TEXT: Acts 2:42-47; 1 Corinthians 3:4-7,9
We want to grow as a church! There’s no shame in saying that. We are definitely not looking to turn into a mega-church, but we also recognize that we need to keep sharing the Good News and connecting to new people as part of being a healthy and thriving community. And so GROW is one of the core values of the church and our ministries. And by that we mean both growing spiritually and growing in numbers.
And so this morning, out of the Acts 2 passage that we’ve spent some time in recently, I want to dig into the last verse that says “the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (v.47b)
The Lord’s Work
Let’s start with that verse. It makes clear that the growth is God’s doing. It says “The Lord was adding to their number those who were being saved.” And our other scripture reading says something similar: “It is God who causes the growth.” So let’s talk about that for a minute.
There are (at least) two things to notice in the Acts passage. One is that the Holy Spirit is active in the life of the early church. And that’s an understatement. They have just experienced Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit in power upon the Apostles and upon the early believers. That’s the same Holy Spirit that convicts of sin, unites us to Christ, indwells those who believe, and counsels us in life. The Holy Spirit is God’s power at work in the lives of individuals and in the Church. The Holy Spirit is not something we can conjure up or make show up by doing a certain ritual. Rather, Jesus promised the Spirit to ALL believers. Jesus was leaving but said he would not leave us alone; he would leave the Spirit with us and in us. Now what we can do is dull our ears and hearts, turn away from, and otherwise turn away from the Spirit. But if we are trusting Jesus and seeking the Lord in our midst, we will experience the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, notice what kind of growth the Lord was causing. God was adding to their number those who were being saved.” Only God can change the human heart; only God can save. And this is the supernatural activity that God works in people who are then drawn into Christian community together. There is a kind of growth that we can pursue through marketing and other approaches common in our culture. But the kind of growth that God is interested in is Kingdom growth, people believing, trusting, and following Jesus Christ. And God is doing this work in the world all the time, even now. The question is whether we will be a part of that.
And that leads back to the context of the church in Acts and in Corinth. What were they doing to “be a part” of God’s work? What were they doing to welcome the Holy Spirit and those who were being saved? Let’s take a look!
Last week I talked about the generous care described in Acts 2. I said that it wasn’t a standalone ministry or activity, but part of the whole that was a spiritually healthy community of faith. In the same way, the context for God’s saving work in Acts 2 or today is also a spiritually healthy community of faith. That’s why we have the multiple values of GROW, SERVE, STEWARD, and CARE. We want and need to be healthy and mature spiritually.
And here’s the thing… God could do it all but does not seem inclined to do that. Rather, throughout the pages of scripture and history, God invites human beings to participate, to be a part of what He is doing. In Acts 2 we get a pretty detailed picture of what we can do to participate. Like the early believers, we too can devote ourselves to teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. We can worship in Spirit and Truth, in awe of the God we worship. We can choose to care generously and share our time, talents, and resources for those in need. All that (and more) describes a spiritually healthy community of faith and it is to that community that God was bringing new believers. (I should add that the members of the church were also sharing the Good News of Christ, the message… some of this is detailed in Acts 1 and in the chapters that follow.) But the picture of growth is this: God at work and people at work for the same common goal.
In our reading from 1Corinthians, we see something similar. The passage is addressing some conflict in the church where some are Team Paul and some are Team Apollos, two prominent leaders at different times in the life of the church in Corinth. But Paul makes the point that it is God’s church. God caused the growth. Both Paul and Apollos had a role. One planted the seeds of the message; the other watered and tended the young church. But God did the miracle. But turn that around… God also used these men to grow the church. They participated in God’s work doing the human work of sharing the message and encouraging folks in faith.
I also think of the lesson we studied in youth Sunday school this morning. It is the lesson of the Ten Lepers whom Jesus healed, where only one came back to thank Jesus. But in the midst of that story is this interesting detail: Jesus didn’t just snap his fingers and heal them, but also sent them to do something. They were to show themselves to the priest to be declared clean. They had to believe that Jesus had healed them and make the journey to show themselves. As they were on their way to do this they were healed. Again and again God invites us to be a part of what He is doing. God does the miraculous part and invites us to work alongside what He is doing!
So in addition to the broad principles in Acts and Corinthians – being devoted to teaching, fellowship, prayer, worship, and the like. What are some specific things we can do? How might God be inviting us to participate in His holy and miraculous work?
Two Christmas Challenges
Rather than being overwhelmingly complex or involved, I’ll just offer two challenges. These are just examples and hopefully they will bring more to mind that fits your circumstances.
First, as to yourself. Pick one of the things described in Acts 2 that the early believers were devoted to. I just heard on the news that there are 72 days until Christmas. Actually, as of today it’s 70 days. Between now and Christmas – for 70 days – what is one thing from the list in Acts 2 that you can devote yourself to? Here’s the list:
Apostles’ Teaching (i.e. Scripture/God’s Word)
Fellowship & the Breaking of Bread
Cultivating Joy (gladness and sincerity of heart)
Pick one. How might you devote yourself to it? If prayer, perhaps committing to pray at a certain time each day between now and Christmas. Or perhaps praying in a new or particular way. Did you know the Friday morning prayer ministry of our church started about two years ago when a few people felt led to pray for the leadership of the church? And it has morphed and grown several times over. Or how might you devote yourself to God’s Word or fellowship or cultivating more awe and wonder or joy in the Lord? Or generous sharing or caring? Pick one; set a goal; form a holy habit. Make it doable! That’s the kind of cultivation of spiritual health into which the Holy Spirit works and God does miraculous things!
Second, between now and Christmas would you commit to invite two or three people into something we are doing at Good Shepherd? It could be worship or a Wings Night or a Bring Your Own Picnic or a service project or youth group or book club or reconnecting with the walking club. Think about however you connect to the church because time and again it has been shown that the most significant reason people give for joining a church is that someone invited them. Pick two or three people. If you don’t know anyone, maybe use some of that devoting yourself time I mentioned in prayer that God would lead you to someone to invite.
And once you’ve thought of someone to invite, here’s some insider scoop for you.
If you are looking for something other than a worship service, take time to read through the monthly newsletter or peruse our website. We put upcoming activities in there so you will know what’s coming up! We also put much of this information on slides for the 15 minutes before the service and livestream. So come on in a few minutes early and enjoy some great music and check out what’s coming up! It’s on about a 3min. loop so you can see it all in pretty short order.
And scoop number two, most of November we will be focused on “stewardship.” On one hand you can think of that as asking for money. But that’s not it at all. Rather we will be highlighting all the ministries, goals, hopes, and dreams of the church so you will know what you are supporting financially. We won’t be pleading for money, so I don’t think it would make a visitor uncomfortable. Rather, we will be talking about who we are and what we believe God is leading us to do. We’ll hear from elders, staff, and testimonies from church members. I can’t think of a better introduction to a group of people excited about the Lord and the church! In December, of course, we will be celebrating Advent and Christmas. That’s also a great time to invite people to worship because there is familiar music and stories about the birth of Christ and people are often more inclined to worship during the Christmas season.
So two challenges between now and Christmas: pick a holy habit to cultivate and invite 2-3 to connect with us! God is already doing the miraculous work in people’s hearts and invites us to participate in that in some very practical ways.
I want to end with a short clip from The Chosen. I’ll let it speak for itself, but ask yourself, “What did the people do and what did God do?”
Some Music Used
- He Saved Us to Show His Glory (Tommy Walker)
- Everlasting God
- Is He Worthy (Peterson)
- Rick Bean, piano
- Bless the Lord (10,000 Reasons) (Tomlin)
- Let Your Kingdom Come (Sovereign Grace)
- Jesus Calls Us (GALILEE)