God used the most ordinary means to make His Church the largest and most powerful organization on earth.
There seems to be much for Christians in America to be discouraged about in 2016. Conventional wisdom holds that while the Church is growing quickly in China and the developing world, Europe and America are in the “post Christian” doldrums. The 2016 presidential campaign has taken twists and turns that have distressed some evangelical believers. In her book Confessions of a White House Speechwriter, Peggy Noonan writes that growing up on Long Island in the 1950s, a woman who attempted suicide was a celebrity because no one else did it. Divorce and even adultery were unheard of. Sixty years later, such cultural morality seems a distant dream. Christians have more children than their secular counterparts, but then lose many to an implacably hostile school system.
The paragraph above reflects the feelings of many, but contains some statements that are true and others that are false. Even if every word were true, believers in Jesus Christ should never be discouraged. Over the course of dozens of recent conversations in church and at home, I have tried to reassure my brethren with the promises of God in Scripture (John 16:33, Romans 8:28). While these verses can be encouraging, many people need more visible encouragement.
Continue reading “The Early Church – From Movement to Organization”
The Church of Jesus Christ will always grow – the Almighty has so willed it. How wonderful that we get to help.
Jesus told His disciples to go to the uttermost parts of the earth and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1). For 2000 years the Church of Jesus Christ has shared the good news of the gospel throughout the world. The body of believers has grown from 120 members in the Upper Room (Acts 1:15) to over 2.3 billion people, out of a total world population of 7.3 billion, today. While the Way of Christ is growing by leaps and bounds in places like China and sub-Saharan Africa, progress seems to have stalled in Europe and North America. In the heavily Muslim areas of North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and Indonesia, Christians comprise a tiny fraction of the people. Growth feels impossible, and some become discouraged.
Sometimes Christians have effectively demonstrated the saving grace of Jesus to those around them, but other times have not. Many people reject Christ because they don’t have a clear idea who He is. Dedicated believers have often looked to one of the most exciting periods in the history of Christianity, the early Church, for guidance on how to grow. This is a great practice, for the earliest years of any new religious movement (NRM) are the most dynamic. Since few NRMs survive their founder, early Christianity was an example of how to grow and sustain growth over the decades, centuries, and millennia. This article will examine Acts 2:41-47, which describes the earliest days of the Church, to look for clues about how to grow and sustain the Body of Christ today.
Continue reading “The Growing Church”
David, man after God’s own heart, was God’s chosen man at a crucial time in Israel’s history. We can learn from him.
Of all the leaders in ancient Israel, the greatest are Moses, whom we have already discussed, and David, who is the subject of this article. David’s father was Jesse, the son of Obed and descendant of Boaz, a wealthy landowner. His ancestral lineage was through the line of Judah, a ruler among his people. David was Jesse’s youngest son, a shepherd boy, without the obvious potential of his older brothers. Nonetheless, David had a heart after God, and that enabled him to become the greatest king of Israel.
Israel had been ruled by judges for hundreds of years since conquering the Promised Land. Eventually, the people grew tired of local government and wanted a king to rule over them. Their choice was Saul, a man of the central tribe of Benjamin who was remarkable primarily for his good looks and his height (1 Samuel 9:2). The story of his rise to power in 1st Samuel is somewhat bizarre, but God gave him every chance to succeed. Unfortunately he had major flaws as a king and the Lord rejected him (1 Samuel 15:22-28). God sent Samuel to anoint a new king of His own choosing, sent him to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse, and here David, the unlikely leader, entered the stage.
Continue reading “David, an Example of Growth and Development in Leadership”