(Photo: Saddleback Church)
London has some of the most beautiful, historic churches in the entire world. Yet they are also some of the most empty. I was struck by this recently when I was in the city to do a Bible study. Churches are dying off so fast that they're being sold off to bars and restaurants. London churches are desperate for the blessing of God.
I don't want to lead a dying church. I don't believe you do either. So what does it take for a church to remain vibrant, exciting-and alive? It takes the blessing of God. Whenever God blesses a church, it grows, lives are changed and miracles happen. Churches that God blesses bless people, bless families and bless communities.
That's what the early church had. God's blessing was all over that church. If we want to have the blessing of God on our churches, we need to do what the early church did in Acts 1-2.
1. Pray for God's power. (Acts 1:3-4, 14) It's God's power that makes the Church different from any other organization or group. We have the Holy Spirit. Microsoft, General Motors, and Apple do not have the Holy Spirit. We do. He has also given the church an enormous assignment-to get as many people into Heaven as possible. Like the early Church, we need God's power to do this.
2. Use everyone's language. (Acts 2:5-8) One of the great miracles of the Day of Pentecost was that, as the disciples preached, everyone heard them in their own language. It was a complete reversal of what God did at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. But we don't need this miracle today. Today's Church speaks every language in the world. The Church speaks more languages than the United Nations.
But I believe the people in your church speak more languages than you realize. We all speak dozens of languages. If someone in your church is involved in IT or a baseball fan or a doctor or a salesperson, they understand a language others don't know. If you want to be a church that God blesses, you need to realize that God has placed people in your congregation for a reason. They have a language that God wants them to use to share the Good News in the community.
3. Employ every member's talents. (Acts 2:1-18, 21) The early Church used all of its people in ministry. No one sat on the sideline! Everyone is involved in the ministry of the church. To be the kind of church that God blesses, your church needs to be the kind of church that won't let people just sit. If that's what people want in a church, let them go somewhere else. The kind of church God blesses uses the talents of those in the body.
4. Be devoted to God's Word. (Acts 2:14-40, 42) We should hear it, read it, meditate on it, and memorize it. But most of all, if you want your church to be one that God blesses, you need to do it-whatever the Bible says. Pop psychology won't give you God's blessing. Devoting yourself to God's Word will. When Peter preached the gospel message during Pentecost Sunday, he continually went back to God's Word in sharing the gospel. No other message-other than the gospel-has the power to change lives.
5. Love each other deeply. (Acts 2:42). The early church practiced koinonia (which we call fellowship). It means they were as committed to one another as they were to Jesus Christ. The truth is, loving churches grow. Cold churches don't. The early church was a loving church. The Roman government hated Christians and persecuted them, but even the Romans acknowledged that early Christians loved each other. They protected one another, cared for one another, and helped one another like no one else.
6. Worship with joy. (Acts 2:46-47) God blesses a church that celebrates Him. People want to be where there is joy! There's enough bad news in the world. I think the church should be a place where good news is preached-the gospel. We could stand in our pulpits each week and preach about the sin of the week. But what good does that do? Honestly, I think it should be fun to go to church. God wired us to express emotion. But too many people have been taught not to express it in church. When we let go and worship joyfully though, people are drawn to our churches.
7. Be willing to sacrifice. (Acts 2:44-45) The first church was famous for its generosity. Acts 2 says that the early church shared everything with one another. The early church didn't just share money. Their generosity was much more radical than that. They shared everything! I wonder how many people the 21st century church would reach if we sacrificed like the early church did.
8. Reach our communities for Christ! (Acts 2:40-41) The first church reached people for Christ from its very first day. In fact, with 3,000 people coming to Christ, the first church was megachurch from day one! In Acts 1:8 Jesus commands us to be His witness throughout the world. Evangelism is not an option. As long as there is one person within driving range of Saddleback who doesn't have a relationship with God, we're going to keep trying to grow. I hope your church will do the same.