|Vol. 12 No. 10 October 2010||
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
Do you believe that God’s plan will still work today? Do you believe that the Gospel is still as powerful as it was when it first thundered from heaven? Sadly, this author has heard, well-meaning brethren say, that the reason the church is not growing as it once did is because this world is full of sin and most folks have little desire for truth. Although it may seem like that at times, such is not the case today, for God’s book tells a different story. God has promised that if we sow the seed, His Word will not return unto Him void (cf. Isaiah 55:11)! We clearly see a world that was filled with sin in the first century, and yet, the Gospel still had an unwavering influence in the lives of many of the hearers.
Consider the city of Corinth, which was filled with idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards and many other prevalent sins that are common in a large melting pot metropolis of some 500,000 people (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11), and yet when Paul arrived with the Gospel, “many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). Another example of a sin-filled society in the first century is the city of Ephesus. Housing the Temple of Artemis (Diana according to her Roman name), which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient world, Ephesus was well known for its idolatrous silver shrines (cf. Acts 19:24) along with some of the most shameful and ungodly activities imaginable, especially in relation to the Temple of Diana. However, even in the midst of such lewdness and sinfulness, the Gospel changed many (cf. Acts 19:18-20)!
What caused the church to grow during such sinful times? Continued persistence was the key (cf. Acts 18:11, 19, 24-28; 19:8-10; et al.). Our first century brethren did not quit or slow down even in the face of difficult times (cf. Acts 8:4; 11:19; 14:2-7, et al.). Thus, if the church of this century is to emulate the church of the first century, we must be filled with continued persistence. What does continued persistence look like in a congregation of God’s people?
Continued persistence involves determination. Determination certainly characterized the church during its early days. When called into question regarding what they were teaching, Peter and John did not cower, shrink or even consider otherwise, but rather determined that “…we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). They were determined and resolved that no matter what came their way, Christ would be preached! Stephen was determined, even in the midst of a mean multitude, bogus bystanders and confrontational citizens to not quit (cf. Acts 6:9-15)! Are we really that determined?
Continued persistence involves diligence. Not only must we be determined, but we also must be diligent and hard working in spreading the message of Christ! Paul and Silas were so diligent that the leaders of the city of Philippi affirmed that these Jews “do exceedingly trouble our city” (Acts 16:20). It was later said in Thessalonica of Paul and his fellows that they are these “that have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). How many cases could be cited today where members of the Lord’s church meet each week and many residents of the community do not even know the church exists in that location? Some in such locations have the audacity to believe that they are real soldiers of Jesus Christ! What are we doing to really turn this sin-filled world upside down? Are we really diligent?
The Gospel is still as powerful as it ever was (Romans 1:16)! So then, why is the church is some locations barely hanging on? What would it take for the church of today to grow like the church of the first century? Clear proclamation, commanded programs, and continued persistence are God’s plan for church growth. God has given us a proven plan that will work (cf. Isaiah 55:1); we just have to passionately and daily implement it. May we begin our journey today – back to the basics!