the process of calling others to the Body of Christ. God gives the increase, but, as Paul said, we have to plant and water. So let’s set an example through which God can add to His Church!
by John Grabara