We find in the book of Acts our only recorded pattern of the outworking of both the Global and local Church.
We see the transition from a group of disciples to local congregations forming and working out what it looks like.
The book of Acts is filled with exciting changes and the explosive growth of the Church and in multiple places we see factors that led to this growth and expansion.
Look at all the passages that say “and the Church grew, increased etc…”
God’s plan is that healthy things grow – we see it right across creation
Therefore, healthy Churches should grow. We see that modelled in the book of Acts – so let’s look at what grew the Churches:
- High personal commitment to their faith and mission!
- Lack of personal comfort!
- Balanced understanding of God!
- Just kept on Mission!
There is something powerful in remaining focused and on mission.
The choice of people who excel in a field do not allow things to put them off, or change their focus but rather a commitment to fulfilling the mission they started.
If you are a parent, you will understand the frustration of when you ask your kids to do something and they don’t finish it, but allow other things to distract them and you just say “What did I ask … do that!”
I think sometimes God may have a similar frustration with us.
Acts 12: 20-25 (NIV)
20 Now Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; but they came to him with one accord, and having made Blastus the king’s personal aide their friend, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food by the king’s country.21 So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. 22 And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” 23 Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died. 24 But the word of God grew and multiplied. 25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry.
The mission kept going!
They refused to let what was going on around them stop their mission, change their mission, pause their mission!
- The Church just kept being the Church, they kept helping people find life and live it – wherever they were
- They kept being devoted
While it could have been possible to take their eyes off things, look at all the politics and uncertainties, they realised the big picture of eternity is still the same – so let’s keep rolling!
There were pressures, cultural issues, challenges but they kept their focus on their mission from God.
Herod died, but Barnabus and Saul didn’t pack up and return.
To them it wasn’t about when the culture seemed right, or when the feel was good, or when the politics was sorted. It was about when they had fulfilled their ministry!
- Don’t give up
- Don’t get distracted
- Don’t allow a change in environment shake you
- Don’t get swayed this way and that
Get some steel in your convictions about your calling and fulfill your ministry.
What is the calling on your life that we spoke of last week that every believer has?
- What is your eternal purpose and what do you feel deep down you were wired to do for the Kingdom of God?
- Have you fulfilled that?
- Have you continued with the cause or gotten distracted from it?
Can I ask you to pray and commit to re-firing your calling and then putting it at the forefront of your life, not on the backbench.
Oh for a rising of believers who put fulfilling their ministry above the other distractions and pressures of life!
6. Worked with people who were passionate!
Acts 13:44–52 (NIV)
44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles,
That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’ 48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. 50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Paul and Barnabas had some people who opposed them and were stuck in their religious ways. They were basically a hinderance to reaching people.
- But then there were those who were just keen to get on with growing, reaching others and moving on in faith
The lesson here is don’t waste your time trying to convince people with religious, negative, resisting attitudes, just let them go and work with people passionate to get on with it.
I think Church is like a big bus and we are going somewhere, but we ought to know where that is.
- But there is a front door and back door
- If people like where we are going then jump on, grab a seat and let’s go!
- If they don’t, then no worries, there’s a back door as well where they can find a different bus
But as soon as these guys stopped trying to:
- Work with negativity and religiosity
- Convince people that didn’t really want to believe
- Worry about their personal preferences and comforts
They went to the people hungry for God and the Word of the Lord spread!
- And to the unlikely Gentiles!
- Give me a fresh passionate believer any day over some religious, stuck in the mud!
- God isn’t fussy on requirements, but He does require faith and passion!
It’s not dis-similar to ‘they devoted themselves’, but this is they were on board with it.
Paul and Barnabus knew their job was to go out and fight with the devil, so don’t waste your time fighting with people that are not going to listen or want to grow.
We are working on creating Connect Groups where there are people who want to grow!
- Our Connect Group structure is not to build a social calendar for socially inept people, but to gather together for growth and the mission of helping people find life and live it!
Personally, commit to surrounding yourself with people who are on a mission with you and who encourage you and fire your passion.
But as a Church, we really don’t try to get people to come around to this or that, we just open the front door and say join us if you like.
- We are looking for passionate believers who want to serve God, all the rest can be worked out.
7. Good Leadership and Oversight!
Acts 16:4-5 (NIV)
4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily.
What we find here is the leaders passing on well credentialed and reliable teaching with the stamp of the apostles.
When you have good leadership and covering, it will always lead to health.
We see this pattern ever so clearly even in the OT, it’s not a NT thing, it is a God principle.
Judges 17:6 and 21:25 (NLT)
In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.
What a sad tale of the people of God who had been:
- Set free and rescued from slavery
- Possessed a promised land
- Seen God do the miraculous
But with no real leadership and guidance and everyone just doing their own thing, they led the nation into sin, decline and brokenness.
This happens today, we see people find the freedom of Christ, their lives turn around, but when they will not commit to a leadership journey and the oversight of trusted leadership, sadly they become stunted in growth and often times find their faith in God in trouble.
But the opposite is also true, in the absence of this, with:
- People with no real, tangible church leadership covering
- I don’t mean some ticket in the mail from the back of a Weeties packet, I mean have they served another man’s vision over a length of time and proven themselves to a recognised and trustworthy apostolic group and been recognised and recommended by these trustworthy people?
- People with no real commitment or loyalty to oversight and authority, just move around to whatever suits them
- Drifting Giftings I call it when people don’t answer to anyone, and every time they are challenged they just move along or drift apart!
That isn’t healthy and it never leads to health.
Teaching, oversight and good leadership are part of a healthy and growing Church.
- In fact, here we find that after good leadership came and brought some direction, correction and oversight happened, it led to growth!
They are actually part of a healthy growing life, even personally we need these things in our life.
Leadership is not some 21st Century or secular concept, it is clearly presented as part of a healthy Church in the book of Acts 2000 years ago.
- The New Testament we read was put together and one of the criteria for a book to be included was its link to genuine apostolic oversight!
Proverbs is a book filled with wisdom to help us in life and one of the standout themes in the book is the blessing of guidance, instruction, correction etc.
Proverbs 15:10 (NIV)
“the one who hates correction will die…”
Proverbs 15:31,32 (NIV)
“whoever heeds life giving correction will be at home with the wise.
Those who disregard discipline despise themselves but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.”
I think for any believer who reads the Word of God, Leadership and oversight are just part of God’s plan and His Word is clear on it.
If we are to follow the Old Testament through, we find example after example of good leadership leading His people to success and prosperity and poor leadership or no leadership leading them to terrible consequences.
But as a Church it is one of the keys that we see in the book of Acts, ‘good leadership and oversight’ by those called by God and linked to recognised Apostolic Voices.
I am so glad for our ACC movement and the brilliant leadership we have. And for us it’s not distant, but we have good people that we are personally connected to and listening to regularly.
If we are serious about a move of God, then we must be serious about oversight and leadership which is the pattern in the scriptures.
I love the fact that God has given us His Word and the examples we need to follow. It cuts through so much of some of the misinformation that is floating around.
The pattern is consistent:
- High personal commitment to their faith and mission!
- Lack of personal comfort!
- Balanced understanding of God!
- Just kept on with the Mission!
- Work with people who are passionate!
- Good leadership and oversight!
I am so excited about the days ahead and what God has for us together.
- We are not here nor called to build a crowd, but His Church.
- A unified, army of faith believers who work together to help people find life and live it!
Our prayer is you find a spiritual home where you can be part of God’s working in His amazing Church.
It could be here with us, it could be down the road or in another city, however, commit to God’s people and plan – the Church – to flourish as a believer.
Psalm 92:13-15 (NIV)
13 Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing,
15 To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
- Maybe today you have never been part of God’s House or family.
- Make a decision to be a follower of Jesus.
Suggestions for discussion
- How often do you need to tell yourself to not waste your time trying to convince people with religious, negative, resisting attitudes, but to just let them go and work with people passionate to get on with it?
- Do you commit to surrounding yourself with people who are on a mission with you and who encourage you and fire your passion?
- Are you seeking a healthy growing life? How do you do that?