Ed – Written on 20th March 2013
As I read through the Acts of the Apostles I realize I am dealing with a unique book in the Bible. Acts links the gospel accounts of Jesus to the ministry letters of Paul, James, John and Peter – in other words – Acts gives us an understanding of how the ministry that Jesus commissioned his disciples to do, turned out (at least in that first generation) as the first church of Christians was established.
One of the key themes that appears in Acts is ‘growth’. Look at this…
Acts starts with Peter and one hundred and twenty believers (1:15). By chapter 2, three thousand were baptized as believers and the number increased daily (2:41, 47). The number grows to five thousand men by chapter 4 (4:4). The reason given in chapter 6 is that the word of God was spreading rapidly (6:7). By chapter 9 the church is being strengthened and encouraged as it grew (9:31) and trend that continues to Chapter 12 (12:24), around the whole region (13:49), to all the churches (16:5) and widely as the Word of the Lord grew in power (19:20).
Imagine what would have happened if they had itunes and Facebook back then!!
History recounts many such periods of increased growth and activity in many different parts of the world right up to the present day. The African and Indian continents in the last twenty years have seen a dramatic rate of conversion as people hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus.
What an exciting time to be part of the church.
Friends, 5pm Church is growing. I think you may have noticed that!! We can praise God for the many new friends that have joined 5pm over the last year and we can praise God that many who have joined us have also given their lives to Christ. This past Sunday we had 230 people (so nothing compared to the 5000 that Peter and John saw in Acts 4) but compared to this time last year (130 people) it is a big increase.
I know that with growth comes some pressure and may introduce some uncertainty. 5pm Church will feel different to the 5pm Church that you joined originally. New faces will be introduced alongside familiar faces. New friendships will start which will rival old friendships. New expectations will merge with old expectations which may initially be uncomfortable.
Be excited and thankful. Our prayer has always been that people would hear the gospel and become Christians and in turn join us – this answered prayer should be a source of joy.
So some tips to make the most of this blessing (and to ensure that we don’t get lost in the rush).
Give thanks to God. Also pray and ask God to give you a right attitude to what this growth means to you personally.
2. First things first
I wonder what the growing pains were for the early church?! We can see that the apostles had to reorganize things to ensure that their first priority – ministry of the Word and prayer was protected (Acts 6:4). Let’s make sure that for all the new challenges and opportunities that come our way that we give priority to the things that will mean the Bible is taught and people pray.
3. Step up not back
When more people come, there is a risk that others step back. Please don’t. Lead the way and serve so that others will see how to serve. Hopefully we will be able to start new ministries, fill the gaps in existing ministries and open a few more doors for the gospel. Stepping back is like stepping off the court. We need all players ready and in action.
4. Step out but don’t lose touch
Yes there are new faces. To someone who is new, everyone else is a regular! It is only those who are core members who will know who the new faces are. That means now (as it should be always) is the time to step out and meet new people – and try and meet people of all ways of life and culture.
But, just because we have folk who are new, should not mean that those who are core members should be forgotten. We need to ensure that we also care for those we know best. Keep an eye out for the longer term members from 5pm Church and do what you can continue to build deep relationships with them. Follow-up those you have not seen to ensure they are okay and growing in faith. We should be quick to care, but slow to form a clique.
5. Be intentional
What do you do to help someone who is new? Here are some suggestions:
- Talk about Jesus. Use the Bible reading or sermon or the music or the church gathering to talk about the gospel.
- Connect them in – ‘friend’ them on facebook and ask them to join the 5pm Church Facebook group. Or invite them to dinner with a group after church on Sunday. Or talk to them about the Stop FIVE Revive Weekend away.
- Help them take the next step:
§ if it is to find out about Jesus – invite them to JesusWORKS (introduce them to Paul Jansen or Amy Seymour-Walsh)
§ if they are a foreign language speaking International – invite them to TIBS (introduce them to Paul and Anna Stoyanoff or Bernie Leo)
§ if they are a english speaking International – invite them to join you for dinner or to join you on a social outing.
§ if they are a city worker – invite them to join an Evangelistic Prayer triplet (introduce them to Claire O’Neill)
§ if they are looking for a Home Group – introduce them to AJ or Verity.
§ if they are a tourist – tell them about the sermon download page of the website.
§ if they have come looking for a boyfriend/girlfriend – tell them about Jesus (an if they are a believer, then introduce them to someone!)
Yes, growth means things change. That is not always comfortable. Take heart, do not lose heart.
And give this a thought. When you enter into your God-given eternity, things will be different, but I am sure they will be good. Let’s together make every effort to care for those we know and to care for those we are getting to know – for the sake of God’s glory.