CHURCH GROWTH (I)

Introduction to Church Growth

Mike Johnson

What can we do to make our congregation grow?  Brethren often ask this question.

It is very important for a church to grow.  First, to even continue to exist, a church must grow.  A church not growing over a period of time is a dying church.  Second, the growth of a congregation by obtaining new converts is a reflection of more and more people obeying the gospel and entering into a proper relationship with God.  The more who become Christians and serve God faithfully, the better.

In the Old Testament, Isaiah 2 prophetically speaks of the growth which would take place in the Lord’s church.  Verses 2-3 say, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

Jesus spoke of the growth of the kingdom when he presented the Parable of the Mustard Seed.  In Matthew 13:31-32 He taught, ” . . . The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:  Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”

After the church in Jerusalem was established (Acts 2), it grew a great deal.  Please note the following passages in Acts:

  • 2:41  “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
  • 2:47  “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
  • 4:4  “Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.”
  • 5:14  “And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.”
  • 6:7   “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”

Persecution did not even stop the growth of the early church.  In fact, it might be said that oppression caused even more growth.  After Stephen was killed (Acts 7), there was a great persecution against the Jerusalem church.  Saul was a leader in this, and the Scriptures point out he made “havoc” of the church, entering into the houses of the early disciples and casting them into prison (Acts 8:3). Yet, instead of Christianity being stifled, Acts 8:4 points out, “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.” This preaching obviously resulted in even more growth.

While I was child, I saw a very large and dangerous looking spider on our kitchen floor.  I hit the spider with the heel of a shoe with one deadly blow.  The instant I hit the spider, baby spiders shot out crawling rapidly from their mother, in every direction.  In trying to kill the mother, I had spread the brood. Similarly, blows against the church only caused God’s Word to be spread over a wider area.

Not only did the Jerusalem church grow, but churches were established throughout the area.  A church was established in Samaria; a man was converted from Ethiopia (Acts 8); the first Gentiles were taught in Caesarea (Acts 10); through various missionary journeys by Paul and others, churches were established in many places.  In fact, Paul pointed out in Colossians 1:23 that God’s Word was preached to every creature which is under heaven.

In this series, we will discuss church growth.  We will discuss different concepts of growth, improper methods of growth, factors in growth, and various reasons why churches dwindle.  It is very important to analyze the issue of the growth of the Lord’s church.