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A Biblical Look at the Growth of the Early Church

Today, in some circles, church growth is still a buzzword that defines a “successful” church. There are growth seminars, websites, consultants, plans, and strategies. There are blogs on growth written by pastors of growing churches telling others how their growth came about, in the hope that other churches will grow by adopting the same strategies. But in the early church, growth is talked about in a very different way.

In Acts 2, we see that when Peter preached the Gospel of the grace of Jesus to a diverse crowd of Jewish people from all over the known world, the Holy Spirit fell on that crowd and over 3,000 of them embraced the Risen Jesus as their Messiah. Luke paints a picture of the new church—they were devoted to Bible teaching, worship, prayer, and ministry to the community. He shows us a people who met daily, who persevered, and who were living so differently than everyone else around them that they “enjoyed the favor of all the people.” And, at the very end of the passage, we read a word about growth—“And the Lord added their number daily” (Acts 2:42-47). 

Then in chapter 3, Peter and John were on their way to the temple to pray and on the way, they heal a man who had been unable to walk from birth. Naturally, a crowd of amazed people gather, and Peter preached another sermon, once again presenting Jesus as Israel’s Messiah, and again, he encourages the crowd to repent of their sin and put their faith In Jesus as their Messiah. As a result, over 3,000 people believe the Gospel. The gospel of grace is preached, people turn from their old lives in Judaism, they put their faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit fills them, and the church continues to grow. 

"And God's great grace was upon them all." Acts 4:33

The story of Acts 3 continues into Acts 4:32-35. Luke again paints a picture of the life and growth of the church—unity, Holy Spirit-empowered preaching, generosity, caring for and discipling new believers. And we read that, “and God’s great grace was upon them all” (4:33). In the early church, growth was not the goal—it was the by-product—the by-product of the life of a Gospel-preaching, Christ-centered, generous, Holy Spirit empowered community of grace. And so, yes, “great grace was upon them all” and “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” God did the growing as the church spent her time being the church. 

Fellowship Greenville, like many, many other Gospel-preaching churches, is a part of the continuing story of the book of Acts. “The Lord is adding to our number weekly” and, “God’s great grace is upon us all.” Not because we’re trying to grow or because we care about numbers, but because: 

  1. We are focused on teaching the Bible in a way that people can understand. 
  2. We have a plurality of teachers and leaders, not just one senior pastor who calls all the shots.
  3. We put equipping people for life and ministry over having events.
  4. We invite people into whole-hearted, participatory worship.
  5. We seek to follow how the Holy Spirit is leading us rather than simply come up with pragmatic strategies to grow. 

Growth is not the goal; growth is the God-given by-product of a church that seeks to put Jesus on display in preaching, worship, community, generosity, and serving inside and outside the walls of the church. 

*We are a church located in Greenville, South Carolina. Our vision is to see God transform us into a community of grace passionately pursuing life and mission with Jesus.*

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Written by Charlie Boyd