A Healthy, Growing Church


Series: Acts

Passage: Acts 6:1-7

Speaker: BJ Chursinoff

In this message, we’ll examine 4 marks of a healthy, growing church. We can observe each of them on the Early Church in the Book of Acts. And by God’s grace, we will see these same marks on the local church today.

Transcription (automatically-generated):

Every single child is a gift from God. They are absolutely priceless.

We love our kids, and because we love them, we want them to grow up and to be healthy. We value children so much that we want this to happen for kids who aren't even our kids. We want this to happen even if we don't have any kids of our own. We want every child in the world, no matter who they are or who they belong to. We want them to grow up and to be healthy.

It would be weird if we didn't want that for our kids. It would be weird if we didn't want kids to grow up and be healthy because the opposite would mean that we would want them to be stunted in their growth and to be unhealthy. That would be weird if we wanted that for any child. So, because we want them to grow up and be healthy, there are markers we look for in our kids that indicate whether or not they are indeed growing up healthy. As they grow up, we check their weight and their height at various points to see if they are in a healthy range.

For the kids their age, we check to see if they are walking, talking, reading at the age they should be for a healthy development. If a child is too light or too heavy for their age, we take notice. If a child is too short or even too tall for their age, that could indicate that an issue needs to be examined. If a child is not walking or talking or reading by a certain age, we look into it further to see if everything is okay. Some issues that develop in our kids lives can be tended to.

And sometimes there are things that no matter what we do, the issues can't be addressed. But if there's anything that we can do for our kids to make sure that they grow up and be healthy, we do it, no matter what it may cost us, because we want our kids to grow up and to be healthy. It would be weird if we didn't want that. Now, I share all of that with you because we need the same understanding and motivation to shape the way that we view the church. The church is a gift from God, and Christians should want the church to grow up and to be healthy too.

It would be weird if christians didn't want that because what's the alternative to a healthy, growing church? An unhealthy church that's stunted in its growth? I guess that means some Christians are weird then, because some Christians don't mind if they have one or the other. There are some Christians who want the church to grow in numbers at almost any cost, but they don't really care if the church is healthy or not. All that matters to some Christians is numbers.

Are there more butts in the seats each week? This scenario is possible, by the way. There are many churches that are large and not healthy. But the flip side is true too. Some Christians want the church to be healthy, but if you pressed them, they would reveal that they don't really want the church to grow.

And their reasoning for not wanting the church to grow is that they like the closeness and the relational aspect that a small church provides for them. But I would suggest that it's not possible for a church to be healthy and remain small forever. At Gospel City. We want both. We want the church to grow, and we want her to be healthy.

Just like there are markers to help indicate the health of our kids as they grow up, there are markers to help indicate the health of a church. Gas is grows too. We can see what those markers are. We look at the church. Gas is is in the book of Acts.

In Acts chapter six, verses one to seven, we are given a picture of a healthy, growing church. And as we look at this church, we're going to be able to identify four marks that indicate healthy growth in it. If a church has all four of these markers in it, it will be growing and it will be healthy. But again, the flip side is true too. If any church lacks any of these markers, its growth will be stunted and symptoms of illness will be sure to follow.

So at this point in Acts, the church is growing like crazy. Acts six, verse one. The first verse in our text says, in those days, as the disciples were increasing in number through the first five chapters of Acts, the rapid growth of the church has been documented. Acts 241 says, those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 30 people were added to them. Acts 247 every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Acts 44. But many of those who heard the message believed, and the number of the men came to about 50. In Acts 514 says, believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers, multitudes of both amen and women. The church was growing daily. At this point in act six, there are tens of thousands of Christians in the church in Jerusalem.

When we grasp what's happening with the growth of the church here, our response shouldn't be that's cool. And then just move on without giving any second thought to it. We should be like, I want to see the church grow like that today. Why don't we see the church growing like that today? And how can we see growth like that in the church today?

Now, obviously, God was doing something incredible and special during those first few weeks and months of the church's life. He was establishing the church on the earth in Jerusalem. He was saving thousands on a seemingly weekly basis. So when we read about that special time, is it just exceptional history that has no application to the church today? Or is there anything that we can learn about church growth from the Book of Acts?

Let's take a look at how churches grow today and see if there's any crossover with how the church grew in the Book of Acts. First, we need to understand that there are several different ways that a local church can grow, and not all of those ways are equally good. There are okay ways that a church can grow, and there are some bad ways that a church can grow. And then there's the best way that a church can grow, which is obviously the way that we want to be most concerned with. Sometimes an increase in numbers is a sign of genuine growth, but sometimes a growth in numbers can deceive us into thinking there is real growth there when there isn't.

We need to be clear about what kind of church growth we want and need to see. And we pray that God will grow. Gospel City Church we pray that all the time. If, over time, the amount of people that fills this room on a Sunday night begins to grow, we will be able to attribute that growth to one or more of the following explanations. Second, once we see what the good way to church growth is, I want us to see what role we play in the facilitating of that growth.

So here are six different ways a local church can grow from bad to best. Number one, a local church can grow when visitors come to church for something other than Jesus, it's okay if the reason that you first come to church is for something other than Jesus. Initially, most people start out by coming for something other than Jesus. But if a person ends up ending church for years, but they never actually end up coming just for Jesus, then that's not good. During his earthly ministry, Jesus drew crowds, sometimes vast crowds.

But large crowds didn't mean that everyone came for him. Sometimes they came for stuff other than Jesus, the stuff that he gives them. There were a couple of times when Jesus performed a miracle, supplying a crowd of thousands with free bread and free fish to eat. The crowds loved the idea of getting free food from Jesus, so they came back the next day for some more food. But Jesus didn't give them more bread.

The next time they came, he gave them his word instead. He taught them heavenly truth. And what did they do when they received teaching from Jesus? Instead of free food, they left. Wow, free bread.

Jesus, you are the bomb. You should be our king. The next day Jesus says, eat my flesh and drink my blood. That's weird. Jesus, we're out of here.

People can come to church today for many things other than Jesus. Free food, friendship, feeling good. They want their problems fixed. Churches can offer free chances to win iPads or concert tickets. They can create some fun community events.

They could bring in a celebrity guest speaker. They can offer to pay your bills for the month or anything like that. And I bet you could get people in the doors of the church for those kinds of things. But if a person comes for these things, and these things are all they ever want, and they never want Jesus for who Jesus is, then they haven't been added to the church, even though church attendance might go up because of it. Number two, a local church can grow because of Christians church hopping.

Church hopping happens when Christians attend one church for a period of time, get bored or disillusioned with the church, and then leave to find a spiritual spark in another church. Once they get to the new church and the newness fades away, they leave for another one. In this case, different local churches in the same area will see increases and decreases over time. But if that fluctuation in attendance is because of church hoppers moving from one church to another, all these churches won't see increases at the same time or decreases at the same time. That's because one of their attendances is actually increasing while the other's is decreasing.

It's an optical illusion. It's due to Christians church hopping. And when this happens, Christians are just getting recycled from one church to another. When people go from church to church like this, the numbers in the church they just left drop, and the numbers of the new church they go to increase. But this isn't real growth.

It's just a spreading around of people who are already Christians who won't put their roots down in a local church for any length of time. Growth that comes by this means is deceiving. The big Seed church is not growing when this happens. And don't get too excited if church hoppers make their way to our church. I hope they love our church.

I hope they stay. I hope they put their roots down, I hope they get disciples. But chances are good that they will only be here for a short time too before they are off on their next church hopping adventure. Number three a local church can grow when Christians leave an unhealthy church to join a healthy one. Now, this isn't the same as church hopping.

This happens when a Christian has been faithfully attending and serving and giving to their home church for years sometimes before they realize that their soul is starving for the Word of God and for a community that gives itself to loving God by obeying his commands. And they come to the realization that the church they are in doesn't teach the Word and doesn't model obedience to it. We never want Christians to leave healthy churches, ever. But we are not ashamed to call Christians to move away from churches who don't really care about what God has to say to us in his words. If you are a part of a church that doesn't believe the Bible is the Word of God, doesn't believe Jesus is God, doesn't believe that Jesus is the only way to the Father, that Jesus didn't die on the cross for the sins of the world and then resurrect from the dead three days later that Jesus is not worth obeying.

Today, leave that kind of church and find one that loves Jesus and His Word. But if that happens, that's not real growth, because a church loses one person and a church down the road gains another. Again, it's a net zero gain. Number four a local church can grow when Christians who aren't going to church at all start going again. Now, this is not bad.

I hope this begins to happen more and more in our day. Too many Christians today think that regular attendance and participation in the life of a local church isn't important. The truth is, you cannot obey all of the commands of Jesus apart from regular participation in the life of a local church. You cannot experience all that Jesus has for you apart from regular participation in the life of a local church. So if you're here tonight or you're listening online and I ever nag you about attending church no.

That is only because I want you to experience as much of Jesus as you possibly can. And that can only happen in the context of belonging to a local church. So a church can grow if dormant Christians who haven't been ending get spiritually revived and start attending church regularly, this would lead to an increase in attendance in a local church. But keep in mind, these Christians were already a part of the Big Sea Church. They just weren't actively participating in the local church.

So this is good when it happens, but it's still an iffy kind of church growth, too. It's a pseudo growth. It's not real growth. Number five a local church can grow when Christians have kids added to their family by birth or by adoption and raise them up in the Lord. And these kids become believers one day, and then they're added to the church.

Now, it's never a guarantee that kids raised in a Christian home will eventually become Christians themselves, but the odds are a lot higher than they will. Proverbs 22 Six says, start a youth out on his way even when he grows old, he will not depart from it. Now, this will take a long time to grow the church this way exclusively. The church will not grow exponentially the way that it was growing in Acts. If all we did was wait for our kids to grow up and become Christians and become the next additions to the body of Christ.

As a side note, it is so incredibly awesome when our kids become believers. I don't want you to think I'm minimizing, that I am not in the slightest. We should want that to happen so badly. We should just want so much more than that to happen. Which leads me to number six.

A local church grows when unbelievers get saved by hearing and believing the Gospel and they are added to the church. This is the best and really the only way that we should be concerned about when we're talking about church growth. This is what happens when the Gospel is proclaimed on a regular basis to people who aren't believers yet. The church grows numerically through unbelievers hearing and believing the Gospel message. When an unbeliever believes the Gospel for the first time, their sins are forgiven, they are born again and they are added to the church, to the Big Sea Universal church.

And then hopefully, they will get connected to and become a member of a local church. So go ahead and write this down. It's the first fill in on your outline. A healthy growing church is evangelistic. A healthy growing church is evangelistic.

We need to be crystal clear in our understanding that this is the kind of growth the church is experiencing. In the book of Acts, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was being proclaimed to people all of the time. Look back to the first five chapters of Acts that we've covered so far in our study, and you can see how the exponential growth of the church is connected to the preaching of the Gospel. The Gospel was going out like crazy. Acts 241 to 42 again says so those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 30 people were added to them.

They devoted themselves to the apostles'teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. The apostle's teaching was both private and public, and it was taking place every single day. Acts four four. But many of those who heard the message believed, and the number of men came to about 5000. Acts 431.

When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God. Boldly all the Christians left that prayer meeting in Acts four, boldly speaking the Gospel to unbelievers. Acts 433 with great power, the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. And in Acts five, we saw this last week when the angel freed the apostles from jail. They were told, go and stand in the temple and tell the people all about this life.

Hearing this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach verse 25. Someone came and reported to them, to the religious leaders, look, the men you put in jail are standing in the temple and teaching the people. 542 says, every day in the temple and in various homes, they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. The church is increasing in acts six. But why was it increasing?

Because the Gospel was being proclaimed on a daily basis, not just by the apostles, but by all the believers. And people were hearing and believing the message that they had preached. Growing the church through having kids born and raised to love Jesus will take too long for that to be the primary way the church grows. It's not real church growth that the church is growing numerically through people who are already Christians being added to the church, coming from bad churches, or starting to go to church after a long time away. If no new Christians are being made through hearing and believing the Gospel, all current believers will eventually die and there will be no Christians left.

If the local church isn't growing through evangelism, then that local church is destined to die. The Big Feed Church, the body of believers all over the world, can never die because Jesus promised to build his church and that the gates of Hades will never overcome it. The universal church cannot die, but local expressions of the church can die. Sadly, it happens all the time. Now, I've heard people say of Gospel City, and I'm one of them, I love our church.

Why isn't it growing more than it already is? Now, you know the answer to that question. If we want Gospel City Church to grow and be healthy, and we should want that, then we need to get passionate about having the Gospel preached throughout our city way more than it currently is. Now, I can think of three ways that the Gospel can be shared with people. One of these ways you cannot use to your advantage, but the other two you can.

Number one, Jesus can personally intervene directly in an unbeliever's life and reveal Himself to them. He can bypass the use of human instruments. If he wants in the preaching of his Gospel, he can do it directly Himself. This method is not common, but it's possible he did this with Paul and we're going to see this one once we get to Acts Eight and Nine and we hear of him doing it today in places where it's illegal for Christians to go and preach the Gospel, this is not his primary method. His primary method involves using the church to spread the Gospel.

Which brings me to number two. A large crowd can hear the Gospel at one time from one person. We've seen this play out a couple of times already in Acts. When Peter preaches, he preached the huge crowds and when he did, many believe the gospel that he shared with them. Now, although the crowds aren't as big as they verse is Acts, this happens today in places like Gospel City Church.

Whether it's Jeff or I am preaching, we share about the good news of Jesus'life, his death and his resurrection from the dead as the means by which a sinned can be saved. And we share it in a context like this where many people can hear the message all at once. The gospel is proclaimed here every Sunday night. So if you want to take advantage of the gospel proclamation that takes place here every week, you can either invite a friend to come with you or you can share the message online when it comes available every single week. In this method, there's one person sharing and many people hearing.

Number three, the gospel can be shared in onetoone conversations and people can get saved one at a time. Now, this method of gospel proclamation is vital for the spread of the gospel and the health and growth of Jesus church. An individual person can only reach so many people. But if everyone in a local church took the responsibility upon themselves to share the gospel with the people in their spheres of influence, their home, their workplace, their hobbies, the reach of the gospel would be exponential. Now, none of these three methods is better than the other.

We should want all three of them to happen in our lives. But for most of us, we are only responsible for the third one happening in our life. Can we be honest here? This isn't happening on a regular basis amongst us. And I'm convinced that if it was, then the church would be growing.

So how can we make a course correction and develop into a church where the Great Commission is fulfilled among us? What do we need to see or what do we need to do to see this happen? I'm going to give you four very practical steps that you need to do if you are going to be used by God in life changing ways in the building of his church. Number one, you just need to be willing. You need to be willing, there needs to be a willingness to be used by God to share his gospel.

And we're not even talking about doing anything at this step. We're only talking about desire. Do you want to see people get saved? Do you want God to use you to bring that about in someone's life? If the answer is no, then your first step is to begin asking God to change your heart, to want the same things that God wants.

Keep praying for Him to give you a willing heart. Pray this until he does. But if the answer is yes and you are willing awesome. Then move on to step number two. Step two is you need to be trained or disciples.

Now God gives some Christians the gift of evangelism. These people or these weirdos seem to share the gospel with strangers almost by accident. Like they aren't even trying to share the gospel on purpose. It just comes out of them. Now, most people aren't like that though.

Most have to learn how to share the gospel. For most people, sharing the gospel is scary, it's difficult and it's costly. And for a lot of Christians, they simply don't know how to share the gospel. So that's you. The answer isn't I'll just let someone else tell people about Jesus or isn't that the pastor's job to do that?

No, the answer is to get disciples. You can do this here by becoming a member of Gospel City Church if you haven't done that already. And if you are a member, you can enroll in our discipleship course called Pipeline where you train to become missional and you receive mutual encouragement from others who are also giving themselves to fulfill the great commission. It's so encouraging for me to see my brothers and sisters in this church give themselves to being discipled and watching them grow spiritually right before my very eyes. I hear stories in our Pipeline groups all the time of our brothers and sisters looking for opportunities to share Jesus, pray for these opportunities and then actually do it, actually share the good news of Jesus with people in their life.

People in our church, people that you know and love, normal, regular, everyday people are being trained to share the gospel and they are growing in that. And you know what that means? It means by God's grace, you can do it too. Number three, you need to pray because we cannot do this in our own strength. We need to pray for the Holy Spirit to embolden us, to go and speak the gospel no matter what it may cost us.

We can pray that Jesus saves people. We shouldn't stop praying that. But do you notice how the Christians and Acts prayed? They prayed that God would give them the boldness they needed to preach the gospel to people. They didn't pray that God would save people.

They knew how God saves people through the gospel. So they prayed that God would empower them to preach the gospel that saves people. And then number four, you need to just do it. You've got to actually tell people the gospel with words. We can be willing to share the gospel, we can be trained to share the gospel.

We can pray for gospel, for boldness to share the gospel, but then we actually have to do it. We have to tell another person all about what God did to demonstrate his great love for them. Doing the first three steps is not enough. We have to take a leap of faith that is required and talk to someone about Jesus, you have to do it. And here's a spoiler.

You're going to make mistakes as you try. The words aren't going to come out the way that they do in your imagination. It's going to be harder than you think. Most people are going to reject the Gospel when you share it with them. And you may suffer consequences for talking about Jesus.

Now, in case anyone thinks I'm putting too much pressure on people, on us, to get people saved, let me remind you of a couple of key truths. Church growth is ultimately up to Jesus. It begins with him, and it ends with Him. He wants people saved. He died and rose to make their salvation possible.

He's drawing them to get saved by way of the Holy Spirit. He's the one saving them. Jesus saves people. We don't save anyone. But we still have a vital role to play.

Jesus chooses to use the church to build the church. So why doesn't our church grow as much as we would like it to, or as much as we think it should? It's not because Jesus changed his mind. It doesn't want people saved anymore. It's not because the blood of Jesus is insufficient to save.

It's not because Jesus isn't a pastor builder. It's because the church is not fulfilling the Great Commission. If a church is not growing numerically, it's because its members are not preaching the Gospel. It's really that simple. A mark of a healthy, growing church is that it is evangelistic.

All right, cut that off. Next feeling right now, just like that. A healthy growing church is financially generous. A healthy growing church is financially generous. Write that down, and then we're going to unpack it.

We can see two expenses in the beginning of Acts six that need to be covered by the Church. In verse is, it says, in those days, as the disciples were increasing in number, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebrew Jews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. Daily distribution of food costs money. And that wasn't the only expense the church had to deal with back then. Verse two, the Twelve, a name given to the apostles, summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, it would not be right for us to give up preaching the word of God to wait on tables.

The apostles were the ones overseeing this ministry, as well as shepherding the entire church. That took time and energy that they could not spend elsewhere. The apostles couldn't work full time jobs and do all the work that was involved with ending the church at the same time. And the apostles cost of living costs money. So where did the finances come from to cover these expenses?

Well, the money didn't come from the religious establishment of Israel, remember? They hated Jesus and they wanted to kill the apostles. The money didn't come from Rome. The resources. Needed to support the apostles and to fund the daily distribution of food to the widows came from the church.

The church supplied the resources to meet the needs of the church. If the church in Acts wasn't financially generous, and the apostles wouldn't have been able to leave the church full time, they would have had to have got jobs that took them away from their church responsibilities. And if there is no giving them, the practical needs among the members of the church would not have been met. And nothing has changed in the last 20 years. The church today supplies the resources needed to meet the needs of the church.

Two weeks ago, Jeff preached a great message on what financial giving to the church should look like under the New Covenant. So I'm not going to rehash that sermon here. You can go back to it and listen to it online if you missed it. What I want to do here is try to show you the connection between financial giving to the church and the health and growth of the church. And I'm going to be speaking specifically with Gospel City Church in mind.

If there's not enough financial generosity in the church, then the elders would have to get a second job because our families cannot live off of well wishes and good vibes. It would be so good if we could live off of that, but it doesn't fill the bellies right now. As it stands, Jeff and I are both earning our living through the church. Praise God for that. Not all elders will make their living by the Gospel, but those who labor in teaching and preaching and ending should.

If the time ever came when we had to get another job to support our families, that would mean that we would have less time and energy to devote to leading the church. We would still have to lead the church, but our ability to do so would be limited. We talk about this between the two of us. Because of the size of Jess family and the life stage his kids are at, coupled with the fact that he preaches more Sundays than I do, means that I would be the first to get a full time job outside of pastoring the church so I could support my family if the time ever came when the church couldn't support both of us anymore. If this happened, I would still be an elder just like Jeff, but my job of pastoring would suffer.

I hope it doesn't come to that, but if it does, God will supply the grace we need. He always does. If there's not enough financial generosity in the church that would make for a poor witness to the unbelieving world. Unbelievers would look at us and say, you guys say you love one another, but you don't love one another enough to help meet real financial needs in each other's lives. How's that love?

If there's not enough financial generosity in the church that could indicate that there is a lack of real unity in the church. We're all in this thing together, all serving, all being disciples, all discipline others, all evangelizing, all giving. If all this is happening and a portion of the church is financially generous and another portion isn't financially generous, then that means that some people are freeloading. And there's not a softer way for me to put it. If you call Gospel City Church your home church and you don't give financially on a regular basis, then what you're saying is I want all the benefits that come with being a part of this church, but I'll let other people front the bill to make that happen.

Members covenant to give financially. We covenant to share in the ministry of the church. But if you're not a member yet and you consider Gospel City Church your home church, you should really consider becoming a member of the church, and you should consider giving financially if you don't already do that, if you benefit from this church. I want to acknowledge all of you who do give regularly, cheerfully and sacrificially, and there's a lot of you. So thank you so much for partnering in the gospel with us in that way.

But you need to know that there are sorry, right now in Gospel City Church, our monthly expenses are being not just our salaries, but all expenses are being covered. Again. Praise God for that. But you need to know that they are not being covered by what we give collectively each month as a church from the New Hope days, jeff has reached people outside of the local church context through his online teaching ministry. And some of these people support our church financially.

Our needs wouldn't be met apart from their giving. So it's important for you to know that about our church. So to be a healthy growing church, we will need to be a financially generous church. We cannot do the things we are supposed to do as a church unless we are. Here's your next fill in.

A healthy growing church will have relational problems within it. A healthy growing church will have relational problems within it. You can see two relational problems pop up in our text. We can see that some people were showing partiality in the church, and some people started complaining about in verses one again. In those days, as the disciples were increasing in number, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution.

There was a cultural tension in the church in Act Six that led to some people showing partiality. This tension was between the Jews who spoke Greek, the Hellenists and the Jews who spoke Hebrew. The hebraic Jews, the Hebrewspeaking widows, they were the purists. The Greekspeaking widows previously lived outside of Jerusalem, some of them for years, their families could have been carried away in previous exiles over time. Although they were Jews, they adopted the language of commerce.

They even had their own Greekspeaking synagogue. And you can see that if you take a peek ahead to verse is in the same chapter. The Pharisees despised Greekspeaking jews. They were looked on as dirty as second class citizens. So as many of these widows moved back to Jerusalem in their twilight years and eventually lost their husbands, they needed care when many of them converted.

And they were suddenly part of the same church that included many Hebrew widows. So they were suddenly part of the same church that included many Hebrew widows. It's no wonder then that tensions arose. Once one group felt neglected, bad feelings and division followed. There was a distinction made between two groups in the church, and that wasn't good.

And then people began to complain. The Greekspeaking widows were complaining about their situation, something Paul later tells the church to avoid in places like one Corinthians chapter ten, verse is and Philippians two one four. While they had a right to be bothered by being neglected in the distribution of food, they shouldn't have been complaining against the Hebrew widows. They would he taken the matter to the leaders. This is a good reminder that there will be times when people in the church will be justifiably offended and they won't always respond appropriately.

Now, you may be tempted to think relational problems like complaining and partiality aren't a good thing to have in the church, but I want to show you how they are. Relational problems within the church are a good thing, and we should expect there to be some messiness pop up in our relationships from time to time. That's because Christians are imperfect people. Believe it or not, we are all in the process of becoming more and more like Jesus because we aren't perfect. We will sometimes be the source of relational problems in our life, and then sometimes we won't be the ones to start a problem, but we might be the ones to pour gasoline on the fire of a problem that already exists.

Why would we ever be the ones to exacerbate a problem in the church? Because of our imperfections shining through. The more time imperfect Christians spend together, the more chances there are for our imperfections to come out in our relationships. If you then increase the number of imperfect Christians there are, then the chances for problems to develop grows even higher. I put this in a neat and tidy little math equation on your outline for you.

More imperfect Christians multiplied by more time spent together equals more chances for relational problems to pop up. That's what's happening in the church here in Acts Six, more and more imperfect Christians were being added to the church every day, and all these imperfect people were together every day. And with that equation, partiality and complaining got squeezed out of some of them. So what's the solution to relational problems that inevitably pop up in the church? Well, the solution is not for the church to remain small, although mathematically speaking, less people equals less problems.

And the solution isn't to stop spending time together. If you stopped spending time with your brothers and sisters in Christ, or if you never started spending time with any of them to begin with, that would be a way to guarantee you will never have problems with people in the church. If you spend zero time with other people, there is a 0% chance you'll have any problems with any of them. And I hope you can see the obvious drawback to that plan. If you don't spend any time with people, you won't have any meaningful relationships and you will be all alone.

When things do get messy in the church, don't be surprised that they did. Don't run away from people. Don't stuff your problems and put on a fake happy face. Relational messiness in the church allows us opportunity to extend and receive grace. It allows us to see the areas of our life that we need to grow in, and it allows us to see the areas our brothers and sisters need to grow into.

When there are relational problems in the church and we work through them, it shows the world what true agape love looks like. We love each other not because everyone is perfectly lovely, but because we all have a perfect love inside of us, empowering us to love imperfect people. That's what causes our love to look great, because it's easy to love lovely people. Pharisees can do that. Love people who are difficult to love.

That shows God's love. The Christians in the early church devoted themselves to discipleship every day. There were many opportunities for tensions to brew and if it wasn't this widow's issue, it would have been something else. If you take a chance at building meaningful relationships with your brothers and sisters in the church, you will get hurt sometime and you will hurt others, but you will also form incredible friendships in the process. And this is why relational problems in the church are good.

They are an indicator that people are actually spending time together, being the church, learning what it actually means to love one another. If there were never any relational problems in the church, I don't think it would be a healthy growing church. Here's your next feeling and this is going to be the final one for the night. A healthy growing church has biblical leadership within it. A healthy growing church has biblical leadership within it.

You need to know upfront that you don't need biblical leadership in a church before you can have a church. A church can exist and function without biblical leadership in it. But a church will not be a healthy growing church unless it has biblical leadership in it. The apostles were the first recognized official leaders of the church 20 years ago in Jerusalem and now anyone couldn't just be an apostle. You couldn't just take that recognition upon yourself by yourself.

To be an apostle, you had to have been an eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus. You had to have been personally commissioned by him and you had to have had miraculous signs and wonders done by God through your hands in order to authenticate your ministry. We do not have apostles today like the church had in its formative years. Paul writes in one Corinthians 15, verses eight to nine that he was the last of all the apostles. So God used his apostles to start his church and the apostles are the leaders in the church here in Acts six.

But there was a leadership succession plan in place for the local churches that were going to be planted by the apostles. The Big Sea Church was built upon the apostles and their doctrine but local churches had elders raised up in them to lead them. Acts 1421 to 23 says this after they and is speaking of, Paul and Barnabas had preached the Gospel in that town and made many disciples. They returned to Lystra, Titonium and to Antioch, strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue into faith and by telling them it is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. When they had appointed elders for them in every church and prayed with fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

So Paul and Barnabas were preaching the gospel and making disciples. They were planting churches. But that's all they did at first was plant churches. They didn't set up leadership right away in each church they planted. Acts 1423 tells us they established elders in every church after the fact, after the church was planted.

Then they appointed elders in those churches. That teaches us that churches that the churches outside of the church that was in Jerusalem were established and in existence before there were leaders in them. We see the same idea come through in Paul's letter to his protege in Titus One Five. He says the reason I left you in Crete was to set right what was left undone. And as I directed you to appoint elders in every town.

So Paul told Titus the reason he was left in Crete was to set right what was left undone. And what was left undone. There were no elders in the churches at that time and that is what Paul directed Titus to do appoint elders in every town. So again, you can see that a church can exist without elders. But Paul didn't want any church to remain elder less.

Paul wanted biblical leadership in place in every church. And just like you had to meet certain qualifications in order to be an apostle, a prospective elder had to meet certain qualifications before they could become an elder. You couldn't just be an apostle or an elder simply because you wanted to be one. An apostle saw the risen Jesus. They were commissioned by Him and they did miracles.

An elder has to meet the criteria laid out for us in the Scriptures in places like one timothy, chapter three, verses one to seven titles chapter one, verses six to eight and one Peter, five verses one to three. Elders must be called by God. They must demonstrate Godly character in their life and they must be competent in teaching the Bible to others. I think that one of the biggest problems in the church today is that churches have unqualified and unbiblical leaders in them. Many churches take their cues from the world when it comes to selecting its leaders.

Instead of trusting the word of God, some churches let the people with the most charisma, charm, humor or business savvy. And none of these things is bad. It's just that these are not necessary for a person to have before they can. Verse is God's church as one of its leaders. A biblically qualified leader in God's church today will have been called by God, have Godly character that it's plain to see, and be able to teach people God's word.

That's it. If you have these qualifications and you can lead his church, if you don't have these, then you can't or shouldn't. The church in Act Six was a church that had biblical leadership in place. In our text we can glean some things about what biblical leadership looks like by looking at the example that we have in the apostles. And we are able to make the connection between what we see in the apostles here and to what we should see in elders in local churches today.

Read our text acts, chapter six. Picking things up in verse two, the Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said it would not be right for us to give up preaching the Word of God, to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters slept from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this duty, but we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word. This proposal pleased the whole company, so they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip and Pracorus and Nicanor and Timon and Permanus and Nicolas, a covet from Antioch. They had them stand before the apostles who prayed and laid their hands on them.

So from this we see biblical leadership must shepherd God's people. Although the qualifications to be an apostle differ from the qualifications to be an elder, there is no difference when it comes to either of them taking care of God's people. Whether it was the apostles in the first century or elders in local churches today, biblical leaders shepherd God's flock. Shepherding people is a lot like shepherding sheep. Leaders of God's people need to feed them, protect them, care for them and lead them.

Disciples of Jesus must be fed the Word of God by their leaders. They must be protected from false teachers and false doctrine. They must be loved practically having their spiritual, physical and emotional needs cared for. They must be led into fulfilling the will of God in their lives. And we see the apostles doing all of these.

In acts six. You see the priority they gave to the Word of God in places like verse two where they say it would not be right for us to give up preaching the Word of God to wait on tables and in verses four. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word. Priority to the Word should shape everything that the Church does. It's what feeds our souls.

Knowing it helps protect us against receiving and believing what is false. It instructs us how we are to love the brethren. It is the blueprint for what the Church is to accomplish. Biblical leaders lead by pointing people to what the Word of God says to do. Leaders model what needs to be done and they equip and encourage members to participate in what needs to be done.

And all of this is by the Word of God. The apostles devoted themselves to the Word in their ending of the Church and you can also see them care for the flock. You can see this by the way they were taking care of the widows in the Church. At this point, the apostles have been the ones overseeing the ministry. That makes sure the widows get provided for.

Two chapters earlier, we read in Acts 434 for there was not a needy person among them, because all those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid them at the apostle's feet. This was then distributed to each person as any had need. At this stage, the apostles were personally collecting the funds and distributing them directly to those who needed them. They were the ones who took on the responsibility of making sure the practical needs among the members were being met. And you see them protect the unity of the Church.

The apostles didn't bury their heads in the sand when relational tension started brewing in the Church. They wasted no time in jumping in and leading and finding a solution. You see great biblical leadership on display in Acts six when you see them delegate ministry in the Church. There is too much work to be done when it comes to leading God's people. No one person or even one team of people can do it all by themselves.

Moses learnt this lesson while he was leading the Israelites out of Egypt into the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land. Moses was burning himself out trying to do all of the leading on his own. Then in Exodus 18 we read that his father-in-law gave him some advice to follow, which included enlisting the help of qualified men to help Moses shoulder the load. Moses heeded that advice to his benefit and to the benefit of the people. It's a good thing that he did, because Moses would not have been able to lead God's people if he was burnt out.

Jesus modeled delegation in his leadership, even though he could have done everything himself, because he's God. He instead trained up and released disciples to do the work of the ministry. During Jesus' ministry, he sent his disciples out two by two ahead of Him, into the towns that he was about to go to, to get the people in those towns ready to receive Him. And then at the end of his earthly ministry, he sent his disciples out into the world with the great commission. Jesus didn't need to delegate anything, but he did.

And that means that every other leader in the church must delegate the work of the ministry to other qualified believers in the Church, because we're not God, and that means we don't have the ability to do everything on our own. And two, because delegating is a part of leading. Listen to what the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians, chapter four, verse eleven. It's on your outline. And he himself, speaking of Jesus, gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God's Son growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ's fullness.

Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit, but speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head Christ. From Him. The whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building itself up in love by the proper working of each individual part. The apostles faced a dilemma in Act Six that is common among leaders in the Church today. Too much work to do and not enough time and energy to do it all themselves.

Devote time to prayer and the Word, or feeding the needy in the Church, we can't do both. The only solution is to equip and appoint qualified members to fill certain roles in the Church, and that's what they did. All of the guys that were appointed to the leadership team in Act Six have Greek names, which is interesting to note. I think this was a very wise decision because the problem arose with the Greekspeaking widows. Greekspeaking, Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit, were tasked with handling the situation.

That's very smart. And some scholars believe that this appointment of the seven in Act Six is the first instance where deacons are installed in the Church. Deacons are the other official leaders in the New Testament Church along with the elders. Although deacons submit their leadership to the leadership of the elders. You can read about the qualifications of the New Testament deacon in one Timothy, chapter three, verses eight to twelve.

We don't have deacons in the Gospel City church yet. Jeff and I are still working and wrestling through interpreting some aspects of the office of deacon, their specific roles and some of the specific qualifications that need to be met before a person can serve in that office. We want biblical leadership in Gospel city. It's not something that we take lightly, so that means it's not something that we're going to rush, but as soon as we're ready to teach about deacons and install deacons, you will be the very first to know. So that's just a quick look at what biblical leadership is.

And now we can see how it's necessary to have in place if a church is going to be healthy and growing. If left unaddressed, infighting and partiality, would have been a poor witness to the world and it would have made for a miserable church life. It will be hard to preach the gospel and invite people into the church if the church is so jacked up. Biblical leadership enters into the messiness of the church and brings about Godly solutions and trying to do everything in the church will burn the leaders out or make them ineffective. They need to delegate.

If they didn't delegate the work of the ministry, then their priority to prayer and the Word would suffer. But they did delegate the ministry of feeding the widows and then they could give themselves to the Word and prayer and that in turn would lead to a church that flourishes. Which is exactly what happened. Verse seven. So the word of God spread.

The disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly in number and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith. I'm going to close and as I do I'm going to invite Jeff and Maureen to come up and get ready to lead us and worship. Christians should want the church to grow and be healthy and not just our own local church, but all of Jesus churches around the world. And we've looked at four marks of a healthy, growing church. It will be evangelistic, it will be financially generous, it will be relationally messy, and it will have biblical leadership in place.

How do we become a church that can be identified by these markers? It's really simple. If every one of us examined our own life and realize that any of these marks were missing and then addressed them in these areas in our own life, then the whole church would be strengthened. And if all of us are growing in these areas, then that would mean that the church would be growing in these areas too. And if we are all growing like that, then that means we would be a healthy, growing church.

Let's pray to that end. Can you pray with me?

Jesus, we love you only because you first loved us. What a simple and amazing truth. You saved us, you cleansed us, and then you filled us with Your spirit and you gave us a new heart, a heart that beats after the things that God wants, that longs for the things that you want. And that's the testimony. That's the cry of our hearts, Lord, when we talk about church, we don't need nothing flashy, we don't need nothing that's going to compete with the things that this world is trying to draw our attention away with.

The cry of our hearts, Lord, collectively, is that we want a local church, the kind of church that you want. We want to honor you, we want to bless you. We want to experience as much of you as is possible on this side of heaven. We want a church that is marked by power, that's effective, that's leading people to getting saved in our city and beyond, that has deep and meaning relationships intertwined within it. That marks the kind of love that gives away the things of this world.

Because we have the greatest riches that anything, anyone could ever comprehend, that the riches of Christ fill our spirit and our soul. We want to be a generous church and we want to pray for our leaders. We want to raise up leaders. We want to be led by leaders that meet biblical qualifications. Because again, these are things that you want for us, Jesus, and so help us towards that end.

Guide our steps individually, guide us collectively, that step by step, Lord, you use us to build a kind of church that will glorify you and bless you and make you smile. Do that, Jesus. We pray for your glory and for our joy and for the good of our city. We pray these things in Your name. Amen.

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