Acts 2:37-47 37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
What a wonderful day God gave us last Sunday on Next Step Sunday. It is a joy to see Christians taking the next step in their spiritual journey. As we close out our Next Step Series, we want to look at the most exciting aspect of taking the next step. What is the result of following Jesus whole-heartedly? What will this change in your life? What impact will taking the next step have on you and on our church?
The truth is, as we take the next step, the impact is great. In some cases, the impact is immeasurable until we get to Heaven. As we look at the next steps of the first church, picture what kind of church Franklin Road would be if everyone were growing. Picture how your relationships would change. Picture how your class or your desire to get to church would change. All of these things come as a result of the working of the Spirit and our obedience in taking the next step.
Let’s look at how taking the next step, impacts our lives and the life of our church:
When we take the next step, there is growth.
In any arena of life, we desire growth. We desire physical growth for our children and sometimes for ourselves. We may change our diet or exercise to see this growth. We desire financial growth. We will create budgets and open different accounts to ensure we stay within those budgets. We desire growth in our jobs. We work harder and seek approval from superiors to see growth in our work lives. To put it simply, “Anything that is not growing, is dying!” When something or someone fails to grow, a problem is recognized and steps are taken to revive this growth.
While many evaluate their growth in areas of life, few Christians ever evaluate their spiritual growth. The first time we see people within the first church taking the next steps, we see growth. The Bible particularly points out two types of growth in verses forty-one and forty-two:
A. There is numerical growth.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the church growth movement began to evolve. Many churches were excited about the opportunity for growth in the midst of a degrading culture. Some churches saw much success and were able to grow numerically during this time. Eventually the desire for numerical church growth created, the seeker-sensitive movement in the 80s and 90s. Once again, many churches saw numerical growth as a result of this movement as well. Both of these models have not only shown drastic failures, but have completely changed the landscape of church ministry in today’s culture (that’s another lesson or even another series for a different time).
As an Independent Baptist Church, we would renounce both the church growth model and the seeker-sensitive model. As a church who is seeking to become established in our faith, what we must recognize from the book of Acts is that church growth is not only possible, but expected when people are being challenged to take the next step. Have you ever realized that God has never given us model that does not work? There is no other man-made principle or book needed outside of God’s Word for the church to see growth! When God’s plan isn’t working, we can be assured that fault is not found in Him, rather found in how we are working the plan.
For over sixty years, Franklin Road Baptist Church has remained faithful to the preached Word of God and the reaching of others with the Gospel. No other Biblical model guarantees numerical growth than the one given to us by Jesus. The failure comes when we focus on just the numbers and not the growth behind the numbers like we see in verse forty-two which leads us to the second and foundational form growth.
B. There is spiritual growth.
Unfortunately, numbers are the only means God has given us to track our growth. Sometimes, we mistake a large number for a great work. What numbers cannot show is spiritual growth. Following the large number given in verse forty-one, we see that this church was growing numerically because they were growing spiritually! We cannot flip-flop the order of these two forms of growth.
One of the self-confessed problems of the church growth and seeker-sensitive movements is, “Numerical growth did not translate to spiritual growth and maturity.” Basically, the numbers were big, but the work was shallow.
The greatest impact of taking the next step is that there is growth. For just a second, let’s take a quick flyover of the Christian life. This flyover could bring back some memories or even bring to remembrance some things you have stopped doing:
The first step for every Christian is salvation. Can you recall the excitement you experienced when you got saved? You wanted to tell everyone! Then you got baptized, and that was another wonderful day in your Christian life. You were probably nervous and excited all at the same time. Now you’ve been saved and baptized and you are trying to learn God’s Word. Do you remember the difficulty of reading something you didn’t understand? Can you recall the first time you opened God’s Word and found something exciting for yourself? Then, you shared the Gospel with someone or served in ministry that saw someone get saved. Remember how it thrilled your soul to see others saved and even baptized. What’s next? Does the Christian life stop after we’ve taken these steps?
For most Christians, we stop taking steps after we feel that we’ve taken the big ones. Remember, “If we aren’t growing, we’re dying.” The wonderful picture we see in the book of Acts is that as people grew spiritually, the numerical growth took care of itself. As we take the next steps as a church family, we will see spiritual growth. The Lord handles the numerical! Not one time in Scripture do we see a church decision made based on numerical growth. Even in Acts 6 when the care of widows became too much for the disciples, the decision was made to help these men stay in God’s Word in verse four and the result was more spiritual growth which resulted in more numerical growth.
So, what does this mean for you? What does this mean for your life? For most Christians, spiritual growth is rarely evaluated or even challenged because it is difficult to track. Sometimes, we feel that because we haven’t reached a certain number of people, we are failing at the Christian life. God never places a minimum number or maximum number on the Christian life-just obedience to the next step. The impact of growth in your life should cause you to continually search for the next step in your faith.
What is God working on you about right now? How can you ensure that you are taking steps to follow Jesus Christ? Are there any programs or classes you need to enroll in here to continue to grow? As we make a commitment to spiritual growth in our church, the Lord will take care of the numerical growth as a result. In age and culture where it is easy to set spiritual growth aside for the sake of numerical growth, we must commit to doing one and allowing God to handle the other.
When we take the next step, there is unity.
As you read through the book of Acts, you will notice one characteristic of the local church throughout the book – their unity. Several times, the Holy Spirit inspires the writer, Luke, to show the unity of the first church. Words and phrases like “unified,” “together,” “one accord,” and more are used to show this unity.
Today, many have mistook unity as a the setting aside of all doctrine, beliefs, and mission for the sake of unity. Unity is anything but the removal of these things. Intact, these facets are crucial to unity because it what we unify around. As we look at the unity of the local church that came as a result of taking the next step, we need to notice three facets of their unity:
A. There was unity in beliefs.
Someone once said, “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.” While many churches in today’s culture have chosen to set doctrine and beliefs aside for the purpose of growth, they have failed to see that the very thing they are taking away is the one of the unifying factors found in the Word of God.
Chances are, you are not in a close relationship with someone who believes similar to you. You may have a co-worker who does not believe exactly like you, but you can get along and be cordial, but you do not have a close personal relationship with someone who disagrees with your belief system. Why is that? It is human nature to associate with those who believe like you do.
When we set beliefs aside for the sake of unity, then we have to ask ourselves what are we unifying around? If we don’t believe in the same Jesus and the same Gospel, what are we fighting for? Why are we together?
The Lord has given the model of the local church as a means to reach the world. As we take the next steps as a church family, our goal is that we would unify just like this first church. Not that our unity would be around favorite teams or a common interest, but that our unity would be built around Jesus Christ and the doctrines found in Scripture. This does not mean that we become inclusive, rather, we become a refueling station for those who are saved to be effective as they go into the world.
The Bible teaches us what this should look like in Hebrews 10:24-25
Hebrews 10:24-25 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Unity is a must, but if we fail to unify around God’s Word, we will stand for nothing, and eventually fall for anything.
B. There was unity in possessions.
Because everyone was on the same page doctrinally, it was natural that this church come together to give of their possessions for the good of everyone. While the needs of the members of the local church have changed throughout the years, the sacrifice required to fulfill those needs have not.
It may be that the next step for your Christian life is the giving of yourself (your time, talents, and treasures). When you are unified in your beliefs, it is easy to love a brother and sister in Christ and sacrifice for their growth. When we are unified in our beliefs, it is easy to recognize a need of the church.
The Lord has blessed Franklin Road over the years with giving members. We praise the Lord for how he has supplied our needs over the years. Our unity in sacrificing together for the furtherance of the Gospel leads us to the last facet of unity found in Acts 2.
C. There was unity in mission.
Many people unify under their beliefs which causes them to unify their possessions and resources for the good of those beliefs, but few people under the same beliefs and possessions unify in a mission. It is one thing to believe the same and act upon those beliefs; it is a completely different thing to unify in a mission because of those beliefs!
As a Christian, we have been given a mission to reach the world with the Gospel of Christ. Unifying in beliefs and giving toward that mission are just the precursors to involving ourselves in the mission.
When we unify under a common mission, we will begin to notice that we will sacrifice and believe that the mission is possible. By yourself, the Great Commission is impossible, but unifying under the mission of the Great Commission makes it possible when those who are unified in beliefs sacrifice for the mission.
3. When we take the next step, there is favor.
Throughout Scripture, certain men, women, and groups were shown a certain portion of favor because of their work. In this passage, we see that the early church received favor as a result of the steps taken in the previous verses. We see two types of favor shown to this early church:
A. There is the favor of men.
In verse forty-seven, favor is shown from all people to this early church. It must be noted that these Christians lived in a very anti-Christian society so for them to be shown favor from “all people” was a total change.
As we minister in an increasingly anti-God and anti-Christian culture ourselves, we must understand that favor comes from man as we take steps. Isn’t it funny that even the world recognizes that Christians should be growing? When the lost fail to see a change in a Christian, we fail to see any favor from man.
As we take the next steps and see favor from man, God shows His favor in ways that only He can.
B. There is the favor of God.
While we understand that this early church received the favor of man, we never quite see what that meant or how it played out. While the favor of God is never said to be shown, it is evident they had the attention of their Heavenly Father based on the last phrase of verse forty-seven.
God was in control of showing favor to this church. He not only blessed them with the favor of men, but he also blessed them with His favor. Imagine a church in today’s culture who was seeing people saved on a daily basis. Could God still do this today? Could God show His favor on an entire church, once again? He can! He shows His favor and turns the favor of men to the church who is continually taking steps toward Him.
As we seek to take steps toward becoming more established, we do not know the impact it will have in five to ten years, but we do know it will have an impact. Whenever Satan comes along to freeze your walk with God, would you find motivation in the impact you could have as you follow Jesus wholeheartedly? Would you find motivation in the growth of your spiritual walk? Of the unity found in beliefs and mission? Of the favor God bestows on your life? Find the impact you are making as you take the next step and all it to motivate you to continue.