As the New Testament church we should be interested in several things such as doctrinal purity (Jude 3) and how the church shall grow. The New Testament has provided the guide lines for church growth, and man has no right or need to change God’s laws in regard to it. Satan has filled us with flimsy excuses when we fail to be successful in the Lord’s work. During the early years following the beginning of the church, the “word of God grew and multiplied” (Acts 12:24). Interestingly, it did so amid trials, duress, and animosity. To me, the growth of the early church is the most striking story in the history of the world. How was such phenomenal growth accomplished? It may surprise us to see that it was done without a single tool that we claim we must have to be successful today. In this article, we want to consider this matter and see how we might grow.

THINGS WE THINK WE “NEED” TODAY – A considerable list of things has been suggested in order for the church to grow. Things like:

A “good” preacher with an educational background.

A nice building in a fine location.

Acceptability in the town we live.

Successful men in the leadership.

Freedom of religion; a nation at peace.

Good weather; right time of the year.

Good “prospects;” everything convenient.

Young people “camped,” rallied and catered to.

WHAT DID THE EARLY CHURCH HAVE IN THE FIRST CENTURY? – They had preachers of mediocre background. Even Paul’s speech was contemptible to many (2 Corinthians 10:10). Our educational requirements would have eliminated the Galilean fishermen who served so well. Think about it. The early Christians owned no buildings at all, yet the cause flourished. They were run out of town because of their faith and practice (Acts 11:19). Humble fishermen were their leaders (1 Corinthians 1:17-21; 4:9).

Study of the New Testament reveals the harsh rule of the Roman Caesars (Acts 4:13-21). As time passed, the opposition mounted as the church grew. Interestingly, they had everything but peace. They could not pray, “We are thankful we are gathered here without fear of molestation.”

As to good weather and opportune time, this seemed to be of no consequence to them (Acts 20:27, 31; 2 Timothy 4:2). When thinking about prospects and conveniences, it does not appear they had either. There were no baptisteries (much less a heated one). They had no heated or cooled buildings.

When considering prospects, who were their prospective members?

The Philippian jailer – Acts 16:25-33.

The wicked Corinthians – Acts 18:8.

Saul of Tarsus – Acts 9:1-12; 22:6-16.

The ruler of the synagogue – Acts 18:8.

Most of these prospects would “scare to death” most members of the church today, if they visited with them. Sadly, many would not want them as members. It would probably be suggested that maybe they should go to church somewhere else that is more to their station in life.

WHY IS THE CHURCH NOT AS SUCCESSFUL AS THEY WERE THEN? – Could it be that we are too concerned with popularity (Luke 6:26)?There may come a time when a distinct choice must be made forGod, and against men, as there was in the early years of the church’s existence (Acts 5:29).In the church’s haste to gain a place up high on the ladder of religiousgroups, I am afraid we have developed far too many public relations men,and all too few preachers of the word!

Is it the case that we do not have enough soul-stirring prayer? Do we lack faith, vision, and optimism in the Lord’s work? Could it be that we have been convinced that the “cheapest way is the best way.” And could it be that we were convinced without very much effort on the part of the convincers.

We have so many tools at our disposal! The internet, radio, television, cottage meetings, billboard signs, gospel meetings, and more are all available to us if we would but use them. Can you imagine what the early church would have done with these tools? I am afraid that we are not nearly as close to heaven as they were. The early saints pressed closer to the glory each day while we seem to aimlessly drift along (Romans 13:11; Philippians 1:20-23; 1 Peter 2:11). There is no doubt but that God is taking note of this!