They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Look at that last verse (47). Everyday people were getting saved, everyday lives were being transformed, everyday people were coming into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Imagine what that must have been like. New people joining the family every single day.
I have had the privilege of witnessing substantial growth in church life during my time in ministry. While it brings so much joy, it also carries considerable challenges in terms of structures and discipleship. I always describe it as a 'high quality problem'.
Some people have said to me: "Don’t talk about numbers, it’s not about the numbers."
I get what they’re saying, I am not into church growth for the sake of growth or so we can become the biggest church in town. That is unhealthy and leads to striving and even competition. However, I am into growth if it involves unchurched, far from God people finding new life, hope, forgiveness and grace in Jesus. Every number equals one person that Christ died for.
Jesus talked about numbers. He spoke of the shepherd who left the 99 to search for the one.
In Acts 2 we read that 3000 people were added to the church. A few chapters later we read that 5000 were added to the church.
Numbers matter because people matter – and so when I meet people who just want the church to remain small as it is, what they are really saying is: "We don’t give a rip about lost people." They are implying that they care more about themselves and their little group than they do about people coming to know Jesus. Imagine if this was the attitude of the early church, if they had said: "We kind of like having only 12 of us, or 120 of us – but we don’t want any more."
I would often tell the church I was leading to get used to growth, because the main purpose of the church is to see lives transformed by Jesus Christ, and then to see them added to the church. So if we are not seeing lives transformed and people added to the church, then lets shut our doors and stop pretending to be a church.
Hell is real – I don’t care what some theologians and so-called church leaders say – Jesus talked about Hell more than heaven. Hell is real and people we sit beside every day are going there if we don’t do something about it. But God desperately loves lost people. He is so passionate about seeing your family and friends come into His family. Hopefully we have His heart of deep compassion for the outsider, the unreached and the not yet Christian.
Trevor Morrow told a story at the New Horizon conference a few years ago that impacted me deeply. Trevor spoke about a family who had joined his church recently and as he got chatting to them he realised that they were from a different religious background, and so he asked them how they ended up becoming Christians. They began to share their story.
They told him how the husband in the family had been made unemployed the year before. With a new baby at home, and a new house they’d bought only a few years before, suddenly they found themselves in a very desperate situation. They couldn’t pay their mortgage, they didn’t even have enough for their bills. They could barely afford to eat.
It seemed like they were going to lose their house, and didn’t know where they’d end up living. They began to despair. It was taking its toll on their health and their marriage.
They then talked about how next door to them lived a family in which the husband and wife were committed Christians. One day the man and woman from next door, this Christian couple, came round and sat in their living room and said that they’d been praying for the last few days and felt God was telling them that they were to start living on half of their salary, and they were to start every month to give the other half to their neighbours until they could get back on their feet again. And that’s what they did. For months. Every month this couple would get paid, and split their salary in two, they would live on one half and they would give their neighbours the other half to pay their bills.
The man said this to Trevor Morrow: "After seeing them show us Jesus' love like that, how could we not become Christians?"