We’ve been looking at the book of Acts with our students on Wednesday nights. We’re doing a series that looks at what the church is supposed to be. Tonight we are looking at Acts 6:1-7, where the apostles charge the church to appoint men to be responsible for the daily distribution. We will continue with the story of the stoning of Stephen. We’re looking at what the church does and the price of faith.
This study has caused me to stop and think several times. We’ve read stories where 3,000 people were saved (Acts 2:41) and where 5,000 men were added to their number (Acts 4:4). Outside of the book of Acts we’ve looked at stories of Jesus healing and God parting the red sea. We worked through the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) and read about God doing amazing things. But what do we really expect from God?
I’ve wondered more than once, “what does the church in America expect from God?” Where I live, most communities have 3-6 main churches that will range from 100-350 pretty much directly proportional to the size of their community and the number of churches who comprise that main group of churches. I was speaking with a pastor a couple of weeks ago who made the observation that churches have grown more from getting in the way of census growth than anything else in the last few decades.
He was basically claiming that the churches that have grown the fastest have pretty much just placed themselves in the path of cities’ natural growth. I think there is some truth in there. I’m not against good planning and I believe that God calls churches to places that are growing so that they can reach those people, but its a little scary to think that the primary sources of growth for churches have been community growth and church transfers.
Now, why did I call this post Jesus and Santa? I called this post Jesus and Santa because when I look around, Jesus and Santa have eerily similar impacts on many who claim to believe in Christ. Jesus gets an extra holiday and little bit more of our time…I hope, but it seems that churches don’t really expect either of them to do anything.
I think we need to ask ourselves the question, “do we really expect Jesus to work?” If we do, are we willing to let Him work in His way? What could that mean to the church? Why are there so very few churches in smaller communities of 1000+ people? It’s certainly not because everyone has a church to go to… A community of 9000 could put 300 people in 30 different churches! Since that is probably not the reality in your community and it is certainly not the reality in mine, there are obviously a lot of people out there who are not in church, either because they are not believers or because they just don’t go to church. So why could God not grow a church in a small town by 500 or 1000? Or by 100% or by 300%? The people are there!
God does amazing things throughout the formation of the early church. He has continued to do amazing things throughout the existence of the church. Why do so few people expect God to do amazing things today? I think there are a lot of answers to these questions, but I think one of them, is that we are comfortable with our churches’ size. We are comfortable with churches’ budgets (sometimes). We want to reach people, but we are uncertain of what price we are willing to pay.
I can’t help but stop and ask, “what if…” What if we dreamed big for the church in our communities? What if we hoped for mighty movement? What if we prayed for great revival? What if we believed in the Jesus Christ of the New Testament? What if we… Maybe Jesus could be more in our communities than just another Santa figurine that we take out of the box in a few seasons.