We ve covered the Old Testament. We ve covered the Gospels, the life of Christ. We now begin a three week series on the beginning of the church.

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1 The Story Characteristics of a Healthy Church Pt 1: A Healthy Church Is A Growing Church Wow! We are in week 28 of a 31 week series called The Story. We are in the home stretch of this series. I want to encourage you to finish strong! Read your chapter every week. Attend your LifeGroup every week. Be here for worship every week. Finish strong! We ve covered the Old Testament. We ve covered the Gospels, the life of Christ. We now begin a three week series on the beginning of the church. The entire Christian religion, all Christian churches can ultimately trace their roots back to the book of Acts and the Epistles in the New Testament. The next three weeks we will look at the church as it was originally founded. It was a thriving, strong, life altering, world changing, healthy church. What can we learn from that church? One of the last things Jesus said to the founders of His church is recorded in Matthew 28: Matthew 28: Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. These are the very last three verses in the Gospel of Matthew. This is the last command Jesus gives to the founders of His church. It is often referred to as the Great Commission. These are His marching orders to the church. Jesus said, Go make disciples! 1. A heathy church makes disciples.

2 Jesus told them to go make disciples. What exactly is a disciple? A disciple is a follower. But more than that. A disciple is a student. But more than that. A disciple is an apprentice. But more than that. A disciple is one who when he is fully trained, will become just like his master or his teacher. Jesus hints at this when he made this statement: Luke 6:40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. We are supposed to be disciples of Jesus which means we are supposed to be like Jesus! How s that for a lofty goal!! Jesus said, John 13:15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Being like Jesus means that we act like Him, we think like Him, we share His priorities, we view others through His eyes, we treat others the way Jesus would treat them, we love others the way Jesus would love them. We follow the example of Jesus. That s why the Apostle Paul wrote: Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. We re supposed to be confirmed to the likeness of Jesus. We re supposed to be like Jesus! As we become like Jesus, what happens? The priorities of our life become the same as His. And what was His priority? Look at what He said about this: Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. Mark 1:38 Jesus replied, Let us go somewhere else to the nearby villages so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.

3 He came to seek and save the lost. He came to preach or to tell people about God s love for them. He came to explain to them how God wants them to live and how they can ultimately get to heaven. Therefore, if we are true disciples of Jesus, we will do what He did. We bring people into a saving knowledge of Jesus so that they can also become disciples of His. As a church, that means that we are an evangelistic church. 2. A healthy church is an evangelistic church. When Jesus said, Go make disciples... the first word in that statement is Go! That s proactive. That s a call to action. That means get up and get moving! Did the church at the very beginning obey Jesus in this? Boy did they ever! The Book of Acts is the followup to the Gospels. It is what happened right after Jesus ascended into Heaven. It is a history of the first couple of years in the establishment and life of the church. Let s look at how they obeyed Jesus and invited thousands to become His disciples. Here s just a few highlights from the Book of Acts: Acts 1:15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty.) The core group that were the founding members of that very first Christian Church was about 120 people. But look at how quickly that number increased. Acts 2:41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. The church just EXPLODED numerically. Look at what was happening just 6 verses later:

4 Acts 2:47 And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. It wasn t limited to a Sunday morning experience. Every day people were becoming Christians. Acts 4:4 But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. And that s just counting the men! If there is an equal number of women and children the number is somewhere around 15,000! This growth trend continues: Acts 5:14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. They began with 120, then had 3,000, then more than 15,000 men, women and children. They just kept growing and growing and growing. Acts 6:1 & 7 1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing. 7 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. Notice the key words, increasing, rapidly, large number. But it wasn t limited to Jerusalem. They were starting churches all over Israel. Acts 9:31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord. This is the major theme throughout the Book of Acts. I ll give you just one more example: Acts 11:21 & The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. 24 And a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

5 Evidently, there were so many that they couldn t even count them. It just says, A great number! As you go further into the Book of Acts you ll see that the church grew beyond the borders of Israel. Christianity spread into other countries. Churches were started throughout the entire Mediterranean region. Why?! Why was the church such an evangelistic church? Because they obeyed Jesus! Jesus told them to Go make disciples... So, they went and made disciples! Look at a statement Jesus made in a parable in Luke 14:23 Go into the highways and byways and compel them to come in that my house may be full. NIV says, "...Make them come in..." to come in..." LIVING Bible says, "...urge them I like the way the New American Standard translation puts it, "Compel them to come in that my house may be full." This is a proactive approach. You don't just build a beautiful building, open the doors and then sit and wait. You go out and get em! Compel them! Encourage them! Invite them! Jesus used the analogy of being a fisher of men. Mark 1:17 Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men. Again, that s proactive. Fish don t jump into your boat or walk up to your cabin, you ve got to go get them! Years ago when my oldest daughter, Andrea, was about 4 years old I took her fishing. I had purchased some worms to use as bait. Sitting by the edge of the lake while I was rigging up the poles, Andrea started playing with the worms, as if they were pets. She had made a little dirt corral and had emptied the worms into this corral lining them all up as if they were a family. Pretty soon she had started giving them names. Names like Speedy and Lightening and Flash.

6 When it came to bait the hook, Andrea refused to let me use the worms. In fact, she eventually set them all free. She started her own, SAVE THE WORMS campaign. Guess how many fish we caught that day? None! If you aren t fishing you don t catch fish! Jesus said that we are to be fishers of men. You can t be a fisher of men if you aren t fishing! Jesus said that we are to compel them to come in so that his house would be full. A healthy church is an evangelistic church because it obeys Jesus. What else does a healthy church do? 3. A healthy church teaches what the Jesus taught. In the Great Commission in Matthew 28 after saying that we are to go make disciples, Jesus said that we are to baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and we are to teach them all that He had commanded us. A. Baptize Jesus taught that we are to baptize. A church grows when it is busy baptizing people into Christ. That first church was very, very busy baptizing people. Let me give you a few quick examples from the Book of Acts: Acts 2:38 & Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. That s a lot of baptisms! I don t know who did all of those baptisms but I bet his skin was all wrinkly when he finished!! That s a long time to be standing around in a bunch of water! I think it s safe to assume that many people were actually doing the

7 baptisms. Let s look at another example. Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Men and women. No babies. There is no record of any infant baptism in the Bible. That s one of the reasons why we don t do infant baptisms here. We follow the teaching and example of the Bible. Look at the verse, when they believed, they were baptized. You ve got to be old enough to believe, then you are baptized. The next example in this same chapter is Philip and an Ethiopian eunuch. Acts 8:36 & As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?" 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When people are led to Christ, they were baptized. That s the Biblical way. Look at this very strong statement from the Apostle Peter: Acts 10:48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter ordered this individual to be baptized. I ve suggested, asked, taught, encouraged...but I ve never ordered someone to be baptized. But then, I m not an Apostle, I m just a pastor. The Apostle Peter ordered them to be baptized. Acts 18:8 Many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized Belief and baptism just go together. It doesn t stop here. Baptized and baptism appear more than 25 times in the Book Acts.

8 Throughout the Book of Acts people were baptized and throughout the epistles baptism is taught. Jesus gave the order to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That s what Jesus taught. As the church grew, thousands and thousands were baptized as they received Jesus as their Lord and Savior. B. Teach. Jesus also said that they were to teach all that He had commanded. A church grows when it is busy teaching the Bible. After Judas had hung himself the Apostle Peter instructed the other apostles that they needed to replace Judas. Look at the criteria he suggested for Judas replacement: Acts 1: Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection. The replacement needed to be someone who had been with Jesus during His entire ministry. Why? So that they would know what Jesus had taught and commanded, so that they would teach others. Or, as Peter says, be witnesses. As a result, the Apostles taught the new Christians everything that Jesus had taught them. They were devoted to this: Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Likewise, we need to be devoted to the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. Through our sermons, through our LifeGroups, through our Bible studies, for our youth, for our children...that s our commitment. We follow the teachings of Jesus! If we will make every effort to go make disciples. If we will make it our priority to be an evangelistic church. If we will continue to baptize people

9 into Christ. If we will not compromise on teaching what Jesus and the Apostles taught... then we will indeed be a spiritually healthy church and will also continue to be a growing church. Is that the kind of church you d like to be a part of?

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