On Church Multiplication

How does the church grow? What does it look like when God multiplies a church? What’s a good biblical example?

I took a church growth class in seminary. At times, it felt like a mix between a mass marketing seminar and a bad Sunday School lesson. Don’t get me wrong, I’m for church growth. Healthy things grow. But something about some of the books we read in that class felt, well, hollow.

The small group at our church that my wife and I attend is going through the book of Acts. As we studied chapter nine the other week, a particular verse stood out. While the book of Acts is descriptive (describing events), and not always prescriptive (giving us a detailed action plan), the elements that are present in this verse help inform our discussions about church growth:

 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. (Acts 9:31, ESV) 
They (a) had peace, (b) they were built up, (c) they walked in the fear of the Lord, (d) and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, (e) and they multiplied.

Without further study, I cannot say precisely what the peace is they experienced. This chapter outlines Paul’s conversion, who once oppressed Christians, and his early acceptance into the church. There are numerous references to persecution, so the peace could be primarily external.

What’s clear is that the church was being taught the Word of God, and applying it to their lives. They were being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. In light of this, the peace they experienced could be mainly internal and unrelated to their external circumstances.

The result? They multiplied.

They didn’t have a seminary class with a lot of gimmicks about church growth. The church multiplication in this verse is rather simple. It’s not slathered in gloss. It’s not trendy. It’s communities of faith that hear and obey the Word of God. It’s a group of believers that experience the comfort of the Holy Spirit. And it’s the kind of thing God loves so much he multiplies.