We come to the last distinguishing mark of the infant Christian church in this series. This series does not give an exhaustive list of distinguishing marks, only those listed in the first major snapshot of the infant Christian church given to us in the Book of Acts (Acts 2:42-47).
The last mark consists not of what the church did but of what the Lord did in the church. “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47).”
Numerical growth can be a dubious marker. On one hand, a healthy church ought to see growth. On the other hand, even unhealthy churches can grow.
Attractional churches rely on gimmicks, marketing, and the offering of “spiritual goods” to draw people to their churches. These churches can be incredibly successful in drawing people in but dismal in producing disciples that proclaim, demonstrate, and live out the gospel message. Jesus did not say go and draw people into a church but go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Filling pews without making disciples of Christ does not make a healthy church.
Nevertheless, churches that devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of the bread, prayer, and radical generosity ought to expect to grow numerically. They grow not because they have a good business model, per say, but because they embody Christ’s presence on earth, drawing people toward Christ himself.
The infant church grew in leaps and bounds. After Peter’s Pentecost sermon, about three thousand people were added to the number of believers that day (Acts 2:41). That is nearly the entire population of Wellsboro. A similar event happened in Wellsboro in 1872, when 78 people made a profession of Christ after a revival unity service between the Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists. At the time the population of Wellsboro was less than 400.
A few months after Pentecost, well over 5,000 people believed (Acts 4:4). The church grew so fast in those early years that within a couple centuries this minority religion in the Roman Empire became the majority. All over the globe pockets of revival are taking place even as I type these words.
Growth represents the result of a healthy church. A church that is not growing – and it need not be rapid growth – can hardly be said to be doing her job of proclaiming and teaching this precious gospel to a world sick and in need of its healing balm.