Following the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached the first gospel sermon on the Day of Pentecost. People responded to Peter's message and became followers and disciples of Jesus. The majority of the remaining New Testament writings describe the spread of Christianity as messengers like Paul traveled throughout the known world spreading the good news. Paul's letters to churches he worked to establish and nurture, as well as messages to individuals, contain the descriptions and information about the Christian life. The communities of believers were known as the church. Other New Testament writers like Peter, James and John added more to the encouragement for Christians to maintain and share their faith.
This week I picked up a booklet, written in 1938, in which the leaders of a church were giving their members some areas of importance pertaining to church life, and especially as it led to church growth. I want to share the list with you, especially for us to see if we have the same purpose and intent enriching the lives of church members today, and promoting spiritual growth within the body of Christ. Here is the list, and a brief explanation.
1. Personal discipleship to Christ. The most important ingredient to any church is the loyal devotion to Jesus Christ from its members. They are people who have renounced self and chosen to place themselves under the disciplines of Jesus Christ.
2. Renewed strength through prayer, closeness to the Scripture, and association with the church family. The church, the body of Christ, is composed of sinners, forgiven and aware of the strength that comes from the risen Lord who resides inside them.
3. Obedience to the Great Commission. As the love of God has been made real in the life of the Christian, so the love that Christians have for others, leads them to be interested and active in spreading the gospel of salvation to all mankind.
4. An anticipation of the coming Lord. After the resurrection of Jesus, as he ascended in the clouds, he promised his return. Christians are encouraged to constantly be ready for Jesus to come again, and even anxious for the eternal life to which he leads us.
Perhaps these as well as other suggestions would be made for the church you attend. I have given you these to show you what seemed to be of greatest importance for a church back in 1938. Those people were struggling in that day. Living lives between two world wars and trying to survive during the great depression caused hardships to everyone. Yet, God's people were encouraged to be strong, to grow individually and collectively, and to be instrumental in spreading the gospel.
We have struggles, too. Sometimes they are used as excuses to keep us away from the Lord and absent from church. I confess to you, the more I think about the above list from 1938, it contains the same things we need in our lives and churches today.