Dealing With Growing Pains
We have been making mention of the phenomenal growth seen in the church at Jerusalem. What started as a handful of disciples, grew to about 120, then witnessed an explosion in the area of salvations and attendance. I said this morning, that by this time in the history of that church, scholars estimate that it had grown to about 25,000 people. There are some definite reasons for this growth. First of all, God was in it, and it was the vehicle He chose to get His work done on the earth.
Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Secondly, we see that they were consistent in their practices.
Acts 2:41-43 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Acts 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Acts 5:42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
Third, I see a strong bond of unity among them. There are no less than five references up to this point that tell us they were acting in one accord. We do not need more books on church growth; we need to get back to the Book on church growth. Anyway, it is not surprising when you couple the fast growth with the dynamic of human nature, to see problems arise. I would like to refer to the problems as growing pains tonight, although I do admit that you do not have to be growing to have problems. Joke about island worshippers.
“Dealing with growing pains.”
1. The problem. Now, I just told you some of the keys to the growth of the church. Did you notice it wasn’t done by implementing social programs? However, the need that comes up, is a need that has to do with the widows of the church. Some of the ladies felt that other ladies were getting preferential treatment. How many times does a rift in the church begin with someone thinking that there is a great injustice in the assembly? The Bible says that people were murmuring. Let me just say that from what I read in the Bible, God is not pleased with murmuring. Exodus 16, Numbers 14:27. But, there must have been some validity to their complaint because the leaders got everyone together to deal with the problem. The issue at hand was that the Apostles did not have time to feed the widows and devote time to the Word and prayer. The Apostles understood the priority that their position demanded; it was to feed the flock spiritually. Prayer and the Word go together and are necessary components for real church growth.
1 Samuel 12:23 Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way:
We see a similar mentality with the ministry of Christ (Mark 1:35-39).
2. The solution. Select some men to handle these everyday issues. I like that the church was involved in the selection process. Sometimes the layman will have more insight as to the work ethic and heart of the one sitting right next to them. They laid out some qualifications, honesty, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom. Now Stephen is singled out among the seven as being full of faith and the Holy Ghost. Notice that the other 6 just fill in the list. We know from this morning that the Lord used Philip in a great way, and he later became an evangelist. What about the other 5? Do you think it is possible that they just served the Lord, and never received any accolades? It is also interesting that all seven of these men had Greek names. Human nature steps in again—the Hebrews say if the Grecians are complaining let the Grecians fill the need, the Grecians say, I want the ones that will understand my needs to serve me. We think the same way. I notice that older folks tend to like older folks ministering to them. Now, I am not asking for a bunch of Stephen and Philip types to step forward, but I think it is appropriate to ask some of you to help fill in the cracks of the ministry. There are continual needs, and there is no reason for a handful of the membership to handle most of the duties. It could be that blessings are being withheld until some of the more pressing matters are addressed. If you are not a part of the solution then you are a part of the problem. Do you see that as the problem was dealt with the Word increased and the number of disciples was multiplied? God blesses us when we learn to deal with growing pains.