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Acts 6:1-7

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Authentic Church Growth

Hook
We celebrate and give God all the praise and all the glory that we are in a season of growth here at Woods Harbour Wesleyan. Last week we had 121 people in attendance for a regular summer Sunday. Like last week, to no fault of the person putting together our communion elements. That’s a good problem. We are seeing amazing answers to prayer every single day. God is up to something very special in our midst. And you know it is not just about the numbers; it’s the sense that God is genuinely doing a work in peoples lives and people are having an encounter with the living God.
Someone said at Tuesday night prayer meeting that you can do all kinds of things to bring people in but ot all growth is necessarily good growth. As a church we can do all kinds of things to bring people in and neglect to pray and seek God. We can try and be the most attractive church and take our focus off of Jesus and we can easily lose sight of what Jesus has for us. So how do you know the growth we are experiencing is authentically from God?
This mornings passage of Scripture shows us a few indications of what happens when we experience authentic growth. So this morning we are going to talk about church growth and I want to tell you I am excited to talk about this.
You wanna know why?
Because we have to have this conversation now because we are a church that is growing and over the next season we are going to go through some potential growing pains as we adjust to ministering to more people and as we step up to meet the needs around us.
Introduce Subject
So today I would like to talk about authentic church growth.
Define Subject
There are three things I want to unpack from the text that point to the kind of growth God produces.
There are three things I want to unpack from the text that point to the kind of growth God produces.
1. Authentic Church growth produces disciples
What does it mean to be a disciple in the body of Christ?
2. Authentic Church growth creates good problems
3. Authentic church growth should calls others to action
What does it mean to be a disciple in the body of Christ?
Fallen Condition Focus
No before we dive into the text today I want to address a couple problems this text addresses.
Hope of Hearing
God wants us to be disciples and not just believers
Some of you are here and say yes I believe in Jesus but God wants to take you beyond just believing and to the point where your lifestyle reflects one who follows Jesus. PAUSE.
2. God wants to change our perspective about the church and shake us out of our passiveness
Some of us need to change the way we think about the church. For lost of different reasons including tradition we have come to think about the church in ways that don’t even line up with Scripture and need Scripture to change the way we think about the church.
Some of us here today need to be challenged or have our cage rattled a bit and we need to wake up out our spiritual slumber because we have a pary
God wants to raise our expectation and call us to believe him for greater things that our beyond our expectation
Some of us here today need to be challenged or have our cage rattled a bit and we need to wake up out our spiritual slumber because we have a par
Hope of Hearing
3. God wants to raise our expectation and call us to believe him for greater things that our beyond our expectation
If you have been hear over the past 14 months you likely have heard me preach that I am convinced that our Maritime mentality hinders us from believing God for greater things.
PREACH - Look, I believe with all my heart, that the stuff God has in store for us as a church are so far beyond what we can think or imagine - and I really mean that. Like practically, the stuff God is going to challenge us to do over the next number of months and years are things we cannot even fathom they are so awesome. God wants us to raise our faith and expectation so when we experience crazy growth and God begins to do some crazy things we are ready to believe God for crazy things.
Listen, when God challenges us as a church to take a major, huge, astronomic step of faith I want us as a church to be ready to believe God for it. What about you? So one of the problems the Holy Spirit needs to address with us is raising our expectations that God can do things so far beyond what we expect and that God can do a brand new thing here in our area.
Hope of Hearing
My hope is that some of you would make the shift from just being a believer to being a disciple Believer -> Disciple
My hope is that God would give us his perspective for how we should think about the church and our role
My hope is that God would cause us to believe him for things we haven’t even imagined for our church
Transition to Text
Acts 6:1-7
Acts 6:1–7 NIV
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
V. 1

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing,d the Hellenistic Jewsa e among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widowsf were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.g

So the church was going through continual growth since Pentecost. This idea or phrase of increase was consistent over the last number of chapters. We see starting at chapter 2 then through to this verse that the church was continuing to grow and expand.
MULTIPLIED - The book of Acts HAS this continuous thread of growth. And this growth wasn’t just numerical growth; the words disciples reflects that they weren’t just making believers but fully committed followers of Jesus.
1. Authentic Church growth produces disciples
Churches can do a lot of things to draw a good crowd and can even be driven by that. We want to see people who are fully committed followers of Jesus. That’s the true litmus test of a church that is rooted in God.
Like we can
I love that they use the phrase the number of disciples. The word disciples is used 3 times in these 7 short verses. I think the author intentionally uses it.
They did not say the number of converts or believers in this context. They said the number of disciples. So as the church grew it did not just make converts or people who simply believed. As the church grew it was making disciples.
We had prayer meeting this past week and we started to have a discussion about how many people came to church last Sunday. It was amazing to see so many. While we are so excited about the great numbers that come what we want to see is not just people come to church or even make a first time decision.
Hear me out, we do want that.
Hear me out, we do want that.
But in addition to that we want to see people grow in their relationship with God and become more than just believers in Jesus but disciples. You become a believer by making a one-time decision to put your faith in Jesus. A disciple makes a decision everyday to follow Jesus.
If you want to grow in your relationship with Jesus and be his disciple there are a couple things that are helpful in your journey. Now these things often times fall on our ears and we don’t really see the value so often so I want to stress them this morning.
Prayer
If you want to be a disciple of Jesus you have to spend time with Him.
Prayer is the
My passion is that people would come to know God in an intimate way.
There are all different kinds of ways to pray that are even found in scripture
You can pray on your knees, walking around, leaning on stuff. Whatever you have to do. I love going for drives and praying but just a word of advice, don’t close your eyes.
Some people journal, some people do it with other people. Whatever you have to do, do it but start praying on a regular basis.
Begin to develop that relationship with him.
But what do I pray about? Pray about everything, your job, your family, your decisions, your finances literally acknowledge God in all your ways.
This is the key - as you begin to pray and draw near to God, God will draw near to you and you will begin to not just know about God you will know God
God will begin to show you his heart and he will begin to speak to you
You will begin to develop an intimate relationship with him as he begins to reveal his incredible love for you
You will truly be able to be his disciple because you will begin to recognize his voice and follow his voice.
Hearing God’s voice and following it is what being a disciple is all about
So if that is the case we need to pray
Do you pray? How much time do you spend in prayer?
We are going to have a movie night here on Tuesday night for prayer meeting and the movie is called War Room. The movie is all about prayer and I hope it will encourage you how to have a prayer strategy.
Maybe you need help learning how to pray; well when we launch small groups there is an awesome environment to learn how to pray and hear others do it.
I also want to say, we are praying about making Tuesday night prayer meeting much more engaging and finding ways to challenge people deeper. We want to make our Tuesday night prayer meeting a vibrant, engaging ministry and we confess that it simply is not at this point. We are super open to suggestions or recommendations but we want to church and a people that prays because we want God to supernaturally transforms lives and that only happens when we pray
If my people who are called by name, would humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from our wicked ways, then I would hear from heaven and come and heal your land.
We need God to heal our land
There are so many hurting and broken people in desperate need of the grace of Jesus but we need to humble ourselves and pray if we are going to see Jesus do that.
So in order to be a disciple of Jesus we need to pray
I’m reading this book about revival and one of the things it says is that passion and vision come from prayer.
Bible Reading
In order to follow Jesus and hear his voice we need to spend time in the Scriptures.
We get to know God through prayer but we also get to know God through spending time in his Word. As we spend time in his word God begins to show us a number of different things.
God shows us who we are
God shows us who He is
God shows us what he has done for us
God speaks to us through his Word
The first question for some of us is do you have a bible? If not we would love to give you one or show you how to download one.
If you say I am not really a reader then there are awesome free tools like biblegateway.com that will read the Bible to you for free. It’s great if you are driving.
If you really want to be a disciple of Jesus you need to spend time in his Word.
There are all kinds of bible reading plans and things you can do but the key is to stay consistent as you can. Try reading just a few chapters a day of the Scriptures and what will happen as you spend time in prayer God will begin to show you things by the Holy Spirit. God will begin to speak to you.
I want to tell you something, you will begin to have some powerful moments with Jesus.
People have sometimes asked me why I am so excited all the time and honestly its because as I spend time in prayer and in God’s word God fills me with his passion.
I’m so passionate about Jesus because as I have spent time in His word the Holy Spirit as revealed things to me about who he is and what he has done and that reality has filled my heart.
The longing of my heart is that you would have those moments with Jesus. That as you spend time in his word and pray you would have these crazy encounters with Jesus.
Those are the moments where you know God lives
Those are the moments that God forms you
Those are the moments where you start to develop a intimate personal relationship with Jesus
Have you ever had one of those moments? God wants to meet with you perhaps in ways you have not imagined
Will you commit to spending time with Jesus? Will you commit to spending time in his Word?
Maybe you need to do a bible reading plan? Maybe you need some people to hold you accountable to read it?
I’m not sure but one thing I am sure of is if you truly want to be a disciple that moves beyond just believing you have to spend time in His Word.
If you are new to reading the Bible just start in the New Testament in Gospel of John or Matthew.
We can say hear today, ya, that sounds like a good idea or I might do it.
Listen if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
How do you plan on spending time in prayer? How do you plan on spending time in Scripture? What’s your game-plan?
So in order to be a disciple of Jesus we need to spend time in his word
Community
We also need to spend time with the community of faith
You notice that as we are walking through the book of Acts things are all done in the context of community. It’s always we language.
Our individual worldview has a hard time understanding this but we are Stronger Together.
Being a disciple means being part of a greater group of disciples as we journey together to follow Jesus.
Being a disciple means that the community has permission to help you grow
Being a disciple means that you are learning together what it means to follow Jesus
That’s why we as a church value small groups. Listen, in a few weeks we are going to launch them and we want every one that can to be part of one because that is where you help build relationships that go beyond a Sunday morning.
So when you accept Jesus and want to be a follower of Jesus and be his disciple you become part of the family of God. This family is here to love, support, encourage and yes even challenge you in your relationship with him.
So in order to be a disciple you have to be connected to the community
So that was just the first few words of the verse. Let’s unpack more of what is happening here in the text.
So we see two words that might be unfamiliar to come. We see the Hellenistic Jews and the Hebraic Jews.
Hellenistic Jews were people who adopted the Greek language and culture and Hebraic Jews stayed more true to the Hebrew language and culture. Now as the church was starting it had all kinds of difficulties, challenges and conflicts to deal with as we saw with things like Annanias and Sapphira. Here we have two cultures God has called together and we experience the clash of conflict.
2. Authentic Church growth creates good problems
Good Problems
Listen, when God is birthing new ministries and joining people together for the greater mission of God there is going to be conflict.
The mission of God challenges us to lay down our cultural biases and preferences to serve the greater good.

So the Twelve gathered all the disciplesh together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of Godi in order to wait on tables.

So the apostles are tasked with trying to resolve this conflict because the Greek Jews were not having their widows looked after. This is likely partly because the Hebrew Jews felt better. Jesus came though to break the hostility that exists between cultures.
So the apostles gathered all the disciples (the followers of Jesus) to provide some direction and leadership to a dysfunctional problem.
Here again we see the word disciples being used.
The Twelve tell the crowd that it would not be right for them to neglect the ministry of the Word to serve tables.
This is a fascinating verse. Let’s unpack this together because there is some absolute gold in these verses. These verses show that structure is actually important and necessary as the church grows organically.
The apostles were called to proclaim the word of God and not get bogged down with other tasks.
3. Authentic church growth should calls others to action
In the same way, people that are called to give spiritual leadership to the church and congregations need to have their primary focus be on the ministry of the Word! PAUSE.
It’s difficult for us to change the way we think on this issue because traditionally the pastor did everything and I think it is often why so many pastors burn out.
But as you have heard say before the pastors primary job is the ministry of the word and to equip the church as a unit to carry out the work of ministry.
What would it look like if instead of our expectation that the pastor do all the ministry our small groups began to take care of someone who was sick or in need? What would look like if we started to rise up and give leadership to an area of ministry that we saw was lacking instead of waiting for the pastor to lead the charge?
That doesn’t give me permission to be lazy; as a matter of fact as more people are engaged in ministry it actually creates more work for me as I encourage, coach, guide and direct and I want that because it is a sign of growth.
So our mentality needs to change; we need to look at our spiritual leaders not as the sole source of ministry. We need to realize that we are the church and that ministry does not rise and fall on the pastor it rises and falls on the church.
An interesting thing about this text is that the spiritual leadership helped identify and recognize people along with the church who was competent for the necessary ministry.
One of my passions is helping people discover what their spiritual gifts are and seeing people operate in their ministry. If you would love to figure that out make an appointment with me and let’s ask God to reveal how he has uniquely gifted you. You are not at this church by accident and likely aren’t here to play a passive role. You have a part to play so what is the role God has called you to and how can you step into that role and gifted area right now.
Ministry Compentencies
There are also competencies for certain ministries. I am not going to let my daughter drive my van home from church. She’s not ready yet for that but Lord willing, one day she will. If we are going to give spiritual leadership and lead ministry in the church God wants to give us the power and ability to do so. He wants to full us with the Holy Spirit and give us the wisdom.
There are also compentencies
So these people were still competent spiritual leaders but they weren’t giving overall spiritual direction to the movement.
Listen, if the apostles had have served in all these various needy ways they would have neglected giving leadership to the overall movement of God. Do you see that?
So how does that apply to us?
Well, I need your help as your Pastor. I sense a crystal clear direction God has for us; to increase our witness in Woods Harbour, Barrington and Pubnico. But in order for me to lead us into making that vision a reality I need you to step and serve in the ministries God has called you to.
Conclusion
SUM UP
SUGGESTION
SPIN AROUND
STOP
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