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 (Manna 50: Our Church)
The Way in Which the Church of Jerusalem Grew (Part 2)
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The Way in Which the Church of Jerusalem Grew (Part 2)

Holy Spirit Monthly – Issue 287

The apostolic church was a blossoming church full of growth and power from on high. There were spiritual newborns every day, and this spiritual household added great numbers to its fold.

Why was the work of evangelism so mighty at that time? How many evangelical services did they hold? How much human and financial resources were accessible to them? Which famously eloquent evangelist preached in a way that moved so many? We should all have a good understanding of the factors that contributed to their progress.

Similarly, being the present church, we have expended so much effort and resources, holding various evangelical services every year and utilizing every tool in the Internet and media front to spread the good news, yet why can’t our numbers reflect our efforts and compare to the apostolic church?

Perhaps human hearts have been hardened, or maybe societal advancement no longer recognizes religion, and all the while Satan has upped the ante on his devious works! Nevertheless, the church must continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, despite these ruinous hurdles.

In the second part of this article concerning the way in which the Jerusalem church grew, we address the principal reasons as to why “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Be Passionate in Preaching

Let God be the Prime Mover

Much of today’s church expansion efforts depend on modern technology as well as man’s effort and wisdom. As a result, we tend to overlook the most essential element, which is God’s personal involvement and accomplishment.

Paul once said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Cor 3:6). We may be willing to put in the effort to plant and water, but do we humbly rely on God for direction and power? Or have we lost sight of God’s place in our ministry? We may be willing to offer money and resources, but do we in fact love ourselves more than we love God?

The growth of the church in Jerusalem serves as a reminder to us that preaching the gospel is based not on a superficial endeavor but on the strength of the church’s inner spiritual life. When the life of Christ is fully manifested through the church, it is able to win people’s hearts. Therefore, as the disciples gathered daily, enjoyed fellowship meals, praised God and lived in peace with all, God Himself caused the church to grow. While this model does not exclude other forms of evangelical efforts, it does underscore the fact that the spiritual vitality of the church itself is the driving force of spreading the gospel.

Grow with Quality Faith

The meaning of the verb “saved” is threefold: the beginning of salvation, the continuation of salvation, and the result of salvation.

While the author of the book of Acts, Luke, noted how “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved,” he specifically pointed out the necessity of quality faith in those who believed. This continuation—to grow with quality faith, to take root in the spiritual church, and to be a mature believer—is paramount to every member’s salvation.

Therefore, to ensure a winning result requires the dual effort of the spiritual church group and the individual believer to: 1) pursue after God and 2) to continuously experience the fullness of salvation from beginning to end.

Such continuous diligence was rewarded as the Holy Spirit filled them and worked among them so that as the number of saved souls multiplied, so did the quality of each one’s faith. And in such a utopian milieu, there was no lack of rejoicing.

Preach at Every Occasion

In the original text, the terms “being saved” and “added” meant that there were people continuously being saved following the Pentecost. This tells us that the work of evangelism in the early church was not intermittent pockets of effort but a daily practice integrated in their regular worship.

Learning from the exemplary efforts of the early church, we can also examine the condition of worship and preaching in our own local area.

Sometimes, we may develop tunnel vision in the ways in which we move forward with God’s holy work. Continuing with the example of evangelism, we are prone to associate regular church services with catering only to internal members, whereas evangelical services are meant for nonbelievers and visitors.

Therefore, we seldom invite friends and acquaintances to our regular services, and when evangelical services take place, members feel it’s not an event meant for them. The fact is, however, any form of service or worship can serve the two purposes to pastor internally and to evangelize externally.

Regular church services provide one of the best opportunities to plant spiritual seeds. Some of them are sown earlier, some later, but all of them wait for God’s time to grow (Eccl 11:6). Therefore, if we can place emphasis on every opportunity of worship to share God’s word, then people who are added to the flock and being saved will be a continuous occurrence.

Share the Workload and Divide the Labor

As the number of believers grew, the administrative workload within the early church inevitably amplified.

Not only did the apostles have to devote time in prayer and preaching, they also needed to oversee the daily distributions of food and the needs of all the believers. Gradually, the workload swelled to such an unmanageable proportion that some believers started to complain about being overlooked.

Fortunately, the apostles were able to identify and resolve the problem immediately, and they came up with appropriate solutions to prevent the church from unraveling.

Confront the Issues

Wherever there is a place for people to gather, problems will pop up, and this is the case even for a spiritual gathering. The most critical factor is whether the church has the courage and resolution to face the problems and put in the best effort to properly handle every crisis.

Problems that the church faces today are similar to the ones that the Jerusalem church encountered. These problems are not merely the result of cultural differences, but they are also the result of administrative imbalance.

Every church consists of people from different backgrounds, languages, and levels of education, and it is inevitable that some small groups will form within the church. But if believers cannot bond and unite under the Holy Spirit and love of God, then dissensions and factions will seep in and separate the church.

Therefore, church leaders should learn from the apostles’ spirit to actively seek improvement and be willing to lead and guide the believers to search for solutions together (Acts 6:1-7). They should not mix their priorities and be led by the problems, which result in a loss of spiritual and practical direction.

Instead, church leaders need to bravely and calmly tackle the root of the problems, wisely and creatively find the best solution, and strive forward to the right goal. It is more important to do the right thing than to do things right.

Delegate the Responsibilities

As the church starts to see an expansion, she will see the expansion of administrative tasks, too. If at this point the heavy workload falls on the shoulders of a few select workers, especially ministers, then they will quickly and easily run out of fuel and become ineffective and inefficient. Even the apostles of the early church recognized this dilemma and voiced such a concern: “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables” (Acts 6:2).

This is not to say that the works of food distribution or waiting tables are less noble and insignificant tasks, nor is it degrading for preachers to wait on tables. All kinds of services are equally important and none better than one or the other.

Someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit should faithfully carry out each of the different church works, and the only difference between the various tasks is the required gifts and calling that are dependent on and unique to each worker (cf. Rom 12:4-8).

In fact, the apostles were at first in charge of all these works, but it turned out that these growing responsibilities were impinging on their fulltime duty to preach the gospel, and this was not congruent with the original intent of God’s calling for them.

Recognizing this dilemma, the apostles gathered the believers to make the appropriate delegation of work among them. Such delegation allowed equal opportunity for every servant of God to fulfill his own responsibilities within God’s house—each according to his level of faith and gifts received.

Unfortunately, we see many churches today heading in the opposite direction, and we need to recognize this problem and learn from the solutions passed on to us by the early church. Presently, instead of seeing the correct allotment of church work, we see that there is a confusion of responsibilities within the church.

It is not that preachers are too busy to have spare time to serve the believers; rather, they are too busy with the wrong kind of services. As a result, preachers spend most of their time and energy on tasks that can be shared by other ministers, and this can lead to a loss of focus in their intended duties of evangelizing, giving sermons, counseling, and training church workers. In addition, some of our preachers are so overworked that they put their health in jeopardy.

There are many possible factors that lead to such a predicament. Perhaps the preacher is exceptionally gifted and is capable of many things; perhaps the church council and the congregation dote and rely too heavily on their preachers and insist that they attend to every project within the church.

Eventually, such an imbalance in the distribution of church work will take a toll on everyone. Our preachers and pastors will run out of steam, the members will cease to grow because of the lack of opportunities to serve, and all of these will affect the development of the church.

The church needs to establish a proper system that clearly defines the responsibilities of each worker, so that every minister and council member can become good helpers to our preachers. Indeed, such wise handling of duties will be a spiritual and physical blessing to the entire congregation.

Choose Quality Workers

When the apostles realized that there was an acute problem with how the church was being managed, they immediately gathered all the disciples together to discuss it, and the proposed solution pleased everyone. Resolutely, they chose from among them seven exceptional brothers to take care of the administrative tasks of the church.

The apostles also prayed and laid hands on these new workers and, very quickly, their problems were resolved. It was because they were able to tackle and find a good solution to their problems that the number of believers continued to increase without being affected by an internal glitch.

Choosing suitable workers to take care of different church works is an imperative factor affecting the development and progress of the church. In addition to training new workers and knowing how to use them effectively, it is also important to appoint good and suitable church ministers.

Look at the current situation within the church: we observe that either local churches do not have enough ministers, or the ministers who oversee the congregation are too advanced in age and no longer capable of handling certain matters. A possible reason for such a dilemma is that the current system of appointing minister is still not complete.

Another observation is the lack of opportunities for good youths to grow in training to serve the Lord. Either because their opportunities are limited or because the church does not spend sufficient effort to identify and train them, many eventually turn their hearts towards the world and focus their time elsewhere.

Therefore, being able to effectively appropriate human resources within the church is a key necessity to church growth. Every local church should carefully re-examine their current system and find ways to improve and refine their distribution of church work and training. The goal should be to utilize and mobilize every member of the church and involve them in holy work—all the while improving the quality of each one’s faithful service to the Lord.

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Publisher: True Jesus Church
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