The Effect of Signs and Wonders Upon Church Growth
Church growth happens primarily through the means of the proclamation of God’s word. Although God did allow the apostles to perform many signs and wonders as a confirmation of His power and His presence in their ministry, those signs and wonders were not the key impetus behind the growth of the church. Rather, the pattern that emerges in Acts, beginning from the events of Pentecost in Acts 2 and continuing with Peter’s interaction with Cornelius (Acts 10) and Paul’s ministry throughout the Roman empire, is that God’s word is preached, the gospel message of Christ is proclaimed, and unsaved individuals come to Christ.
That, in fact, is the greatest miracle of all – that God can work the redeeming act of salvation in the lives of individuals. Also, the key thrust of the signs was that Jesus would be magnified. This was seen specifically in the events that transpired at Ephesus. Never did the signs center merely around a human. Even though Paul was the key spokesperson for Christ, the main emphasis was on Christ, not on Paul.
The Effect of Organization Upon Church Growth
Church growth cannot take place in a vacuum. There needs to be the establishing of a local assembly of believers that can first of all help believers to grow in Christ and secondly work to bring unsaved individuals to Christ. This is the pattern and the method that Paul adapted. Although he moved on from city to city after local assemblies of believers were established – or after he was kicked out of a city – the ministries he had established continued to carry on. This was due to two factors. First of all, Paul built each ministry around Christ, not around himself. His key was to preach Christ and Christ alone.
Alongside of this concept is also the fact that he placed the leadership of each local assembly into the hands of local believers. The second key factor is that Paul followed up on each assembly that had been established, either in person, through representatives, or through his letters. He provided accountability for them, he gave them advice, and he rebuked them as necessary.
The entire book of Acts is the narrative of the expansion of the Christian church. The movement starts out as a fledgling group of believers assembled together at Pentecost and then rapidly explodes into a full-blown network of believers with members scattered around the entire stretch of the Roman empire. The impact the believers had was tremendous and far-reaching. There was no doubt that their lives had been transformed, and as a result, they transformed their world. In Acts 17:6 the Thessalonians accused the Christians of being those that “have turned the world upside down.” This is an incredible testimony of the impact the first century Christians had on their society. This growth of the church took place by means of the proclamation of God’s word, through the agency of individuals, by the power of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of individuals, in the name of Christ, and to the glory of God.
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