Growth can be exciting and even sometimes overwhelming. It can bring about great clarity or great confusion; it can engage people or enrage people; it can serve as catalyst for exponential reach or exponential setbacks. To continuing growing as a church, it’s important for us to understand and know how to properly respond to GROWTH.
One of the greatest challenges for any new start up company, organization, or even church, is the ability to grow in a healthy way. The ability to move from simplicity to complexity. In fact, we can see the reality of this challenge in the growth of our personal family dynamics. When a couple unites together in marriage they have the simplicity of the honeymoon phase. This is when a couple begins to work out what it means to enjoy, serve and love each other. “Let the adventure begin!” they’ll say.
Time will pass and growth will be desired. Therein, the joyous announcement of a new addition comes. This next chapter for a growing family brings excitement yet complexity… and it doesn't end there. With it comes the possibility of more kids, pets, school, homework, practice for sports, time with the in-laws, you name it! The simplicity experienced initially in the honeymoon phase is replaced by the complexity of family growth and demands. The responsibilities of a growing family can hit you like a tsunami unless you understand and properly respond to that growth.
The early church experienced the same tension and pull of a growing family. The book of Acts gives us great insight on how the first church grew in a healthy way. It’s a great blueprint for moving from simplicity to complexity and it allows us the ability to keep the mission front and center.
In Acts 5, the numeric growth curve is off the charts. “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women…” (Acts 5:14). Believers were multiplying rapidly and they weren’t exempt from encountering all the natural challenges that come with growth. The ability to move from simplicity to complexity was essential for the mission of reaching every man, woman, and child!
Here’s what we can learn from the early church as they thrived:
The early church grew both large and small (at the same time). See Acts 2:46. While placing an emphasis on both the gathering of believers in the Temple courts, they also encouraged the gathering of believers in homes, around the dinner table, where they knew true community would take place. We celebrate as a church family during our Sunday gatherings but we have to place an emphasis on authentic community that takes place in a home environment to grow on a deeper level. That’s why we will have Missional Community Groups launching in our near future.
The early church equipped and appointed new leadership as needed. See Acts 6:3. The leadership of the early church equipped and empowered people to carry out the vision. They knew it couldn’t be done by a few who did it all. They kept the duplication of leadership in mind as they appointed and invited others to join with them in the task of bringing others to Christ. We know that all believers can help in reaching every person with the message of the Gospel when they own the vision of living on mission. Which is exactly why the church has to be in the business of developing and reproducing leaders.
The early church got it—they needed a simple strategy that allowed the church to grow (increasing complexity) in a healthy, effective way. Through it, they engaged and equipped; they reproduced and served people wholeheartedly; and most importantly, they reached people... by the thousands. This is our hope too—It’s why we do what we do to reach our community for Christ.