Summary: One fundamental thing that contributed to the enlargement of the early church both spiritually and physically which cannot be downplayed is that they were TOGETHER. They were together as a strong team.
The church is very important to God. Acts 20:28 tells us that He bought the church with his own blood. God made a huge sacrifice to bring the church into being. He sacrificed His one and only son. Having sacrificed something very precious and costly to birth the church, having invested all the riches and wealth of heaven to bring the church into being (Colossians 2:3, Ephesians 3:8), God wants His church to stand (Matthew 16:18), God wants the church to enlarge; grow and increase both spiritually and physically (Ephesians 4:11-16, Acts 2:47, Jeremiah 30:19). Jesus’ last words to His disciples, what we commonly refer to as ‘The Great Commission’ is Jesus simply telling His disciples go and multiply, increase and enlarge the number of disciples all over the world.
If we want to understand what it means for a church to enlarge, we have a prototype we can use as a sample or model for church enlargement. The early church experienced enlargement, the early church is a good example of church enlargement. Let’s look at the track record of the early church:
• from 11-120 people (Acts 1:15)
• then 3000 added (Acts 2:41)
• then grew to 5000 (excluding women) - Acts 4:4
• then multitudes added( Acts 5:14)
• then churches multiplied (Acts 9:31)
• they experienced spiritual and physical growth (Acts 16:5)
What is the case today? Very few churches are experiencing this kind of growth, this kind of enlargement. What is responsible for this? We can all come up with different answers for this. Some may say it’s because evangelism isn’t given an important place in most churches today, some will say it’s because the church of today is all talk and no power, some others may even go as far to argue that it is because 80% of churches today have no business existing in the first place, that it isn’t God that sent them to plant those churches. We can all come up with different reasons why the early church experienced rapid growth and enlargement.
One fundamental thing that contributed to the enlargement of the early church both spiritually and physically which cannot be downplayed is that they were TOGETHER. They prayed together (Acts 1:14), waited in expectation together (Acts 2:1), shared together (Acts 4:32), fellowshipped together (Acts 2:42), served God together, ate together (Acts 2:46), in other words they were together as a strong team. There was cooperation, there was collaboration, they were in one accord (Acts 2:44).
“Collaboration is multiplication”. – John Maxwell
JESUS’ SELECTION PROCESS
The early church started with a team made up of Jesus’ core disciples. Jesus showed that selecting, training, mentoring and developing a team is the first step to effective evangelism, to church enlargement.
Bob Gordon and David Fardouly say that there are 2 approaches to selecting a team:
1. Discover a NEED and then find a person to fill it
2. Discover a PERSON and then create a job for them within the team
Which of these approaches did Jesus adopt? Did He see a need and then select people that would fill the need or did He see a person and start creating a job or an assignment for the person?
Jesus already knew who all the disciples were (John 1:47-48). Before He chose them, He knew each person’s strengths and weaknesses, He knew each person’s capabilities. So the 3 years He spent with them was not to discover who they were, He already knew that being God. The three years He spent with them was to equip them to meet a need. So Jesus saw a need and selected people that would meet a need.
What was the need? Matthew 9:37 – there is a big harvest of souls out there, there are so many people who are ripe for salvation and so there is a serious need for people to bring in this harvest.
JESUS PICKED A DIVERSE TEAM
We don’t all have to come from the same tribe, same background, be of the same age group, have the same interests, be of the same profession or have similar skills and abilities before we can work together as team, before we can succeed as a team. Some of Jesus’ disciples were close relatives like Peter and Andrew, James and John who were brothers, while some were not in any way related. Jesus didn’t pick people from the same background. Tax collectors, fishermen, one who was politically active known as Simon the zealot was on Jesus’ team. Jesus didn’t pick people of the same profession. Some were outspoken, some were quiet. Andrew was the one that led Peter to Christ but we don’t hear as much about him as we do of Peter. The nicknames Jesus gave James and John – ‘sons of thunder’ tells you something about their kind of personality. Jesus didn’t pick people with the same personality. Jesus picked a diverse team made up of men of different background, personalities and abilities. But in those three years of intensive discipleship training with Jesus, He was passing across this message to His disciples – despite their differences in personality, profession and background, they need to get along well, they need to be together in mind and spirit because they had an important work for the kingdom to do together. Diversity actually makes the team very interesting, brings spiritual variety to the message God wants to pass across. God is very rich and through people with different abilities, skills and background He is able to make the message of the cross very rich (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 17-20). Five servants of God can preach the same message in five different ways. One may sing the message, another dramatise the message, another say the message through a dance, another preach it with a very quiet, sober voice, while another can shout and run all over the place bring down fire and brimstone as he preaches that same message.