Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:
And. . . holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. (Colossians 2:19)
After a new church has been planted, it must experience growth following the New Testament pattern of multiplication. This is necessary if the Church is to become a vital force of evangelism in its own community as well as the world. This chapter explains the four types of growth every church should experience: Internal, expansion, extension, and bridging growth.
When we speak of internal growth of the Church, we are referring to the spiritual growth and development of its members. The Church grows spiritually in proportion to the growth of its individual members.
Paul referred to this process, comparing it to internal growth in the natural body:
The “increase of God” refers to spiritual growth. As members grow spiritually, the Church experiences internal growth. The entire Body is nourished and increases with the increase of God. Spiritual growth is an increase in spiritual maturity which results in the development of the Christ-life in the believer. It is growth in the knowledge of Jesus:
It is growth in Jesus:
Spiritual growth means decrease of self and increase of the life of Christ in you:
Spiritual growth does not come automatically as a result of the length of time one has been a believer. It is the result of the development of the Christ-life in a believer.
Evidences of spiritual growth include:
Growth is the natural result of life. If there is spiritual life in a church, internal growth will result as well as expansion, extension, and bridging growth.
Expansion growth occurs when believers win new converts to Christ and bring them into fellowship with their own local church. This results in numeric growth of the local church. Expansion growth should be directed at increasing the Kingdom of God. If Second Church adds 100 members from First Church through transfer of membership, Kingdom growth has not occurred. There has been an increase in membership at Second Church but no expansion of the Kingdom of God. Kingdom growth only occurs as new converts are won to Jesus and discipled to become responsible members of the Body of Christ.
Expansion growth of the church is illustrated in the book of Acts:
The Church began in an upper room with a small band of 120 disciples. On the Day of Pentecost, 3,000 were added to the Jerusalem church:
After Pentecost, expansion growth occurred on a daily basis:
The number of men in the Jerusalem church grew to 5,000. This count did not include the women and children who were part of the church:
Eventually, multitudes were added to the church:
The word added was first used to describe the expansion of the church. Soon the growth became so rapid that the word “multiplied” was used:
From this point on, the book of Acts stresses the multiplication of churches as well as members of the local Jerusalem church. New churches were planted in every heathen center of the then- known world in less than 40 years. For example, in Samaria. . .
The churches in Judaea, Galilee, Samaria, Lydda, Sharon, and Joppa all experienced expansion growth:
And all that dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and turned to the Lord.
And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord. (Acts 9:35,42)
There was growth in the church at Antioch (Acts 11:21,24,26); Iconium (Acts 14:1); Derbe (Acts 14:20-21); Galatia (Acts 16:5); Philippi (Acts 16:14); Thessalonica (Acts 17:4); Berea (Acts
17:12); and Corinth (Acts 18:8-11). The church expanded by:
-Spiritual Vision: John 4:25
-Ministering In Receptive Areas And Times: Matthew 10:5-6,14; Acts 9:20-31; 16:6
-A “Go” Rather Than “Come” Methodology: They went to the people instead of waiting for them to come to the church.
-Every Believer Reproducing: Acts 8:4
-Using Social Networks: Members won relatives and friends. The Gospel spreads most rapidly along existing social networks.
-Using The Methods Of Jesus: Throughout the book of Acts, the early Church used methods taught and demonstrated by Jesus. They preached the Gospel, taught the Word, baptized new believers, and trained new disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).
-New Testament Groups: Groups were important in New Testament expansion. Paul taught a special group of disciples in an extension school (Acts 19:9). On occasion, Paul taught segregated groups of Jews and Gentiles (Acts 13:42). Small groups met in homes (Acts 12).
-Each Home Became A Center Of Evangelism: Every home became a center for prayer, preaching, teaching, healing, and deliverance.
-The Ministry Of The Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit is the power which convicts sinful men and women and persuades them to accept the Gospel message. This results in new converts which leads to expansion of the church.
-Spiritual Gifts: Human growth requires the development of a skeletal structure to support the multiplication of cells. For the Body of Christ to grow, structure is equally important. Jesus said the harvest is ripe, but laborers are few. If laborers are few, then they should be organized effectively to reap the harvest.
Extension growth occurs when a church starts another church in a similar culture. The new church is an extension of the “mother” church, just as a child in the natural world is a physical extension of the parents. The record of extension in the book of Acts reveals churches were started by the Jerusalem church in Judaea, Galilee, Lydda, Sharon, and Joppa. These were all similar Jewish cultures.
There are four ways a new Church is started:
In each of these, multiplication occurs through extension of the Gospel by forming a new Body of believers.
New churches may be three different types of extensions:
These are churches established to minister to a specific community, village, or area in a city. They may be the result of evangelism which has raised up a group of new believers in a certain area. They may be established to minister in an unreached or responsive area.
These fellowships minister to a specific ethnic group who share the same culture,
ancestry, and language. For example, a church might be started for people who speak Spanish and cannot understand the English speaking “mother” Church services. Other examples would be a church for Asians in a refugee camp or for Indians on an American reservation.
A church may be established for a special purpose. For example, a church may be planted near a college to minister specifically to the students.
Bridging growth occurs when a church extends across national, linguistic, or ethnic gaps to plant a new church in a different culture. The term “bridging” is used because when this process occurs a “bridge” is created from one culture to another to communicate the Gospel.
Modern means of transportation and communication have greatly advanced the potential of the church for bridging growth in even the most remote areas. Bridging growth was part of the plan of the Lord Jesus for extending the Gospel throughout the world. The disciples were to begin their witness in their own culture at Jerusalem and then expand to plant churches in other areas of similar culture. Next, the disciples were to bridge national, linguistic, and racial gaps to spread the Gospel in cultures different from their own to places such as Samaria and the “uttermost parts of the world” (Acts 1:8). The disciples immediately fulfilled the command to multiply within their own culture (Acts 2). Extension to the other regions of similar culture came as a result of persecution:
Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the Word. (Acts 8:1,4)
Philip first bridged the cultural gap in the revival in Samaria recorded in Acts 8. Peter and John continued the ministry in that area. The Apostle Peter had some difficulty in accepting the commission to work cross culturally. He was a devout Jew and previously had limited contact with Gentiles (other non-Jewish) nations. God spoke to Peter in a vision recorded in Acts 10 and then Peter took the Gospel to the Gentiles in Caesarea. Bridging growth in the New Testament is best illustrated by the ministry of the Apostle Paul. God called Paul specifically to this ministry. Paul was Jewish, yet God told him he was:
PRIORITIES FOR CHURCH PLANTING
You previously studied the priorities for evangelizing. The priorities for church planting are identical. According to the New Testament record, priority in starting extension churches should be given to unreached people groups, responsive areas, cities first and then rural areas.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]