How do you grow a successful church? This is a question whose answer has generated many books with a variety of approaches. And it is a question whose answer first demands the answer to a pair of related questions. What is a successful church, and what criteria are used to measure that success? And who is it that determines if it is successful?
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42-47 NIV
This passage gives us insight into what constitutes a successful church. Are people coming to know the Lord? And not just occasionally. This earliest church in Jerusalem experienced daily growth as “the Lord added to their number those being saved.” We are often guilty of measuring success by the size of our budget, how nice our facilities are, or the number of people attending our services. But God is more concerned about how many people’s lives are being changed. And his judgment is much more important than ours.
How to Be Successful as a Church
And that brings us back to the first question. What was this church doing to be so successful? Acts 2:42-47 gives us the answer to that question. They were hanging out together. They were spending time learning the truths of the faith and praying together. There was no one in need among them because they were taking care of each other. In short, they demonstrated love for God and each other. And the community around them took note, found their lives attractive, and wanted what they had.
I have seen the truth of that in my own life. I came to know the Lord because I found the lives of other believers to be attractive. And I wanted what they had. Shortly after, I was deployed with the Navy and found myself with a group of other young believers. We hung around together, studied the Bible together, and grew close. We didn’t know a lot about how organized churches functioned. But I believe we were a successful church, even though we never called ourselves that.
You may be inclined to say that this is impractical in today’s busy world. Jobs, family, and other things demand much of our time and energy. And that is true. But it was true for this early church as well. But for them, spending time together and growing in the faith was a significant priority, it was important to them. I can’t help but wonder what our churches today would be like if we were as excited about being the church as they were.