Sep 30, 2009

10 Church Growth Lessons from the Book of Acts

1• ENGAGE THE CULTURE - Acts 17:2, 15-34, 19:8-10
In Acts 17:2, as soon as Paul arrived in Thessalonica, he went to the synagogue because he knew he could find observant Jews there. This was as was his custom; this means he regularly used the synagogue as an entry point into the larger local Jewish culture.

A similar pattern occurs in Acts 19:8, where it says Paul reasoned with them for three months time. However, once some of the Jews in Ephesus became hardened and slanderous, Paul switched tactics; he set up shop in a more neutral place: the school of Tyrannus. He reasoned there daily for two years and as a result of his engaging the culture in this manner Acts 19:10 tells us that “all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (NASB).

The best example of Paul engaging the culture is in Acts 17:15-34, during Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill. Here he spoke directly to Athenian philosophers and used their own local (idolatrous) artwork as well as some of their own poets. Yes, some sneered (v 32) at his message because of their own overpowering cultural presuppositions but others believed and joined him (v 35).

2• GET THE BASICS RIGHT - Acts 2:42-47, 18:5
The basics of a healthy Christian community are in Acts 2:42: the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, communion/common meals and prayer. The result of this was that the Lord added to their number – daily! This is true church expansion.

We see a similar emphasis on one of the basics in Acts 18:5, where Paul devoted “himself completely to the word”. Stanley D. Toussaint notes that “the verb translated ‘devoted . . . exclusively’ is syneicheto (from synechō) which here in the passive means ‘to be constrained’”. This means that Paul could “give himself totally to the work of the gospel.” Even though the next verse reports resistance, we do know that eventually the church at Corinth grew to be rather large.

3• BOLDLY PREACH THE GOSPEL - Acts 2:14, 37-47, 9:20-31
Acts 9:31 tells us that all the church throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace and was built up. Church growth seemed to run parallel to these factors as the church continued to increase. The antecedent to these positive developments was Paul’s bold public preaching. Peter’s sermon during Pentecost is a great example of this as well and the result was that 3,000 souls were added that day (v 41).

4• EXPECT OPPOSITION - Acts 8:1-3, 12:1-19, 18:17, 19:23-41, 21-28
While it is true that the Gospel message was not rejected in every single instance, its proclamation was often met with stiff resistance. It arose from various quarters – the Synagogue, local rulers, demoniacs, silversmiths and the like – and often put a “crimp” in the preacher’s plans. We should be prepared for adversity of some kind as well in our day.

5• KNOW THE LORD IS IN CONTROL - Acts 2:23, 4:28, 9:1-19
In Peter’s Acts 2 sermon, he specifically mentions that God had purposed that Jesus would be handed over and then at the end of the chapter we see the phrase the LORD added to their number daily.

When we skip over to the prayer in Acts 4:28, we read that the local rulers had only done what God had decided beforehand would happen when they signed Jesus’ “death warrant”. These facts taken together demonstrate that God is sovereign over everything, including church increase and decrease.

Another great example from Acts of God’s sovereignty is the conversion story of Paul in Acts 9:1-9. This does not imply humans are not accountable to God and responsible for their actions - they are - this just shows who is in real control.

6• BE WILLING TO FOLLOW UP - Acts 17:32, 18:26
Paul’s speech in the Areopagus was a result of his conversations in the Athenian
marketplace. I think it is important that he followed up with the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers when they requested he explain himself further (17:20). After he spoke, Acts 17:32 tells us some wanted to hear him yet again. Some sneered but others believed (v 34).

Priscilla and Aquila displayed their eagerness to follow up with younger believers when they quietly took Apollos aside and explained to him the Gospel more clearly (18:26). This resulted in Apollos helping the believers in another town - Achaia (v 27).

7• BE CONSISTENT - Acts 18:4, 19:8-10, 20:18

Acts 18:4 says every Sabbath he reasoned in the Sabbath and in Acts 19:8 Paul carried on a three-month conversation (in a manner of speaking)! When these conversations ceased to be effective, Paul rented out a lecture hall and had daily discussions for two years! Paul vouched for his own consistency as a model for the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:18.

The fact that these elders were so faithful to Paul shows the strength of this church that was in part due to Paul’s steadfastness. We can also pick up this fact in his epistle to the church at Ephesus.

Good church leaders must act wisely when problems related to church growth arise. One such example takes place in Acts 6 with the disagreement about food distribution between the different widows. To deal with this problem, the apostles asked the congregation to pick a group of men to be in charge of food distribution. This way the problem was dealth with and the apostles were not distracted from their main responsibilities.


In Acts 6, we see the benefits of choosing qualified leaders and in Acts 20, we see some of the preparation process. One part is modeling the truths you want them to live by.

In verses 28-31, Paul gives these church leaders several important instructions to prepare them for his departure, such as “be shepherds” and “be on guard”. Making sure the next generation’s leaders are qualified is crucial to the future growth and health of the church.

10• STRATEGICALLY WITNESS - Acts 1:8, 10:1-48, 11:19-26, 13:1-52
Jesus gave the disciples an evangelism game plan in Acts 1:8 and we can see it being carried out throughout the rest of the book.

One example of this is Peter’s contact with the centurion Cornelius in Acts 10. All who heard the message belived and it seems that all who heard the message were Gentiles, not Jews! In this way, a major beachhead into Gentile territory had been made.

Another example is when the persecutions stemming from Jerusalem forced the believers to scatter abroad. In Acts 10:19 we read that many began spreading the message but only to other Jews. In the next verse, though, we read of those who began telling the gospel to the Greeks also.

The net result can be found in verse 21: “a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord”.


  1. Anonymous2:39 PM

    Great read Vocab!

    I've just finished reading Acts in its entirety last month and so a timely post!

    Young J'Ro x

  2. Thx, bro ...

    I wish more folks would look to Acts for church growth principles instead of some marketing guru ...

    but let me shut up.



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