The Four Priorities Of A Growing Church
[ Extracted and edited from D2Y2 Magazine, March – May 2005, Issue 2 ]
Our vision for this season is called Acts 2. As the church grows, we want to see people with quality and passion. We do not want to grow just church members, but partners; partners in the harvest field, partners in God’s House and partners together for eternity.
It takes commitment to grow a church. The greater the commitment, the greater the growth. You cannot have growth of significance without significant commitment. There can be no pew warmers, no spectators, only labourers for the glory of God. God is calling, and we are answering the call.
Acts 2:42 – 43 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
Verse 43 here is the direct result of verse 42. The latter verse, although short, speaks a lot about what the first church was. It tells us of the practices that the first church had – how the early believers viewed their faith, their relationship with each other, and the importance of church life and serving God.
There is no one you can blame for your own faith.
The reason I like to study Acts 2 is because it was the first church. Things, at their beginning, are pure and good; not contaminated by human wisdom and the ways of the world. There were not a lot of things around them that would dictate how the church should be run. God Himself dictated how the church should run. The Holy Spirit was the teacher and guide who laid down the blueprint of the church and guided them into all truth. We want to take it from the Holy Spirit, how it modeled for us a church that is explosive and alive.
The principles found in verse 42 are what I would like to call, “The Four Priorities of Growing Church” (and of growing your own personal faith):
1. THEY CONTINUED STEADFASTLY IN THE APOSTLE’S DOCTRINE
I put this as No. 1 because it only takes one person to study the Word. You do not need two people. Every individual has the responsibility of reading the Bible and making sure that they grow in the Lord. There is no one you can blame for your own faith.
Take it, believe it, run with it. It is not just about learning what God has to say but living out what He says. You can never stop growing in the Lord. If everything else is taken away, you must still grow.
2. THEY CONTINUED IN FELLOWSHIP
This is our second priority. It takes two to fellowship. If you are a Christian on fire for God, you should love and prioritize the fellowship of believers. The Greek word for fellowship – ‘Koinonia’, taken in its literal form, means intercourse. It depicts coming together, sharing together, being close to one another. That is how close and important pure fellowship is. The friends that we surround ourselves with will influence our lives, and we theirs.
3. THEY CONTINUED IN THE BREAKING OF BREAD
This was the command instituted by our Lord. The church is not just about the Word and about fellowship, it is also about the breaking of bread.
Amos 3:3 says “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
It is very easy for us to fellowship with the people that we like. However, there will always be a third person that God will allow in our lives that makes the phrase “two is company, three is a crowd” seem so true – a third person that we just cannot gel with.
Love still needs to be overriding factor in our relationship with one another.
That is why sometimes, we see cliques in churches. We do not want that. We do not want a church that people can only talk to people they like. The world can think like that, we cannot. We are the Church, and the church is made of all kinds of people. Love still needs to be overriding factor in our relationship with one another. This is where No. 3 begins.
We see the institution of the “breaking of bread” in John 13, where we also find the “washing of feet”.
Jesus said, in John 13:15, “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you”.
A lot of people in church come only to a place of fellowship. We need to come to a place where everybody is serving one another. And in a church of this size, there are sure to be some feet that we do not want to wash, there are sure to be feet that have stepped on our toes before.
… we need to get close enough to be hurt.
When we make a decision to step in and to connect with church and to serve, we are bound to see some ugly things. If we get close enough, we are bound to be hurt. But this is what God is calling the church to do: To get close to a point where you can be hurt, because the truth is, we will never know true forgiveness until we know true hurt.
Breaking of bread and communion are very powerful things. When we take it, I pray that our eyes will be opened to know that it is He who makes the church and it is He who makes relationships.
For a church to grow strong, we cannot just fellowship and share of what God has done in our lives. We need to serve one another and to do that, we need to get close enough to be hurt. I am asking you to hold my hands as I hold yours, and let us run this race together.
When we pray, we are saying, “God, I want to be on your team.” and “God, can you be on my team?”
4. THEY CONTINUED IN PRAYER
Do you realise why a lot of prayers are not answered? Because we have not kept these first three priorities. Sometimes I like to call them the 1,2 and 3 of powerful prayer. Do you think God will answer you when you have not forgiven your brother? We need to know these by heart.
Prayer is participation. When we pray, we are saying, “God, I want to be on your team.” and “God, can you be on my team?”.
Acts 10:2 is simple but powerful. Cornelius was a powerful and popular centurion. But what made him different? There were a lot of centurions. There are also a lot of churches and Christians. But verse 2 made the difference, “He was a devout man and one who feared God with all his households, who gave alms generously to the people and prayed to God always.”
Cornelius made it a habit to pray. You can only do something “always” when it has become a habit. If we just depend on memory to pray, you will not do it because our memory will fail us. We have to make some of these points a habit in our lives.
Acts 10:30 – 31 “Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God”.
God remembers our prayers. We begin to build a memorial when we make prayer a habit. Whenever something happens in our lives, it is not about God remembering how kind we were, but it is God remembering what we have prayed.
It says in Revelation 5:8 that there is a golden bowl of incense full of the “prayer of the saints”. This is something that God keeps and is something precious to Him, something He waits and longs for. God remembered Cornelius because of his prayers.
Every time you pray, remember that God remembers. And when He comes to you and finally causes a breakthrough in your life, He is going to say, “I heard your prayer. I remembered your prayer”.
D2Y2, which stands for Don’t Despise Your Youth, was an official Asian Youth Ambassador (AYA) magazine birthed out in the late 90s. The printed materials communicated dynamic and effective encouragement to and from the Church, with special emphasis on the knowledge and experiences of our Christian youths, which we believe the content is still relevant and applicable in this current generation.