How should The Church grow and expand? When we look at Paul’s works to expand the “ekklesia” – or the church – in his time, we see Paul began by living in response to Jesus. When we learn to live in response to Jesus, we grow both personally and as an assembly.
Paul had a way of doing things… Paul’s ministry left “ekklesia” or assemblies of Jesus followers all over the place. These little Jesus assemblies would change the world, some immediately, and all eventually. How did he do it? How did he approach it? What was Paul’s “church growth” strategy?
Acts 16:9-10 (NLT) That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.
Responsive To Holy Spirit
If Jesus Builds His Church… Jesus certainly seems to take responsibility for the advancement of His Church. He states plainly that He will build His gathering, or “Ekklesia”.
Matthew 16:18 (NLT) Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
If Jesus is the master-builder of His Church, then working in a responsive relationship with Jesus seems to be critical.
Awareness of Jesus. Luke’s account of Paul’s journeys demonstrates purpose and responsiveness. While taking the message of Jesus out of Jerusalem and into the world, they come to a proverbial crossroads. They try to go one way and Jesus says no in some way. Luke doesn’t tell us how Jesus said no – just that He did. Then, Paul dreamed of a man inviting him to Macedonia. He took that as the “GO” sign and they went. Paul was listening for Jesus and living in response to Jesus. He knew that Jesus knew/knows best how to build His church.
Many people built great ministries and churches because they had a great idea, or they found a workable formula. Paul didn’t really have a formula. He had more of a framework and he listened for the Holy Spirit. Paul was always going somewhere, but he was always up for Jesus to adjust the course. So, responsiveness to the Holy Spirit is very important to the advancement of Jesus’ “ekklesia” or assembly.
Acts 16:13 (NLT) On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there.
Alert To Peaceful People
Now, when Paul got to town. Often we think he rushed into town and immediately kicked over the nearest hornet’s nest. And, he often managed to stir up a few hornets, but not because he was trying to. Paul went first, looking for people who might be open to Jesus. So here we see him headed down to the river where people commonly gathered to pray. I think he learned this from Jesus or from The Disciples.
Matthew 10:11-12 (NLT) “Whenever you enter a city or village, search for a worthy person and stay in his home until you leave town. 12 When you enter the home, give it your blessing.
Paul started in a friendly place and he generally worked with willing followers. This is a great point. We all have people that we want to see living in a way that is God-honoring. But, they may not be ready, open or as interested as they need to be . So, we keep banging our heads on the wall using all of our energy on those who just aren’t there yet. I’m not saying give up on them. I’m saying let the garden grow.
Who Is peaceful and open in your life that you could help? I can always see so much potential in a person to grow, enjoy Jesus and help others. But I can’t make Jesus important to anyone. If Jesus is important, you order your calendar around Him, not Him around your calendar. If the kingdom is important you seek to learn and grow in the realities and principles of the Kingdom.
Start with whatcha got. Your kids? Your spouse? A friend? Help someone else get closer to Jesus. Help someone else get on their feet. Pray for ‘em. Listen to ‘em. Share God stuff with ‘em. God’s word. Share your thoughts, dreams and visions about God. Tell them who God thinks they are and what God thinks they are capable of. It’s called discipleship, but it can be a lot like parenting.
Galatians 4:19 (NLT) Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.
A Father To The Fatherless
Paul saw himself as a “father” of sorts. He didn’t have a biological family. Paul only had a spiritual family. He considered Barnabas a brother. Timothy, Silas, and many others he considered sons. His heart ached for the churches that he planted and the ones they planted as if they were his own children.
He had such a passion that Christ would be formed in people. Meaning, they would live and behave like Jesus, which is the only real measure of a person’s spiritual state. His letters drip with genuine, heartfelt respect and love for those addressed.
The image of God is a fathering or parenting image.
Psalms 68:4-6 (NLT) His name is the LORD— rejoice in his presence! 5 Father to the fatherless, defender of widows— this is God, whose dwelling is holy. 6 God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.
God is a Father and Defender. God finds families for the lonely and freedom for the prisoners. In a world with no fathers, few have stepped up to be genuine parents for the last couple of generations. Most live their lives with no direction, no protection, and no compassion because of it. More than anything today, the world needs spiritual Fathers and Mothers to rise up and care. Not with quick, thoughtless advice, but with understanding, patience, and love.
To be Godly and to be righteous, must then include this family concern. The lone ranger Christian mentality needs to be crucified with Jesus. People need Jesus and they NEED “ekklesia”.