“And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number.” (Acts 5:14, NASB)
I know that I am being myopic at this moment. I know that as I write this devotion thousands of people are being added to the Church in South America and Africa on a daily basis. But in my lifetime, I have not witnessed such a movement in the churches and communities where I have lived. For years I belonged to a century-old church body that has been decreasing in numbers for the last 50 years or more. So, as I type I am asking myself why my church body/community isn’t experiencing such powerful movement of the Holy Spirit. A few years ago we began Firmly Rooted Worship, and I would have to say that today I am beginning to see the amazing growth that the Holy Spirit can work within His church. But what is different today that we’re not seeing that monumental movement of the early Church on a regular basis?
As I ponder this question, two answers weigh heavily on my heart. First, we have a tendency to think the church is for us. We tend to treat it like a country club. We join the club, we pay our dues, and we expect the club to provide us a service. At the end of the day it is all about us. I don’t think that is the view of the church that these early disciples had. I think they saw the church as more like a training facility for rescue workers and emergency physicians. The church for the early believer was a launching pad into the world. In contrast, I think we see it as an escape from the world. Second, I’m not sure we really believe the Bible is true. We have robbed the Scriptures of their power because we don’t believe them to be true enough to direct the course of our lives. We like the thoughts of love and forgiveness, but we don’t take seriously the directive to seek and to save the lost. Just look at most church budgets. Eighty percent to 90% of most church budgets is for wages and facility management. We are fortunate if 5%-10% of a church’s budget is for evangelism.
We need to recommit ourselves to the word of God. We have to accept its imperatives just as much as we accept its proclamations. We need to accept Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations as our No. 1 priority. We need to go to our churches to be fed and nourished, and then launch ourselves into the world we live in. We need to be witnesses for the kingdom of God. We need to tell the world around us what we have seen, heard and experienced from the King of that kingdom, Jesus Christ.