Friday, April 20, 2018
While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. They arrested them and, since it was already evening, put them in jail until morning. But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of men who believed now totaled about 5,000. Acts 4:1-4(NLT)
The bold message that there is resurrection only in the name of Jesus got Peter and John in more trouble than most of us. They were thrown in jail by Sadducees, a hyper politicaly-minded group of Jewish leaders who believed in God, but not an afterlife; simply speaking the word resurrection could start them foaming at the mouth.
It hardly seems like a great church growth strategy to get thrown in jail. But here Luke connects the imprisoned preachers speaking truth to power as a cause/effect to bring faith in Christ to many, growing the church from a handful to over 5,000 believers.
So…what’s up with that; how did that work, and will it still work? Most of us pastors, and alll those who love the church, and want to see her prosper and grow healthy, want to know; we NEED to know!
Over the years I have read a ton of church growth literature; I’ve also tried many of the programs, approaches and strategic suggestions in those books, articles and websites. If I have learned anything at all, church “growth” happens in three directions: up, down, and sideways.
There is UP
UP is when God does something in response to the church behaving like the early church once the Holy Spirit came:
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47(NLT)
This is a description of humans not acting like the culture in which we now live, bent on being successful, hard-driving, self-actualizing, materialistic, self-interested and self-dependent. This is a community serving God by loving everybody. God’s response was to bless their life with His power.
There is also DOWN
DOWN is when the community refuses to live as the UP group lived. End of that story!
There is also SIDEWAYS
SIDEWAYS is what happens when the church attempts to gain the results of the UP group by human methods. They want a successful, thriving church; they just aren’t willing to let God’s Spirit have control.
Sideways is almost worse than down…you get so distracted and disillusioned by false results (many churches do experience some increase in attendance because of a charismatic leader or massive membership drive, or gimmick)…but it is artificial at best.
And, at worst, a sideways church growth can send the wrong message that Christianity is right-wing-power, or political strength. The church can become a stronghold of Pharisees or Sadducees. You wind up putting those who preach resurrection in jail.
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road; have a blessed day.