Back to the Beginning:
When Church Was Church
Church Growth Cycle
Jesus Christ himself personally "planted" This church in Acts
He pulled together the leadership team, he trained them for 3 and ½ years.
He gathered a core group of followers and supporters
He left them instructions and empowered them with the Holy Spirit
Then things began to happen and the church Began to Grow
Well, when a church begins to grow there are plateaus, there are barriers that must be pushed past and there are cycles that seem to operate as the church grows, hits barriers, plateaus and then either continues in a new cycle of growth, maintains, or declines.
And as I read our text today I saw a picture of a Church Growth Cycle that I believe is common in churches today and now is visible here in the short life of the Young First Baptist Church at Jerusalem.
Read vv 12-42
Well … let me walk you quickly through the cycle and perhaps those who have been around church awhile will recognize the pattern. Perhaps you'll even recognize it in the 2 years we've been together here
A. Miracles - they had prayed in Acts 4:29-30 for God to stretch out his hand and guess what … he did
B. Manifestations of God's Hand
1. sending workers into the fields
2. changing hearts and minds
3. reshaping and old hardened piece of clay into a new instrument for God's Table
2 Timothy 2:20,21 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work
4. Respected - I've heard about you … is God still at work in your church?
2 Kings 7:9 then they said to each other "we're not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let's go at once and report this …
1. God has done wonderful things in us,
2. God has done wonderful things in this world,
3. God has done wonderful things in History and
4. we not only need to recognize it we need to proclaim it
2nd stage in this growth cycle …
A. More and More
1. more and more men and women believed and were added -
2. MORE + More = Much More
3. MORE x MORE = Multitudes More
B. Crowds came
1. Crowds are NOT necessarily GROWTH -
2. Adrian Rogers was preaching last Monday and he said, not all growth is good, he said, "a Cemetery Grows and is Crowded too"
3. they are NUMBERS but until they assimilate into the congregation you can't really see them as growth
4. But - Crowds, NUMBERS come when they hear that something is going on
5. When they hear that God is at work or that lives are being changed, crowds come
6. They want to see for themselves
7. Not all will STAY
8. Some aren't sure WHAT they are looking for
9. Some are just out for entertainment but crowds come, numbers come
Any time you get crowds, you are going to get more than you bargained for … leading to our 3rd stage …
A. Jealousy (v17)
is almost always a key component in persecution
1. accusation - "you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching" - v20 -
2. "Go stand in the temple and tell the people everything about this New Life" -
B. Persecuted for preaching the Truth without shame or reservation -
1. What was their Response to persecution?
Continued teaching - preach the truth in love
2. we don't have to be offensive when we preach the Truth, because the truth is offensive enough all by itself
- preach the truth in action
- preach the truth through music
- preach the truth through witnessing
- preach the truth through videos/movies
- preach the truth in the open daylight
- preach the truth in the cover of night
- preach the truth in the church
- preach the truth at the Final Four Basketball tournament
- preach it one on one to a friend
- preach the truth to a stranger on the plane
- preach the truth through whatever means necessary -- but For the Sake of Christ - Preach the TRUTH
But KNOW this - IF YOU DO - persecution is coming
C. Truth brings Persecution
1. People are crying out for the truth, in the streets and in the church and then when you tell them the truth they will call you close-minded, bigoted, hate-speaker, ignorant, and "behind the times"
2. A major problem that the Sadducees had with the Apostles is that they were changing everything
3. They didn't care if God was in it or not, they wanted to maintain control and the status quo
4. When the Spiritual winds of change come and God's Spirit begins to move there will be those within the church and outside the church who will resist that and seek to maintain the norm.
5. Those outside the church will overlook the wonderful things that have happened, the lives changed, the hearts changed, the society that is being changed, and seek to bring things back into "normalcy"
6. Also when those winds blow, there will be forces within the church that will resist the change. Sometimes it is resisted simply because it is uncomfortable and sometimes because it brings a shift of power
Persecution naturally leads us to … 4th Stage
Make sure we understand what Sifting is - DEF - to separate or sort out what is useful or valuable to scatter
1. whenever there is persecution - there is sifting
2. persecution sifts out those who are not serious about following
3. God uses things to sift and prune things from his people and sometimes things from his church.
4. It is a tool to purify us as individuals and purify his church.
5. It is a tool to see what we are made of
B. Separating Wheat and Chaff
Satan can be involved in the process but only with God's permission
1. Luke 22:31 Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat
2. IT is a process referred to as winnowing it is where the Farmer
3. but what does sifting provide? The PUREST material comes as The Chaff falls away
4. The Wheat is thrown into the air and the heavy, substantial, useful, wheat falls to the ground to be used by the farmer; while the light, insignificant, useless chaff is blown away.
5. Persecution will do this in the life of individuals and in the life of the church.
6. The winds of persecution will winnow out, often, those without substance.
V41 - The Pure and Committed respond with GREATER Fervor and Joy
Pr 17:3 the crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart
Isaiah 48:10 see I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction
Pr 25:4 Remove the dross from the silver and out comes material for the silversmith
With the Sifting comes 5th stage …
A. Return to the things you did first
Revelation 2:2-5 I know your deeds your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false 3 you have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love. 5 remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
1. v13 - "used to meet"
2. v42 Day after day … house to house
3. Luke 9:23 - if anyone would come after me, let him TAKE UP his cross daily and follow me
- we wear the cross
- we paint pictures of the cross
- we sing about the cross
- we will preach the cross
- but Jesus told us to TAKE UP to SHOULDER the cross, daily, as a regular course of life. As a decision, as well as a habit
B. Remember chapter 2 when they committed to the disciplines of the church?
1. It's a Return to Devotion to disciplines - remember that Devotion means - to adhere to … steadfastly, attentive, to continue all the time, to occupy oneself diligently with something"
2. The Things God has promised and called us toward WILL come just be patient and persistent
- Habakkuk 2:3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.
3. Remember the devotions
a. Communion with God - prayer
b. Communion with the Cross - Lord's Supper Remembrance
c. Communion with the Body of Believers -
d. Communion with the Word - Preaching and Teaching
C. Great Commission
Go and Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
1. GO -
We've got to refocus on the Vision
Jerry Falwell spoke to us on Monday in regards to Vision and asked 4 questions
1) what would you try if you thought you might succeed
2) what goals would you set if you knew you would not fail
3) what sacrifices are you willing to make
4) what price are you willing to pay
We need to Dream BIGGER
We need to Expect God to Be God
We need to Ask and IMAGINE because he can do MORE than we ask or imagine
President Bobby Welch preached about the story where Christ took his disciples out fishing and his challenge was that we need to stop fishing along the shore and get out in the DEEP
Luke 5 ; Psalm 107:23,24 - those who go into the deep know the wonders of God …
- He has challenged Southern Baptists to Witness to, Win, and Baptize 1 Million in the next 16 months - WHO CAN - Everyone Can - and I Am It!!
2. Go = As You Go - Jesus had an expectation that we WOULD go and AS we go … in the NORMAL course of Life we will share the TRUTH about the Life, Death, Resurrection, and Life changing power of Jesus Christ
Everywhere they went. In Homes, In the Temple, At Work, At School, At the Mall, at the Grocery Store
Well … New Life can't Baptize 1 Million, but I still believe that we can Witness to, Win, and Baptize 100 people in 14 months.
Each one of us needs to take it upon ourselves
It is up to you … it is up to me
New Life … Tell me something … who in St. Louis can Witness to … Win … and Baptize 100 people in the next year … ?
EVERYONE CAN and
I AM IT!!!
TELL ME ONCE MORE
What are we here for?
Be Disciples of Jesus
Fellowship with Each Other
D. Teaching and Telling, Preaching and Proclaiming
1. The New Living Translation renders verse 42 this way And every day, in the Temple and in their homes, they continued to teach and preach this message: "The Messiah you are looking for is Jesus."
2. Addition happens when the preachers do the work of carrying out the mission of the church
3. Multiplication happens when the people become the ministers and witnesses that carry out the mission and ministry of the church
That will NATURALLY lead to the final stage …
Pr 27:21 the crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.
A. Like Jesus
They considered it PRAISE to have received the honor to suffer persecution and suffering disgrace for the Name of Jesus Christ
When they committed to the devotions at the beginning in Acts 2 it resulted in Favor of all the people and the Lord adding to their numbers
That's NOT a one time thing.
If we continue again, those things happen and we have something to celebrate
Remember, we call it GOOD news. We call it GOOD news for a REASON, because it is GOOD.
Good doesn't even adequately describe it.
It is GREAT, AWESOME, amazing,
B. Church Like Heaven
Remember we have said that we are a church like heaven and heaven is a place of Spontaneous Rejoicing.
Well when we get busy, and let the Lord get busy, we will have something to Celebrate.
Our water bill will go up because we will be using more baptistery water,
our electric bill will go up because we will be heating that water, we will be having more ministry and more activity but the Lord will be providing all the necessary resources.
There it is, a look at a picture of a pretty common Church Growth Cycle
There is a parallel here to personal growth in Christ by the way -
Christ sought you out, he drew you to himself, you believed and received him, and it was a wondrous amazing thing.
Wonders happened in your life, people took notice and seemed to be drawn to you as your life had changed in Christ.
But as you grew and became more like Christ you also found yourself like him in persecution, and suffering.
With the persecution came sifting. The things that don't destroy you, make you stronger.
If you allow the sifting to take place and prune or remove the things that shouldn't be there,
you can refocus on the plans that God has for your life and return to your first love, your first passion, your first commitment to the things of God, the Call of God.
If you are stuck somewhere along the way, recognize and press on, Paul said in Phil. 3:13, 14 - "Forgetting was is behind, straining toward what is ahead, I press On … to the high calling …"
THEN - you can REJOICE in the work of God in your Life, Rejoice in Your part in the Kingdom of God
So where are YOU?
Where are We? …
I think we are on the end of persecution and sifting and are now at the place of Refocus
Remember we may be in the Dark night of the Soul, but Joy comes in the Morning
There's a new Day coming … So we need to refocus our attention on the First things in these hours of pre-dawn of a new day
Share your Faith with friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers
Invite people to come and share with us in the joy that is found in New Life in Christ
We used to focus the first Sunday of every month on bringing a friend with us to New Life Baptist Church.
I take the blame for some of that as I slacked on challenging you and reminding you.
The simple act of "as you go" sharing our faith. Talking about what Christ has done, then baptizing those who receive Christ, and discipling them to live and walk like Christ.
Day by Day
House by House
In the Market Place
Wherever we are
Just Be the Church
There's an OLD SONG I grew up on that I was thinking of last Night
The Church Triumphant
This old ship's been through some battles before
Storms and tempest and rocks on the shore
Though the hull may be battered
Inside it's safe and dry
It will carry its cargo to the port in the sky
Let the church be the church
Let the people rejoice
For we've settled the question
And we've made our choice
Let the anthem ring out
Songs of victory swell
For the church triumphant
Is alive and well