Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. (Acts 9:31)
Remember The Mission
The early church enjoyed a outpouring of growth in the days of its existence. Three thousand souls obeyed the gospel during the Feast of Pentecost, and in less than five years, the historian Luke writes the church had peace and was multiplying. There had been persecution from the Jewish leaders with the arrest and beating of the apostles. Stephen had been stoned to death, and Saul of Tarsus made havoc of the church, dragging off men and women to prison. Despite this severe threat, the church was growing in the thousands. Churches would be established throughout the Roman Empire from the apostle Paul’s work, with untold numbers of Jews and Gentiles obeying the gospel and becoming members of the kingdom of God.
Two thousand years after the beginning of the church, the people of God would continue to plant the seed of the word of God throughout the world. The New Testament church is found in every country, with adherents numbering in the thousands as churches are established and many souls brought to Christ. In many places in the United States, congregations are dying and, in some cases, closing doors. What are the causes for churches dwindling to small groups and not growing? Steve Forbes said about growth: “The important element of growth is to remind all what the mission is.” When the mission of the church is forgotten, the need for growth is removed.
Too often, churches do not know what the mission of the kingdom is. They have assembled on the prescribed days at the assigned hours to go about the predetermined course of activity for so many years that worship has become a numbing experience of rote repetition. Long forgotten is the purpose and design of the church. The baptistery is in disrepair from lack of use. Preaching has become a dull monotone of social issues or disconnected sermons with little application, and the work of teaching the lost is left to the few or the one. Without a focus to know what the mission of the church is, there can be no growth. Churches that are growing and multiplying are doing so because they understand the mission and implement the New Testament pattern of having peace, seeking edification, walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus told the apostles to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. Teaching the gospel was at the forefront of the mission. The apostles followed God’s mission plan, and the church was preached to every creature under heaven in less than forty years. In the modern world of easy transportation, comfortable accommodations, instant access and information, and a lifestyle open to discussion, the church has forgotten its mission. The work of the kingdom is likened to the vineyard. The vineyard’s mission is to have workers willing to work to produce the bounty of the vines. When the church is viewed as a place of work where the local congregation members are united together in sharing the gospel with their friends and neighbors, the church will grow. Stagnant churches are not growing churches. “Sound churches” who do the same thing in the same way on the same day will die because they do not know what the mission of the church is supposed to be. The church’s work is to remind the workers what the mission must be and how to carry out that mission. Every soul is precious. Let the mission of the Lord’s kingdom be implanted in the hearts of devoted saints willing to work for the glory of God.