Devoted to True Church Growth…

Dear Beloved in Christ
We know that the body of Christ throughout history has grown and remained strong
during times of divine blessing and also in the face of deadly persecution.
The New Covenant church began on the day of Pentecost as the Spirit of God was
pleased to first come down upon the apostles. While the Spirit rested on the 12
men, they preached “of the mighty deeds of God” in the known languages of those
Jews gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-11).
The result of the preaching was the first church growth movement ever. Those who
received the word of Peter and the apostles, having believed unto salvation,
were then subsequently baptized. Upon their baptism, we read in the word that an
approximate yet distinct number of about 3000 souls (persons) “were added that
day“ to the membership of the Jerusalem church (Acts 2:41). Those who were
granted union with Christ were also “joined” to the body of Christ in a way that
could be counted.
This new and unique body of people was formed in light of a like-minded
profession of faith upon having received the word from the apostle Peter.
Believers who received the word were the only ones who “were added” to the
church that day.
We also read that this body of believers was devoted to doctrine, fellowship,
the breaking of bread, and prayers (2:42). It is even quite probable that the
3000 numbered were only men, and that many more women also believed on that day.
My first question to you is this, “Are you ‘devoted’ to the life or your church
body?”
I hope that you view “church membership” as something vital not only to your
walk with the Lord, but also to the benefit of the local body that you join.
Many men have just as many ideas how to “grow” the church. Numbers are the main
goal for many of the “church growth” gurus of today. But God’s way to grow His
church in “numbers” that reflects true life in Christ is in a different way.
As is common when a body of people united and devoted in these four pillars of
Christian practice come together, the Lord chose to bless them. We have the
divine means employed by God through this body. The end of verse 47 tells us
that this new and distinct group of believers who had been baptized and added to
the church was found “having favor with all the people. “ Let me just say it –
HOW COOL!!!
And what does the rest of the verse tell us? “And the Lord was ADDING TO THEIR
NUMBER day by day those who were being saved.”
I think we can see two patterns that developed probably within that first week.
In the first pattern, we first see the preaching occur. Second, we see the work
of Holy Spirit in the saving of His people. Third, we read of the profession of
salvation (implied) that was accompanied by water baptism. These three
intertwined events are summarized in the “adding” that day into distinct
membership. And the tangible evidence that a real number of believers were added
was the distinct number given of about 3000 persons. These men mutually
identified themselves with the congregation at Jerusalem.
How else did the New Covenant community grow?
In the second pattern we first see the devotion of this new body. We read that
they were devoted to four Christian practices; the doctrine (teaching) of the
apostles, fellowship in the Spirit with one another, the breaking of bread from
house to house, and private and corporate prayer. Second, we see the effects
that these four disciplines had on the body as well as the community. Devoted
saints were used by God to grow His body.
Granted, the Lord doesn’t give all the saints the same and equal amounts of
giftedness, BUT, we do see that “they were continually devoting themselves” to
these things as a church body. And the blessings surely followed;
The saints felt reverence and awe (v. 43). The appointed men of God were
diligent in their callings and gifts (v. 43). There was true biblical unity with
“all things in common” (v. 44). They were a body that were willing to share with
all, “as anyone might have need” (v. 45). They worshipped together and had
fellowship together on a daily basis with hearts of sincerity and gladness (v.
46). They were praising God together as a body and even those outside the body
really liked this new group of people (v. 47).
Every verb in verses 43 through 47 in the text (in the imperfect tense)
indicates to us that what the believers were doing refers to a continuous or
linear action in a past time. Once the actions detailed in verses 43 through 47
started, they did not stop!
Here is my next question, “Do you desire to grow the church God’s way?
Large numbers don’t make a church godly or Christ like. The cults are proof of
that. But we do see that after that initial growth spurt of some 3000 men, the
body of believers, indwelled by the Spirit of God, engaged in four serious
disciplines. Four disciplines and practices appear from the text to be the means
that the Lord was pleased to use in “adding” even more “to their [existing]
number day by day.”
Here is another question, “If you do desire to use God’s means to grow His
universal church in general, and your local church in particular, have you
committed yourself to these four Christian disciplines?”
I know the words “discipline” and “duty” are not widely embraced in
“evangelicalism,” but the example here in scripture is clear and irrefutable.
Those in the apostolic church “continually devoted themselves” to these things.
The Greek happens to be really strong in verse 42. This new group of distinct
believers “continually devoted themselves” to the daily walk of the true
believer. They began in it, and pressed on with clear purpose of mind, heart,
and will every single day. Nothing could take away their attention from these
fours disciplines. Commitment to these things at the heart level for the sake of
the body bound them together.
Today, people devote themselves to all sorts of good things on a daily basis
like breathing, eating, talking, and thinking. We might laugh at this example,
but if we really stopped “devoting ourselves” to these things we would cease to
be human – literally! We would die! Breathing is just as much a part of our
human nature as is thinking. And so, continual devotion to doctrine, continual
devotion to fellowship, continual devotion to the breaking of bread with one
another, and continual devotion to prayer are also just as much a part of our
new natures in Christ. If the church will not continually devote herself to
these four, then her death is almost certain. We have the “Dark Age” as an
example. But after darkness came light! The spiritual Reformation of the church,
where the she began to devote herself to apostolic doctrine, was once again the
beginning of divine blessing. And the Lord never gives us a task in Christ
without the means to accomplish them.
Have you “glued” yourself to a local church body?
Amen, if you say yes!
Have you also committed yourself to growing the local body (and therefore the
universal body) of Christ by using His means?
You don’t have to have the ability to perfectly exegete the most difficult Greek
and Hebrew texts in order to be useful to your local body. If all you could do
was read a bible story to little boys, imagine how many little “Spurgeons” and
“Baxters” and “Pinks” and “Whitefields” you could be preparing for ministry! His
ten sisters taught Jonathan Edwards, America’s greatest theologian, English,
Latin, Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic by the age of five! His sisters did what they
were called to do – teach their little brother. Nothing more. Nothing less. And
using those young women, God was pleased to wake up America from her deep
spiritual sleep.

And so, during that era also, “the Lord was adding to their number day by day
those who were being saved.”
Do you desire to participate in God’s way of church growth?
Then, beloved, I would encourage you to also “continually devote” yourselves to
these four means that God was pleased to use in the apostolic church to grow the
numbers of His body. We also saw it during the Reformation, and also again and
again in this country.
May the Lord grant us “continual devotion” for His glory,

Walter Ortiz

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