“The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers” (Acts 9:31, NLT).
With the conversion of Saul (vs. 9:1-19), the Jewish persecution of the Church declined and during this hiatus the Church grew in strength and numbers.
There are three principles of church growth we can glean from this verse:
1. For the Church to grow, its members must live “in the fear of the Lord.” We often define this fear as having respect or reverence for God, but I don’t think that definition goes far enough to impact anybody’s lifestyle. A Christian who fears the Lord is one who holds God in such awe that it becomes necessary to submit or subject one’s life to the rule and reign of God.
The fear of the Lord is awe-inspired obedience to God. Paul described this behavior in 2 Corinthians 5:11: “Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others.”
2. Numerical growth of the Church must be accompanied by the spiritual development of its members. We live in a time when we measure churches by how big they are, not how strong they are. This verse clearly measured the vitality of the Church by its spiritual development.
Is the spiritual development of its members a vital part of the ministry of your church? Too often our churches are full of believers who have been forgiven of their sins but do not have power over sin.
3. The Holy Spirit must lead the Church. While the first two principles on this church growth list are things Christians do, this third one is clearly an action or activity of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit must encourage us–guide and direct us–into finding more believers for the Church. The Holy Spirit is our Advisor, no our Leader. He conveys truth from God and reveals what Jesus wants us to do (John 16:13-15).
Because of the abundance of programs we often “program” the Holy Spirit right out of church leadership and decision-making.
Let us diligently seek to listen and hear what the Holy Spirit is telling us both individually and collectively so that we may grow the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.
“And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” (Ephesians 1:3, NLT)