Churches can easily become consumed with numbers. We track the number of people who attend our weekly services. We track the amount of money placed in the collection plate. We track the number of individuals who are converted as a result of our evangelistic efforts. Numbers matter to us because they provide a simple way to measure growth. But are numbers the best way to measure growth?
Based on the numbers the first century church were experts in church growth. On its very first day, the church witnessed the conversion of three thousand people (Acts 2:41) and within their first year of existence they ballooned in excess of five thousand men, not counting women and children (Acts 4:4). In fact, their growth was so rapid that Luke said, “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). This was a church that experienced phenomenal growth and did so in an age when there were no church growth experts to tell them what they should do to grow nor church growth seminars to educate them on the modern techniques of evangelism nor church growth books that provided them with a proper philosophy towards growth nor sister congregations to be utilized as a blueprint of growth. They had no resources; they were it. Yet no church has ever experienced the kind of growth that the infant church in Jerusalem did, and maybe its because they measured growth differently.
In Acts 2:42-47 we are given a glimpse into the life of the first century church, and this section begins with the simple phrase “they devoted themselves to.” In the following verses we discover devotion to God’s Word, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer, as well as an emphasis on giving, involvement, worship, and evangelism. And as the church’s story unfolds throughout the book of Acts it becomes apparent that their measurement of growth was not based on numbers but on one’s level of devotion to God.
Devotion matters. That to which you are devoted consumes your attention, your energy, your time, and even your finances. When you are devoted to something you give yourself entirely to it so that it becomes your master. God expects His people to be so devoted to Him that He is their Master. That is why the Greastest Command is that we love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). That is why discipleship requires the denial of self (Luke 9:23). That is why Jesus indicated that God must be prioritized over one’s family (Luke 14:26). Devotion matters.
For the first century church numbers did not matter nearly as much as devotion because devotion measured what was most important in your life. In the next few articles we are going to examine what the first century church devoted itself to so that we can determine whether or not we are devoting ourselves to the same things.