Here is an important principle from Luke, the author of Acts. Because the Christian movement is of God, it cannot be overthrown. The principle is laid down by Gamaliel, and it is endorsed and supported by Luke throughout the book of Acts.
… keep away from these men and let them alone, [don't tase them, bros] for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice,
(Act 5:38-39 ESV) [but they did tase them before letting them go, cf. v. 40ff.]
Notice how Luke supports this idea (dynamic growth serves as a kind of practical apologetic, i.e., as an evidence for the reliability of the message) throughout the book. See, e.g.,
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Act 2:41)
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, (Act 2:46)
But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. (Act 4:4)
And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. (Act 6:7)
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. (Act 9:31)
And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. (Act 11:21)
(See also 11; 24, 14:1, 13:21, 16:5 and 19:20. I really recommend that you open these texts and consider them (I don’t have space and time to cite them all here)
Growth is normative. Stagnation and decline are not. They are symptoms of spiritual dysfunction. The church (the kingdom of our Lord) grows and grows.
Here is the significance of this principle for Planting Partners. By what mechanism does the church grow and grow? Throughout the history of the Christian movement the answer has been the same. Largely through the planting of churches!
Society and culture are dynamic realities that constantly shift and change. They are moving targets. Our message remains the same. Generations and demographic patterns are perpetually in a state of flux. What is called for is a massive army of passionate entrepreneurial leaders who will respond to the Spirit’s call and stake a claim in the Name of Christ on an emerging segment of the society/culture as it presents itself today and is likely to present itself tomorrow.
Those who do so may trace their roots to the apostolic Pioneers of Pentecost!
What is the significance of this post for pastors (like me) of existing churches? Read the principle articulated by Gamaliel once again and take it to heart. Pray for your local church planters and don’t be grumpy about their success! “You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:39)