Church growth is a hot topic these days. There is an abundance of books, literature, and articles on the subject. Many seem to convey they have found the latest and greatest approach for church growth. I will agree that much of what I have read and considered is thought provoking. I truly believe the majority of writers are earnest in their desire for church growth and are genuinely sincere in their approach. The problem is, there seems to be no real consensus. I know that churches are different, just like the communities in which they reside. What works in some instances, may or may not work in others. However, shouldn't there be an approach that would work across the board, regardless of where you are or the culture you are trying to reach?
I am convinced there is, but it won't necessarily be found in the latest church growth book or article. We know the church is not our buildings or facilities; it is the body of Christ, the believers. Surely since our Lord built and ordained the church, He would have something beneficial to say concerning church outreach and growth. He does in fact; we need not look any further than the book of Acts. I am certain we need to consider the biblical model if we are to experience church growth.
Consider Acts 2: 42 - And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. This reveals the model for church growth. It is not complicated, but it is biblical. The early church's success was based on a four point model. Let's break this down. First of all we notice:
1. An Emphasis on the Word - They continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine. Simply they taught and preached the Word. This was the priority. They focused on the Word.
It seems as if the Word is no longer the emphasis in many approaches today. If the Word is not emphasized, there will be no spiritual depth, and little lasting growth. Other means may appeal to the desires people have, but they will never create lasting, effective growth.
2. Worship - They also continued steadfastly in breaking of bread. This speaks of their observance of the Lord's Supper. They remained close the cross and the empty tomb. They worshiped the Lord for the sacrifice He made in order to secure salvation and rejoiced in the hope afforded believers by His resurrection.
Genuine worship cannot be ignored if we are to experience church growth. I know each church sets aside time every Sunday morning for the "worship service," but we must ensure our worship is genuine. Worship must include a time when we are overwhelmed by the mercy and grace of our Lord. We don't have to partake of the Lord's Supper every service, but we must come with a desire for and commitment to worship! We must exalt the Lord and make much of Him rather than our focus being placed upon those who participate in the service, or the physical needs of others.
3. Fellowship - They also continued steadfastly in fellowship. They genuinely loved each other and enjoyed each other's company. They looked forward to gathering with those of like faith on Sunday morning.
Fellowship involves many aspects, but one of the greatest is a sense of belonging. Individuals connect with one another because of their shared position in Christ. There is a sense of gratitude and concern for one another.
Fellowship isn't immediate, it must be worked on and worked at. People may gather together each Sunday, but simply coming together doesn't necessarily create fellowship. It has the idea of "participation, literally to share in." It allows people to feel connected. It allows them to feel as if they genuinely belong.
Creating an atmosphere of fellowship is essential to church growth. I read somewhere recently that folks who visit our churches will make up their minds within the first ten minutes of their arrival whether they will return or not. Church growth will never happen if folks never come back. Now, think about the initial ten minutes after arrival. They haven't heard the choir sing. They haven't heard the preacher preach. They likely haven't even heard a prayer prayed. They have had an opportunity to consider the facilities and whether they look appealing. They have had an opportunity to be greeted and welcomed into the service or be completely ignored. Creating an atmosphere of fellowship is essential for first time visitors especially.
4. Prayers - This one should go without saying, but we need to be reminded. They continued steadfastly in prayers. They prayed unto the Lord. They knew the church was totally dependent on Him. They couldn't imagine gathering without having taken time to pray prior to their arrival. They were continually praying for the church and the work they were called to do.
If we are to experience church growth, we must be committed to prayer. A brief prayer on Saturday night or Sunday morning will not suffice. We must live in an attitude of prayer daily! If our churches are to grow, God will be the One to give the increase. Let us seek Him in prayer for such an increase!
The people had a simple plan for church growth, but it was very effective. Acts 2:46-47 - 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,  Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. God blessed their faithfulness. This approach may not resemble many of the approaches being promoted today, but it is guaranteed success. This biblical approach will work. May we be faithful to the New Testament model for church growth!