The growth of the church in Acts remains a miracle. Much research has been done about the reasons for this. Without big buildings, full time professional pastors, budgets, denominational structures for support, bands and administrative systems they grew from 120 at Pentecost to many millions – 56% of the Roman Empire in just 300 years. A counterculture – impacting the values of society – and not merely a subculture – serving God in a secret corner somewhere defending themselves against the rest of society not to influence them.
Cities were changed : Act 5:28 “ … you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching”.
Their numbers grew exponentially : Act 6:7 “The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased dramatically. Not least, a great many priests submitted themselves to the faith”.
Miracles were commonplace : Act 5:12 “Through the work of the apostles, many God-signs were set up among the people, many wonderful things done…”
What was their secret? For sure it was the Spirit doing the work Himself ……. but…we also read that they were prepared to be radically obedient – to do things they have never done before – what other people don’t do – what will cause solid theologians to say : “That is not the way it must be done”.
The Spirit of Pentecost always pushes us across borders – into virgin territory – always wants to use us for more… to surpass our wildest imaginations. Changing our grip on the theology. We become so stuck in our theology. So easily we worship our theology and church culture – our concept of God and the church – that God cannot use us anymore. Believing more in the correctness of our theology than we are believing in God Himself. We become good theologians but bad followers.
In Acts 10 – Peter – the leader of the apostles stumbles over his theology : “Peter said, “Oh, no, Lord. I’ve never so much as tasted food that was not kosher”. (Acts 10:14 MSG) Theologically Peter was completely correct! The Jewish seminaries would give him cum laude for his theological viewpoint. All the learned scholars would agree with him. But – you can be theologically correct – and miss what God wants to do. Peter almost missed the call to go to Cornelius – as well as the opportunity to witness the Spirit falling on the gentiles.
In Acts 11 theology almost costed non-Jews entering the Kingdom. 1. “The news travelled fast and in no time the leaders and friends back in Jerusalem heard about it—heard that the non-Jewish “outsiders” were now “in” :2 When Peter got back to Jerusalem, some of his old associates, concerned about circumcision, called him on the carpet: 3 “What do you think you’re doing rubbing shoulders with that crowd, eating what is prohibited and ruining our good name?” Now the unthinkable was required – to let go of circumcision as a prerequisite for the Kingdom. Fortunately the Spirit opened their theological minds and in Acts 15 circumcision was sacrificed. Its always those outside the Kingdom paying the price for our stuckness to our “good” theology.
I once had the privilege of visiting a country close to the equator. On the Sunday morning in church – with a sun blazing at 40 plus degrees outside – the pastor appeared on the pulpit in a black suit, a white tie and a black robe. Sweat was streaming down his face. Looking exactly like I used to look when I was a young pastor. My denomination planted the church in this African country. And my denomination was planted by a denomination in Scotland where in the cold they dress pastors like this. The Scottish missionaries exported their church culture to South Africa and we exported it with the gospel to the middle of Africa!
What shall we not give to witness millions of followers streaming into the Kingdom – like in Acts? Give everything most probably. Our brothers and sisters witnessing Disciplemaking Movements – where thousands of new churches are planted annually and millions of converts come to Jesus – in some closed countries of the world share these critical principles : (Contagious Disciplemaking : David Watson)
1. It hinders our work when disciple-makers reproduce their religion rather than plant the gospel. Don’t transfer your own Christian culture, denominational terms, or doctrine into the new work.
2. Don’t focus on making followers of your church – focus on making disciples of Christ.
3. Teach them to obey Christ’s commands – not church traditions.