Church Growth; August 11, 2018

Acts 2:41-42 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Many English Bibles include a heading between verses 41 and 42. Often such headings are helpful, particularly when you’re trying to find a particular passage, but here I think it distracts from a very important point. 3,000 people were baptized, but they immediately entered into training in what it is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We are all too prone to “dip ’em and drop ’em,” when that can do major damage to them even on the eternal scale. Many churches require baptismal preparation classes, but then require very little after baptism. I find that to be the reverse of the Biblical pattern! The 3,000 people baptized here did know the circumstances of Jesus’ crucifixion, as well as being believers in the Old Testament, but the Philippian jailer and his household had no such background. (Acts 16) There it simply says that “He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.” (Acts 16:30-33) That would have been no more than a couple of hours of instruction at the most. What happened there was the same thing that happened in Jerusalem after Pentecost: new believers were plugged into the fellowship, and learned both by hearing and by example. In America, “rugged individuality” is seen as something of an ideal, but the Bible knows very little of that. Often we have to go against the flow of society as a whole because it’s so polluted, as it is today, but solitary believers are very much against the Biblical pattern. James cautioned that not many should be teachers, (James 3:1) but Paul, the greatest teacher after Jesus recorded in the Bible, said, “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:26) As a general pattern, he told believers to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16) In other words, everyone taught everyone else. That brings us back to the Day of Pentecost. The 120 believers who had experienced the tongues of fire would have been hard put to baptize 3000 people, and it would have been out of the question for the 11 apostles. What comes across to me is that as someone was baptized, they then turned around and baptized the next person. There was no clergy/laity divide at all. That divide, loosened by Martin Luther but still all too present, has been a horrible drag on the Church down through the centuries since Constantine.

Since I am counted as “clergy” by the world at large, this is quite an issue for me. I have sought to avoid formal titles in this church, but I’ve slipped up in some more important areas. I’m not good at delegation, and all too often I take the easy way out (in the short term) of doing the work myself. That isn’t the Biblical pattern! Thankfully, Cathy and I will be gone for a weekend next month, and then for at least two weekends in March, so the church will have some good practicum in Biblical Christianity. I do need to prepare them for it, but then, that’s my job. (Ephesians 4:12) With a new, adult believer, I have an excellent opportunity to correct some of the things I’ve done wrong over the years. I must be both humble and diligent, but God is more than able to bring success.

Father, thank You for laying things out so clearly. Help me follow through! I ask for wisdom and anointing at every step, and faith to leave things in Your hands, so that Your plans and not mine may be fulfilled, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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