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
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
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
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 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
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
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.