A Theology of Church Growth
God desires all to come to repentance
A) God does not desire that any human being spend eternity in Hell. This is
reinforced by the fact that Hell was originally intended for Satan and the angels that rebelled with him (Matt. 25:41). The Lord had a plan before the beginning of time that would counteract the separation of mankind from Himself (Matt. 13:35; Lk. 11:50; Rev. 13:8). God sent His Son to this earth to save the lost (Matt. 1:21; Lk. 2:11; Jn. 1:29; 3:16; 4:42; 14:6; Rom. 5:8-11; 6:23; 8:1). Jesus gave His life as a ransom for mankind to purchase them from the slave market of sin (Matt. 20:18, 28; Mk. 10:45; John 10:11; 1 Tim. 2:6). Salvation by faith in Jesus Christ is a free gift offered to everyone who receives it (John 3:16; 4:13-14; Rom. 5:18; 10:9-13; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1 Tim. 2:2; 4:10; Titus 2:11; 2 Pet. 2:11; 1 John 2:2).
B) There are many people all over the world that do not know the Lord, which
implies that there is a lot of evangelism that needs to be done. Jesus Himself said that the laborers are few, so what is the solution? Jesus says that God will provide more people to share the Gospel if we just ask Him (Matt. 9:37-38).
C) God told Paul that He would protect him, and that he was to preach the Gospel
boldly because many people in Corinth were going to believe in Jesus Christ (Acts 18:9-10). So we see that God is very interested in the salvation of lost people.
D) Jesus says that the time is now, to reach the lost. He told the disciples that
they were not to look at the fields and say there was still time to wait. Jesus said that the time to harvest is now (John 4:35). This helps to remind us of the urgency of reaching the lost as a result of the imminent return of Christ (1 Thess. 5:2-3).
God rejoices over the repentance of a lost person (Lk. 15:7, 9, 32). There is rejoicing in the presence of angels over the repentance of a sinner. When looking at the content of the parables, it would seem that God is the one that finds what He is looking for, and He rejoices when He finds it.
E) God desires for everyone to repent and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior (Matt.
18:14; Acts 17:30; 1 Tim. 2:3-4; 4:10; Titus 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:9). God has created mankind, and as a result He desires for them to be in fellowship with Him. He has also provided the means for that relationship and fellowship, His Son.
God commands outreach
A) The Lord entrusted the Gospel to us, and it is our duty to share it with
everyone that we come into contact with (1 Cor. 9:16-17). Jesus commanded the disciples to “Go and make disciples” which indicates that it was a given that there would be conversions (Matt. 28:19-20). God is going to save souls in spite of us if He has to because He is the one who brings the increase (1 Cor. 3:5-8). Jesus also told the disciples that they would be sharing the Gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). As a result of this, the Church is called to go wherever Jesus sends us. The Gospel is to be proclaimed to all nations, and people groups (Lk. 24:46-49; Acts 10:28, 42). As partakers of the life-changing Gospel, we should not be afraid to share it with others (Rom. 1:16). We have been chosen by God to share His truth with other people (Rom.10:14-15). Our lives should evidence the life change that Christ has brought about, and the passion that we have to share the Gospel with others (1 Cor. 4:1; 1 Thess. 1:8). We are to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5). Since the Gospel is such a precious message, we should be sharing it with all sincerity (2 Cor. 2:17). We are ambassadors of Christ, preaching Him as Lord (2 Cor. 4:3-7).
B) The 1st Century Church responded to this commandment in an amazing way.
They went forth boldly sharing the Gospel wherever they went. We see that Peter and John shared at every opportunity (Acts 4:13; 5:20-21, 29, 42). Stephen was not afraid of the opposition he faced from the religious leaders of his day, even unto death (Acts 6:10). The Church as a whole after being scattered by persecution proclaimed the Gospel boldly (Acts 8:4). Philip is seen sharing the Gospel with Samaritans, and after they believed, Peter and John came to disciple the new believers (Acts 8:5). When the disciples were on their way back to Jerusalem they preached in many of the Samaritan villages, taking advantage of every opportunity (Acts 8:25). Philip preaches to the Ethiopian eunuch who believes, and is baptized (Acts 8:35). After being transported from there, Philip preached in every city he came to until he reached Caesarea (Acts 8:40).
Paul begins preaching immediately after his conversion to everyone he comes into contact with (Acts 9:20, 27-29). Peter is sent to the Gentiles, and against all of his natural instincts he goes (Acts 10:34-35). Christians preach to Jews and Gentiles in Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch (Acts 11:19-20). Barnabas goes to Antioch to disciple new believers, then Paul comes to help him, and they both teach there for one year (Acts 11:22-23, 26). Paul, Barnabas, and Mark preach in Salamis (Acts 13:5). We see Mark becoming involved, and learning firsthand how to evangelize the lost. Paul and Barnabas are threatened in Iconium so they leave to preach in Lycaonia, Lystra, Derbe, and the surrounding regions (Acts 14:6-7). Their zeal for the lost is never quenched. Paul and Barnabas are characterized by James as, “having risked their lives for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 15:26). Paul shares the Gospel at every opportunity in Corinth (Acts 18:4-5). Apollos preaches the Scriptures, boldly sharing the Gospel with others (Acts 18:27-28).
God will equip us
A) We should have a burden for the lost, because God does (Lk. 13:34). Paul had
a burden for the lost in Corinth (Acts 17:16-32), and Rome (Rom. 1:15-16). The Bible tells us that unsaved people are blinded spiritually, and they cannot remove the blindness themselves (2 Cor. 4:3-4). We were unsaved at one point also, and if it were not for the hearing (and acceptance) of the Gospel we would still be lost (1 Cor. 5:11). We must share the Gospel no matter what the cost, because God has commanded it (Acts 4:19-20, 31; 5:29; 19:19-21). We should take every opportunity to share our testimony with others, because that is what God allowed Paul to do, and it was effective in reaching the lost (Acts 26:2-29; 29:3-16). The preaching of the Gospel through Christians is the means by which God is revealing the Savior to the world (1 Cor. 1:21-24). We are servants of Christ, and stewards of the Gospel (1 Cor. 4:1). The Scriptures also declare that we are ambassadors for Christ, appealing to men to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:17-21). We have hope that the unsaved do not have, and we are commanded to share it with them (2 Cor. 3:12; 1 Pet. 3:15).
B) We have the Word of God as our guide, and the source of our message (1 Pet.
4:11). Paul used the Scriptures to prove that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9:22; 17:2-3). Apollos used the Scriptures to testify that Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 18:28). We should be using the Scriptures to present our case, not persuasive arguments (1 Cor. 2:1-5). The Word of God is living and powerful, and that is what we want the foundation of every believer’s faith to be (1 Cor. 3:11; 1 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 4:12). We see that the teaching of the Scriptures is needed for people to believe in Jesus, so that is what we should use to evangelize the lost (1 Tim. 4:13, 16; 2 Pet. 1:16).
God guarantees results
A) Jesus said that He will build His Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail
against it (Matt. 16:18). Jesus has stated that it does not matter how much Satan and his demons attempt to keep people bound for Hell, Jesus will still save those that His Father has given Him. Jesus speaks about seeds that will take root, growing, and bearing much fruit (Matt. 13:23). Jesus again states that people will believe in Him. Jesus also prayed for the people that would believe in Him through the teaching of the apostles (which means that there will be more believers than just the disciples at that time – John 17:20). Jesus, in delivering the “Great Commission” commanded the disciples to “Go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19-20). This means that not only would they share the Gospel with lost people, but the lost people will repent of their sins, and believe in Jesus (thus, becoming disciples). Jesus has declared that if we are obedient in sharing the Gospel, eventually someone will believe. Faith is also said to come from hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17), and the Word of God will not return void (which means that it will accomplish the purpose that God has for it, which is to save souls – Isa. 55:11). The testimony of the Word of God has guaranteed Church growth. If Christians are faithfully praying for, and sharing the Gospel with lost people they will get saved because God and His Word are powerful (1 Thess. 1.5).
God brings results
A) The greatest evidence for the guarantee of Church growth is seen in the amazing work of God in building the Church in the book of Acts by the preaching of the Gospel by the disciples. God has shown that it does not matter who the messenger is, or who the recipient of the Gospel is, He can bring results. After a sermon by Peter on the Day of Pentecost God saves 3,000 people (Acts 2:41). The Scriptures say that people were getting saved everyday (Acts 2:47). The next time God gave Peter an opportunity to preach the Gospel 2,000 people believed, so at this point there are at least 5,000 new converts (Acts 4:4). Men and women were constantly trusting Jesus as Savior (Acts 5:14). The disciples were increasing in number (Acts 6:1). The number of disciples was continually increasing, and many priests were also coming to faith in Jesus (Acts 6:7). God brought about explosive growth in the Church, and the Gospel had not yet reached outside of Jerusalem.
Persecution hit the Church in Jerusalem, and all of the disciples (except the apostles) fled to surrounding areas taking the Gospel with them (Acts 8:1). Men and women in Samaria were accepting the Gospel, meaning the message of hope had gone outside of the boundaries of Jerusalem (Acts 8:12-13). An Ethiopian eunuch after having the Gospel presented to him by Philip believes and is baptized (Acts 8:37-38). Paul is confronted by the risen Christ and believes, which marks the beginning of his service to the Lord (Acts 9:15-16). The Church is said to be increasing continually with many new converts (Acts 9:31). Many people came to faith in Joppa as a result of God using Peter to raise Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:42). After Peter shares the Gospel with them, Cornelius, his family, and close friends (all Gentiles) come to faith in the Lord (Acts 10:24). A large number of people in Antioch believe (Acts 11:21), and then it is stated that considerable numbers were brought to the Lord (Acts 11:24). At this time the Word of the Lord continued to grow and be multiplied (Acts 12:24).
Then the account shows the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus accepting the Gospel as a result of Paul, and his attesting miracle (Acts 13:12). God-fearing proselytes, and Jews believe in Pisidian-Antioch (Acts 13:43), later more Gentiles believe, and the Word of the Lord spreads throughout the whole region (Acts 13:49-50). The Gospel is taken to Iconium, and Derbe with the result being many Jewish and Gentile converts (Acts 14:1, 21). The churches were being strengthened in the faith, and they were growing numerically everyday (Acts 16:5). Paul shares the Gospel with Lydia (a Gentile businesswoman) who along with her household believe and are baptized (Acts 16:30-34). Then the account shows some Jews, a lot of God-fearing Gentiles, and many leading women in Thessalonica believing in Jesus (Acts 17:4). Paul then goes before the Areopagus and shares the Gospel, which results in some Athenian men, an Areopagite named Dionysius, a woman named Damaris, and others believing in Jesus (Acts 17:34). In another account we see Paul sharing the Gospel in a Synagogue, and Crispus (the leader of the Synagogue), his household, and many other Corinthians believe and are baptized (Acts 18:8).
In another case an eloquent man named Apollos (having a great knowledge of the Scriptures) is led to faith in the Lord Jesus (as the long awaited Messiah) by Priscilla and Aquilla (Acts 18:24-28). Many in Ephesus accept the Gospel when it is presented to them (Acts 19:18-20). God gives Paul the opportunity to share the Gospel with Felix the governor of Judea and Samaria, and his wife Druscilla (Acts 24:24). Paul at a later time gains an audience with King Herod Agrippa II, his wife Bernice, and Festus the new governor. Paul shares the Gospel with them through his testimony (Acts 26:1-29). There is no evidence of conversion on the part of any of these politicians, but that did not deter Paul from sharing the hope that he has in Christ through the testimony of his conversion. Finally, Paul reaches Rome and he immediately begins preaching the Gospel to the Jews in Rome, and some accept the Lord (Acts 28:23-25).
B) The Biblical account testifies to the desire of God to see the lost repent, and He brings the actual conversion about Himself (but He has chosen for the presentation of the Gospel to be through the mode of sharing the Gospel – 1 Cor. 3:6-7). Christ will accomplish the saving of souls, He will build His Church, and nothing can stop Him (Matt. 16:18; Rom. 15:18). But, we as the Church are called to pray that God will give us open doors to share the Gospel, and when they are opened we are to speak the truth boldly (Eph. 6:19-20; Col. 4:3-4; 2 Thess. 3:1). The Gospel is a simple message that we are commanded to share, and we should rejoice when it is proclaimed to others (1 Cor. 15:1-4; 1 Tim. 1:11; Phil. 1:15-18). God loves when lost people repent, believing on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and so should we (1 Thess. 2:13).