I asked a group recently how they would grow the church. We had been studying the Book of Acts, which describes the growth of the church, and I was after what they might prescribe from their readings.
So how do we answer God-type questions? What is the foundation from which we start all our efforts? It was interesting to see my group start with their worldly wisdom: church growth comes from shorter more fun sermons, better coffee, and changing the music.
Applying wisdom across fields can be useful. A church that welcomes others in a culturally relevant way makes sense. However, the bigger foundational step is to ask, “How do we, as followers of Jesus, approach any questions?”
For me, the central issue is how we see the Bible. If the same Spirit grew the church back in Acts, through the message of Jesus’ resurrection, then the same Spirit is at work today, through the message of Jesus’ resurrection. The Bible is the central way God reveals His character and plan. It is the lens through which all questions and issues are viewed. Growing the church, therefore, comes from a deeper understanding of the way the Holy Spirit grows the church in the Bible.
This is what the Book of Acts points to. The key to Acts is understanding the way the Holy Spirit empowers people to share the good news of the resurrection of Jesus. From this point, people make a choice. Some people want to know more, while others sneer and reject it. It is important to see that rejection is as much part of the church as growth is. Growing the church, from the Book of Acts’ perspective, is about proclaiming the story of Jesus.
The best example of the prescription of this concept was the Reformation of the 1500s. The proclamation of the Gospel was at the heart of the greatest revival ever. The growth of the church came through the process of returning to the Bible to ask, “How can we be right before God?” The answer, as counter-cultural as it was, was that being right with God is a gift through Jesus.
The final Sunday in October traditionally is the anniversary of this Reformation. It is a visible reminder of the importance of returning to the Bible to answer our questions, the key to growing the church and the central message of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. As the Spirit imprints this message on people’s hearts, God’s promise is that people will be changed from the inside out. This is more than a marketing trend about new coffee or a new sign for the church carpark. And it is as relevant for our reformation now as it was back in the 1500s.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover1.html