80 percent of all churches are stagnant or in decline writes John Hammett. One church closes each day. As a whole, the church is alive but not well. In Acts 2:42-47, Dr. Luke does more than take the pulse, he gives a thorough examination of first local church. The report of Luke the physician is encouraging: Healthy, alive and well. If we follow the example of the first church our churches can be healthy as well. There are five marks of a healthy church:
1. Teaching God’s Word (2:42)
2. Fellowshipping with God’s people (2:42)
3. Worshiping God (2:42)
4. Serving in God’s work (2:44)
5. Evangelizing the unsaved (2:47)
When we observe the first church serving in God’s work, we see first of all that all the new regenerated members served. There was no 80/20 principle. 100 percent were involved in ministry. Church growth experts say it is important for new members to get engaged in ministry within the first six months or most likely they never will. How can our church improve at involving new members?
Next we see that all served in unity. They were together in the work. One of Paul’s favorite illustrations of diversity and unity in the Body of Christ is the human anatomy (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4). While we are one, we are unique in the body. Luke says twice that the Lord “added” these new converts to the church (2:41 and 47). God added you to your church and you have talents and spiritual gifts that your church absolutely needs to be healthy and function at 100 percent for the glory of God.
These new members not only served and served in unity, but they served each other (2:45). This unselfish service was not forced communism where all property was owned by the government. In Acts 12:12, Mary stilled owned her house. This was Biblical stewardship that recognizes God as the owner (Psalm 24:1). Mary owned her house but she had dedicated it to the Lord and allowed the church to meet in it for worship.
Finally, all these new converts served with gladness in their local church (2:46, 47). In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, Paul reminds us “God loves a cheerful giver.” These believers did not look like they had been baptized in pickle juice. They served with the fruit of the Spirit joy.
They impacted their community as 2:47 described. Evangelizing the unsaved is not one of the marks of a healthy church but is a result of a healthy church. These believers heard the apostles’ doctrine, they fellowshipped with each other, they worshiped God and they served in the work. But the Lord “added to the church such as should be saved.”
Jesus in John 13:34, 35 gives us a method of evangelism we often overlook but certainly characterized the early church: “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.”