"And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." Acts 2:40-47
There are many exciting things that happen in the life of a church, things that foster a sense of vitality and zeal in the body, things that bring joy and thankfulness for God's grace and blessings. Church growth is definitely one of them. In fact, a church growing in size, maturing as it's grounded on the right pillars, being fed the right spiritual food, tended to by faithful shepherds, is evidence of a healthy church that's doing well. As we consider this, we can of course talk on a macro, broad level, as well as the micro, local level. The latter is where I'd like to spend a little time.
As we reflect back on the Lord's blessings since the beginning, we easily see and testify of God's great work in growing us and building His church. As many words of thanksgiving have been expressed, memories shared of our journey over these last four years, articles written, podcasts recorded, and reports given, the consistent message of, "Praise God for His blessing and growth of Heritage Pres.!", continues to go forth. Christ is the One who has taken us from seed, to sprout, to plant, to flourishing body. God is building this church. Indeed, praise Him every day for this!
In Acts 2, Luke gives us a snapshot of the rapid growth of the early church as the Gospel was preached and proclaimed and Christ's sheep were being gathered in. His report of 3000 souls being added to the church in one day is exciting, isn't it? 3000 people, in one day, were brought from bondage and death in darkness to freedom and life in Christ's kingdom and light, by His saving grace. Day after day the Lord brought salvation to many, adding them to the fold. All glory be to God alone!
What did these newly added, newly gathered people do? They then walked forward together in the right path and practice as "they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." Luke says the saints of the early church also took care of each other's needs and "continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people." This is a beautiful picture of God's work in His vibrant, growing church, isn't it? So too, He is at work at Heritage! We have been grown, and are growing, over the last few years, though on a much smaller scale. Where has our focus remained? We've been steadfast to joyfully partake of the ordinary means of grace- Word, sacraments, and prayer. We have sought to be faithful to stand on the God's precepts. We have enjoyed sweet fellowship and service together through His Spirit. We will continue to do so, by His grace.
What are some of the joys of a growing church? New faces added to the body, expanded relationships, increased fellowship, more opportunities to encourage and love one another, more sharpening, expanded gifts and talents in the body, more resources, etc. It's also true that growth brings challenges, good challenges, that we need to be mindful of and seek God's wisdom and aide in handling and navigating well. There are logistical matters that have to be scaled and managed with a growing body. There are also spiritual, emotional, and relational matters that have to be balanced as the peace, purity, and unity of the body is maintained. We'll consider more of this next week, Lord willing.
Here are a few things to think about regarding joy in our growing body, as we move forward together:
Keep a heart of knowledge and praise- It's right, first and foremost, for us to daily remember the joy and hope we have as we serve our Lord Jesus and are part of His church together. Christ is building us, and we are thankful and praise Him for His wondrous, perfect, and wise work. Each and every one of you are here because Jesus has brought you here to be an important part His work in and through this congregation at Heritage.
Keep your welcome active and balanced- Having such a mindset, we then should gladly welcome those who Christ brings. Sometimes, as we continue to see new faces in worship or other church activities, we get busy talking with those we know and forget to greet visitors or newer regular attenders, and engage with them. Likewise, we can be busy talking with visitors, and don't talk much with seasoned folk in the body. A smile and greeting of newcomers and old timers is always a good practice to keep in practice.
Keep getting to know as we grow- Though we may have existing friends in the congregation and more easily get to know them, be intentional to fellowship with and get to know others in the body who you don't know well. Extend hospitality to one another, eat with one another, spend time with one another, invest in one another's lives, love and pray with and for one another for the glory of Christ.
Keep serving together in ministry- Another joyful thing that's evident as the church grows is the saints, both those who are newer and those who have been around a while in the church coming together, ministering together in various activities and ministries of the church, brainstorming together, making proposals to the Session together, mobilizing and pressing forward together in service and outreach for the witness and testimony of Christ.
Praise God and take joy in His work, His building, growing, and blessing of Heritage, as well as all other congregations around the world that belong to King Jesus, worshipping and serving Him together.