If you are an older reader, especially who was around for the 70s and 80s, you probably remember the Church Growth movement of the 60s and 70s. During this time, many people in the church focused on increased numbers; more people in the pews. In the 80s and 90s, the big push was for “seeker-sensitive” Christianity, making churches open and safe for those who were just beginning to seek Jesus. The impulse to grow and have more people come to Jesus is not wrong in any way! One way to define the mission of the church could be “more Christians, better Christians”: growing in quantity and quality. Both are important. A lot of really mediocre Christians, with no intention of acting and being better, is bad; a handful of super quality Christians, with no intention of growing, is bad.
What did growth look like in the early church? In Acts 2, we read one example of growth. In verse forty-one, we read these words : “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”
Peter must have had a very clever marketing strategy. He must have understood his target demographic. I wonder who his social media manager was and who worked his SEO. Of course, it’s none of those things. Those things aren’t bad; but anachronistic. Peter must have given them something else. We do know why so many came to faith that day.
He gave them Jesus.
Jesus said “And I, when I am lifted up, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32) We lift up Jesus, we tell others of what he has done and how great he is, and he draws people in.
In Acts 4, we see the qualitative growth of the church as well. After Peter and John are told not to proclaim the name of Jesus, they prayed to God. And God causes them to grow. They were filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke boldly. They shared all their possessions, they cared for one another, they made sure that everyone was taken care of.
The early church, by lifting up Jesus and living the way he lived and taught, grew in number and in character: more Christians, better Christians. When we look to our own churches, we should pray that we see the same growth, the same kind of growth, that the church got in Acts. We should be praying that God would use us to tell more people about Jesus, so they can come to know him, and we should be praying for God to make us better followers of Jesus today than we were yesterday.