A church that is growing will have some distinct characteristics. As we read in Acts 9:26-31. The book of Acts is generally not a good place for the local church to build doctrine; since it is a transitional book; however, we can glean some good lessons from the book of Acts. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) Especially in the subject of growing a local church, since that is exactly what is going on in the latter part of Acts 9. In our previous article (Are you a destroyer or a restorer) we looked at some things that the Church should not do. Now I would like to turn our attention towards some things that we should do in the Local Church.
The first mark of a growing church is that they must be Welcoming to new believers. It is easy for a group (especially a small group) to become extremely close to one another. This is a good thing; however when a “new” person is introduced into this group, if we aren’t intentional in our interactions, we can seem as if we are a “closed” group. In other words, we appear to not be welcoming. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the new person probably doesn’t want to be swarmed and bothered, so no one ever approaches and welcomes them. This leaves the “visitor” feeling unwanted. Notice in Acts 9:26 how the disciples originally interacted with Paul. Not very welcoming was it? I know that this can be excused due to the history that the church had with Paul before his conversion; however if we are not careful we too can start to look at our visitors and potential new believers with a suspicious eye, and therefore miss the opportunity to be an encouragement to them. Now let’s look at Act 9:27 and notice how Barnabas took action. Barnabas immediately welcomed Paul and introduced him to the others that were present at the church. We should follow the example of Barnabas and immediately introduce ourselves at the first opportunity. Once we have introduced ourselves, we then should take the initiative and introduce our new acquaintance to others. Not everyone who visits will become a fellow believer and join the church, but it is our duty to inform them that if they wish to do so that they are more than welcome at our local church.
The second mark of a growing church is that they must be working towards the “Building up” of all believers. This is noted in the Bible as Edification, see Romans 15:2, 1 Corinthians 14:3, 2 Corinthians 10:8, 2 Corinthians 13:10. So what does Edification mean?
According to Websters 1828 dictionary: EDIFICATION, n. [L. oedificatio.]
1. A building up, in a moral and religious sense; instruction; improvement and progress of the mind, in knowledge, in morals, or in faith and holiness.
He that prophesieth, speaketh to men to edification. 1 Cor 14.
We should be Building one another up and not destroying each other.
- We should have concern for one another (Romans 15:1-2)
- We should use our Spiritual Gifts to help others (1 Corinthians 14:4)
- We should Minister to one another (1 Peter 4:10)
- We should grow together (Ephesians 2:19-21)
- We should attend church and exhort one another (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- We should build upon our Faith Together (Jude 20-21)
The third mark of a growing church is that they must be Seeking new believers. In Acts 9:31, we see that once the church was encouraged (Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria,) and edified (and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost,) this led to enlargement of the church (were multiplied.)
In order for the Church to be multiplied, we must seek out new believers. It is important to ensure that whoever visits the local church is given the Gospel, but it is just as important for us to go out and compel them to come. When Jesus called his disciples he said that he was going to make them fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). If you have ever been fishing then you know that the fish rarely come to you. It is up to you to go find them, as Jesus commanded us in what is most commonly referred to as the “Great Commission”,(Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8) We are commanded to “GO”! 1 Peter 3:15 reminds us that we should always be ready to share the Gospel. We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) and our job as such is to reconcile the lost dying world to God.
In summary, if the local church is to grow, it must at a minimum exercise these three marks:
- Encouragement (Welcoming new believers)
- Edification (Building up all believers)
- Enlargement (Seeking new believers)
This is just a foundation, and this article just skimmed the surface on these characteristics. Our hope at Irvington Bible Baptist Church is that this article will inspire you to take a much deeper study of these characteristics, which would be beneficial for every believer.
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