From Unfolding Grace:
“The Spirit comes on the day of Pentecost to fill God’s people as the new temple of God’s presence. He comes to empower God’s people to carry out God’s mission. Immediately after Jesus pours His Spirit on the church, Peter proclaims the gospel, and three thousand people are saved. They believe and are baptized. These first Christians demonstrate real discipleship: they devote themselves to sincere worship, true community, and gospel mission. They also endure incredible suffering with unshakeable joy.
The next part of Acts shows how the gospel continues to spread beyond Jerusalem to ‘all Judea and Samaria.’”
Wednesday, September 8th
Larger Portion of Scripture - Acts 5-8
Focused Passage for Reflection - Acts 8:1-8
Reflecting on the Text:
“His execution” in v. 1 refers to Stephen’s execution in Chapter 7. That Stephen was a Godly deacon, full of grace and power. The “Saul” who approved of his execution would become the Apostle Paul. But not yet. At the beginning of Acts 8, he was not yet the powerful evangelist and Apostle who would plant churches all around the Mediterranean. No, at this point he was the ringleader behind an effort to squash the burgeoning new church. But in the sovereignty of God, even those violent efforts were used by God to spread the message of the gospel.
The book of Acts tells the story of the early church and its growth beyond a relatively small group of disciples in Jerusalem. It is a growth story fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit and Resurrection preaching. New converts were added at an eye-popping rate, but there were no church growth techniques applied…at least not any that we would recognize in Western Christianity today.
In these few verses, we see a different model for church growth. Persecution -- Scattering -- Preaching. That is how the church grew in Acts. That is how “execution” could give way to “much joy” in the span of 8 verses. Because the gospel is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16) Because the Kingdom of man is temporal, but the Kingdom of God is eternal.
It begs the question for us: Where is our trust? Are we placing our trust for church growth in worldly techniques meant to attract consumers? Or, are we trusting in Holy Spirit power and Christ-centered preaching? And maybe more fundamentally, why are we seeking growth? Is it because of what we think it will say about us…because we desire to be relevant in the world's eyes? Or, is it because we believe the church of Jesus Christ is God’s ordained means for reaching the lost and for growing believers in Christ-likeness?
These questions unpack much about the desires of our heart and what we believe about Jesus and the wisdom of His Word. The book of Acts has something to say about those questions. The answers may surprise us. They point to a Sovereign God who loves BIG and cares more about eternal glory than earthly comfort. Through His Word, let us see and worship Him. Let us take hold of His salvation.
Questions for personal reflection:
Are you concerned about church growth? Why?
How does this broader selection of Scripture (Acts 5-8) impact your view of the purpose and methodology of church growth?