Method or Message – Church Growth
Acts 2:41 – Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added.
The context of this verse is Peter’s preaching at the Jewish Feast of Pentecost or Weeks, 50 days after Passover. The people were questioning what was done and Peter stands up and boldly proclaims Jesus as Messiah and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. It was this Jesus they crucified (2:23) as a nation. The Gentiles carried out the crucifixion. The Messiah was put to death, but physically arose 3 days later and Peter quotes extensively from the Old Testament to prove this, as well as stating the Apostles and others were witnesses (2:32). Then Peter commands them to repent (2:38) and be baptized, as the expression of repentance and faith in the Messiah. It was these words and others, he exhorted them to be saved (2:40). 3,000 believed. There was no methodological means, but the preaching of truth.
What about today? What about the current “Church growth” movements? Many have their own strategy, ideas, techniques or fads of how to grow your Churches… in numbers. Many others flock to hear these individuals whose Churches have grown exponentially over a short period of time to see “how they did it so we can copy it.” It should make us think. Why are we so focused on the method over the message? Now, don’t get me wrong. There should be a plan, prayer and a strategy. We see this in Scripture with Nehemiah or where the church and the Lord called out people to go, like Paul and Barnabas in Acts 12:25-13:3. But we see a drastic and dramatic difference from what Scripture says to what is done today. We are more focused on the method than the message! We think numbers equal converts and that is not necessarily true. Numbers are fine if they are true Christians, but we’re not called to make numbers, but disciples, Matthew 28:19.
The problem is we equate “God’s blessing” with high numbers and in our era of immediate gratification, if we can get lots of members quickly, then we’re doing great and “God is blessing.” High numbers may be a sign of God’s blessing, but that’s not always true. There are many false teachers who have tens of thousands going to “their churches.” We call them “successful.” God calls them heretics because they proclaim a false gospel, Galatians 1:6-9.
In the early Church was prayer and fellowship in the Apostles doctrine, Acts 2:42, in context in anticipation of the Kingdom. There was truth, love, commitment and community focused on God, His glory and His plan with the leading of the Holy Spirit. We believe it’s “up to us” to grow the Church, when it has little to do with us, but Him who uses His children to proclaim His word and pray, because He is the Lord of the harvest. He changes the heart and He grows His Church. We are to be faithful to keep His message pure and proclaim that message and leave the results to Him. So we must ask, do we as individuals focus on the method or the message? Do we as the Church focus on the method or the message? If the method eclipses the message, the message will suffer…