When Sherri and I returned to Vancouver to restart a dying church, we saw almost immediate growth. Though my flesh and my resume might want to suggest that this was a result of better preaching or perhaps my great leadership skills, the truth is, we grew simply because the mess we were wasn't nearly as bad as the mess that other churches were. We were growing not because we were going. We were simply receiving those who came looking for us. And they were the broken, the wounded, and the consistently discontented.
There are consequences to this kind of church growth.
I suddenly found that the majority of my time was consumed with tending wounds, comforting the grieving and responding to the complaints of the malcontent. Outreach was considered a pastoral distraction that contributed to lack of pastoral care. As growth came, maintenance intensified and joy diminished.
According to church growth statistics this is how most churches grow today. It's not because God is moving, it’s because people are... from one church to another. And this is why it is so important for us to learn, not from modern church growth trends, which are often fed by church decline, but through the ancient, gospel-driven patterns recorded in His Word.
This week we are returning to the ultimate church growth textbook—the book of Acts. In the book of Acts we see ‘gospel planting’ in contexts where no church existed. The church did not grow by the talent of gifted professionals or by transfer of membership. It grew as the result of a sovereign God moving through an obedient people.
This Sunday we will discover what happened in that context when ‘the going church’ encountered local authority … as well as the consequences that come when a decision to follow Jesus is not the result of transformation in and through Jesus.
Let us prepare our hearts to hear from the Author of Acts 8:9-25!