Jesus commissioned that the gospel was to be preached unto “every creature” (Mark 16:15, 16). Had we been one of those eleven to whom this commission was directly given we may have thought the job too much, which may have been the case with just them doing so. However, the early church grew in leaps and bounds as they carried out these orders (Colossians 1:23; Romans 10:18). Because of the evangelistic zeal seen in the early days of the church, the church experienced phenomenal growth. In Acts 2:41we note that about 3,000 were added to the church. Later, in Acts 4:4, we read where 5,000 men heard and believed the word. In the fifth and sixth chapters of Acts, we take note how the number continued to be multiplied (Acts 5:14; 6:7).

In one of His parables, Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven would be like a grain of mustard seed (Matthew 13:31, 32). This parable had its fulfillment in the growth of the early church. Every true New Testament Christian wants the church to grow both spiritually and numerically, as seen in this parable. However, from what history reveals, no faithful congregation of the Lord’s church has recently experienced this type of growth. This presents the problem of why isn’t the church growing like it was designed to do?  Also, we are confronted with the question of, is it possible? In response to this question, I would suggest that it is indeed possible but only when we duplicate the reasons for the growth of the early church, which is what I want us to consider with this article.

THE EARLY CHURCH GREW BECAUSE THEY HAD CONVICTION IN REGARD TO THE TRUTHLiterally, they believed John 8:31, 32! Their firm conviction came from the belief that the gospel had freed them from sin and gave them eternal hope. They had found the “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:46). They had “bought the truth” and were unwilling to sell it at any price (Proverbs 23:23). Another way of saying it is that they had been converted. This knowledge was acquired and applied through worship and edification (Acts 2:42).

THE EARLY CHURCH GREW BECAUSE THEY HAD DILIGENCE IN TEACHING – This is easily seen in the words of Acts 5:42. The regularity with which they taught was directly related to their growth (Acts 2:46, 47). Daily teaching resulted in daily conversions. Too often we become discouraged when we fail and give up. Although they do not teach the truth, the Jehovah Witnesses increased in number by 700% during the years of 1946-1966. I can’t think of any group that has been discouraged more, yet they grew.

Because of the belief in the power of the gospel the early church could not refrain from speaking (Romans 1:15, 16). When we study the early church and its growth we see that it was militant in defending the truth. The problem today is many in the church do not want the preacher to expose error. In view of this attitude, these need to take note of Philippians 1:17.

THE EARLY CHURCH GREW BECAUSE THEY HAD A DEDICATED CONCERN FOR THE PURITY OF THE CHURCHChrist died to make this possible (Ephesians 5:25-27). True New Testament Christianity imposes separation from the world to a life of purity and holiness (2 Corinthians 6:14; 7:1; 1 John 2:15-17). As Christians we must not conform to the world (Romans 12:1, 2). As Christians we must remember that old things are done away or passed away when we become Christians (2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 3:1-14). The church cannot allow sin to go uncorrected as this leaves the impression that we condone or embrace it  (1 Corinthians 5:6, 7). Sin in the church will eventually cause the church to lose divine recognition (Revelation 2:5). As long as we allow “sin in the camp” to continue the statement “I’m better than John Doe Christian is” is more truth than an excuse!

THE EARLY CHURCH GREW BECAUSE THEY HAD UNITY IN PRACTICEThis unity is seen in a number of places in the New Testament such as Acts 4:32. When we study the New Testament we take note that unity was demanded by Paul of the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:10). Further study reveals that the Lord recognized no cause for division as just, except truth. “Peace” must not be purchased at the expense of truth, sacrificed or compromised (Matthew 10:34-39). The truth is, “a house divided against itself cannot stand” much less grow.

IF THE CHURCH IN THE 21ST CENTURY IS TO GROW, WE NEED TO STOP MAKING EXCUSES AND GET TO WORKWe have many methods of teaching not had by those of the early church. We have modern transportation, finances, communication, tracts, videos, correspondence courses, the internet, and many other means of reaching the lost with the gospel. If we felt the same compulsion that the Apostle Paul felt (1 Corinthians 9:16), we would get busy about “our Father’s business”. Let us set aside the excuses, and use well the time and opportunities we have (Ephesians 5:16; Galatians 6:10).