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Presentation 05. Introduction In the last fifty years more books have been written on the subject of ‘Church Growth’, than at any other period in the.

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Presentation on theme: "Presentation 05. Introduction In the last fifty years more books have been written on the subject of ‘Church Growth’, than at any other period in the."— Presentation transcript:

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3 Introduction In the last fifty years more books have been written on the subject of ‘Church Growth’, than at any other period in the church’s life. There are undoubtedly a number of reasons for this. Declining church membership, changing social patterns which have placed people under less pressure to attend church, a more positively, a growing interest in the mission of the church. For the moment let’s put to one side the reasons for this growth of interest. It is sufficient to recognise that the church is concerned with growth and how to achieve it. Presentation 05

4 Introduction Of course the church can grow in two ways. It can grow numerically and it can grow in the qualitatively, as its members mature in their discipleship. Ideally we should be concerned to see both develop hand in hand. However, the big question,which everyone wants answered is, “How is this growth achieved?” I believe that the passage before us, which describes the growth of the early church, is able to point us in the right direction. Presentation 05

5 A Past Hunger The essentials for a healthy church life listed here, all flow from apostolic doctrine. We wont understand what fellowship, prayer or the breaking of bread is, without reference the apostles’ teaching. These new converts longed to learn what was vital to their new found faith. You may think, ‘I am not interested in Christian doctrine. I’m not the kind of person it is aimed at!’ But apostolic doctrine was not intended for church theologians living in ivory towers but for ordinary people, many of whom were uneducated slaves. However, what they did possess was a appetite for instruction! Presentation 05

6 A Past Hunger Where is this hunger for instruction today? Is it not strange that professing Christians can spend hours, listening to closely argued political debates on TV, or engross themselves in demanding crossword puzzles, yet in their church service they do not want to be stretched beyond Sunday School level. A lack of appetite will ensure that we remain spiritual dwarfs and the church that we belong to is unlikely to grow. Of course, we need to ask, ‘What created this consuming desire for apostolic teaching?’ The answer is simple. The Holy Spirit had breathed new life into them and that new life was crying out to be fed. Presentation 05

7 A Past Hunger New born babies are very single minded, they are obsessed with food. They bawl until their hunger is satisfied. What is true in the natural realm has its parallel in the spiritual realm. Some time ago a man recently converted told me that since he had come to he’d been devouring his Bible. He was also reading every Christian book he could get his hands on. He wanted an explanation. The answer was simple, the new life that God had breathed into him was crying out for food. His was a normal Christian experience. This begs the question, ‘How genuine is my Christian profession if I have no appetite for God’s Word, if my heart and soul are not crying out to be fed?’ Presentation 05

8 A Preferred Substitute In some church circles it has been suggested that the hunger that God creates can be satisfied in other ways. And many Christians are roaming around looking for a spiritual fix. They go from conference to conference, meeting to meeting in their pursuit of a spiritual high - they are after a substitute from what they see to be the hard work of Bible study. The experiences that they pursue often have no doctrinal roots. I’ve heard people say, “It doesn’t matter what we believe as long as we share the same basic experience”. That is an extremely unsafe position to take! Presentation 05

9 A Preferred Substitute Such logic would have appalled the early church! Oh they had a common spiritual experience but it was grounded in apostolic teaching. Their new life was built on this vital doctrinal instruction. Of course there is nothing deader than dead orthodoxy, and nothing more chilling than cold, unctionless teaching. But once God’s truth be set on fire in your mind and heart, then you can rest secure in the knowledge that your spiritual experience will be built upon a solid yet living foundation. Presentation 05

10 A Preferred Substitute Some dismiss apostolic teaching for yet another reason. They say, ‘I have no time for Christian doctrine because I’m a very practical sort of person. I don’t mind rolling up my sleeves in the church but don’t ask me to stretch my mind’. That may sound very reasonable but it is a mistaken viewpoint. As far as the N.T. is concerned, Christian living flows out of Christian doctrine. Not only can you not have one without the other, but the one flows quite naturally out of the other. Presentation 05

11 A Preferred Substitute Belief conditions behaviour. Hitler realised this and his anti-semitic propaganda led the German people to ostracise, persecute and eventually to exterminate the Jews. Behaviour follows belief. If you believe that ‘might is right’ then you will throw your weight around in order to accomplish your objective without giving any thought to the harm done to others in the process. If you believe that ‘the end justifies the means’ then you wont mind lying or killing to gain a particular end etc. Do you see what I mean about our behaviour flowing from belief? It plays out its own version of follow the leader! Presentation 05

12 A Preferred Substitute The way in which Christians behave is determined by what their minds soak up. The apostles exhortation to Christian practice flows out of doctrinal teaching. E.g. The church at Philippi had a problem - selfishness, ‘Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.’ 2v4, cf. 2v21 ‘For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.’ What did Paul do? He aimed at their understanding and expounded the doctrine of Christ’s self emptying. Having expounded the doctrine, only then did he exhort them to deal with the practical issues surrounding their selfishness. Presentation 05

13 The Effect Of Doctrinal Teaching Did apostolic instruction make any difference to the behaviour of these early converts in Jerusalem? Yes! In addition to those characteristics that we will shortly examine, there are two points worthy of note. First apostolic teaching made them responsive to the needs of others. A great number of Jewish pilgrims had come up to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. They had not planned on a long stay. But then they heard the gospel, were converted, and wanted to stay on in order to learn more about the new life that was theirs. Presentation 05

14 The Effect Of Doctrinal Teaching But they ran out of cash and had no access to a telex or telephone to ask their bank manger to send them additional funding. So what happened? We read in v45 that the Christians living in the Jerusalem area sold some of their possessions to give to those who were in need. Can you imagine the reaction of the non Christian community in Jerusalem? “What are our neighbours thinking of? They must have really lost their minds to sell their possessions in order to help those who are complete strangers”. Presentation 05

15 The Effect Of Doctrinal Teaching This unusual generosity is the fruit of absorbing apostolic doctrine. These new converts could have responded to their critics saying; “these people are no longer strangers, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are now part of the family of God. Furthermore by giving to our brothers and sisters we are giving to Lord Jesus who gave himself for us”. Years later the apostle John reminded the church that true liberality is a spontaneous expression of Christian love. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth”. 1Jn. 3v17-18 Presentation 05

16 The Effect Of Doctrinal Teaching Secondly, note the influence of apostolic doctrine on the quality of their worship v47. There was nothing dull or mechanical about this worship. It was not limited to one hour in the week when they tried to crank themselves up to ‘make a joyful noise to the Lord’. The verb tense used here implies that their worship was both spontaneous and continuous. Now we must not confuse this type of worship with the whipping up of mere emotional froth that passes for worship in some circles today. Presentation 05

17 The Effect Of Doctrinal Teaching We should be suspicious of worship that bypasses the understanding and is a purely emotional response to external stimuli. Now it is of vital importance to grasp this, it was only as apostolic teaching gripped the minds and hearts of the believers, and as they understood what Christ had done for them and became aware of the rich provision of grace he has made for them, that worship sprang out of the depth of their being. The way to deepen and develop our worship of God is by allowing ourselves to be set on fire by apostolic doctrine. Presentation 05

18 Conclusion Have we begun to see how practical apostolic doctrine really is? Can we understand why it is so important to hunger after it? Our growth as individual Christians and as a fellowship of God’s people is dependant upon this. May our individual and corporate epitaphs be that, ‘devoted themselves to apostolic doctrine’. Presentation 05

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