Church Growth in the Book of Acts -- By: Allison A. Trites

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 145:578 (Apr 1988)
Article: Church Growth in the Book of Acts
Author: Allison A. Trites

Church Growth in the Book of Acts

Allison A. Trites

Professor of New Testament Studies
Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, Nova Scotia

Frank Stagg has described the Book of Acts as “the story of an unhindered gospel.”1 He takes his cue from the unusual adverb ἀκωλύτως (“unhindered,” Acts 28:31) with which the book ends. He sees the whole book focusing on the remarkable growth of the church under the guidance of the Lord and in the power of the Holy Spirit. While many scholars would posit other themes as the author’s main concern, Luke certainly punctuates his account with many summary statements about church expansion (2:43–47; 5:14; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20). There is no better place to examine the factors that made the early church grow than the Acts of the Apostles.

This brief study of church growth in Acts discusses the fact of church growth, the kinds of church growth, and the characteristics of church growth.

The Fact of Church Growth

Beyond question church growth was a remarkable feature of first-century Christianity. In this connection it is profitable to

note that the Greek verb “grow” (αὐξάνω) occurs several times in the Book of Acts. In only three places does the Bible state that “the word of God grew” or “the word of the Lord grew,” and all of them are in Acts. In the first passage the Word of God spread in spite of internal problems (Acts 6:7). When the issues that divided the Christian community were squarely faced and constructive action taken, church growth resulted. The choosing of the seven leaders to meet the needs of the Greek-speaking Jews was important in settling a contentious matter within the life of the church. Then the growth of the fellowship of believers could continue unimpeded.

The second passage is set against the background of idolatry. Herod Agrippa made an impressive speech to the people of Tyre and Sidon, to which they responded, This is “the voice of a god and not of a man” (12:22). He was immediately struck down and died, “but the Word of the Lord continued to grow and to b...

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