If you were to ask our financial secretary, he might tell you that he has a full-time job answering calls from the gas and electric companies offering to save us money on our utilities. With all the calls we receive, it’s pretty obvious that power is big business. And we would certainly notice if our heat and lights were suddenly turned off. Clearly, we need power to keep the church going.
But the church isn’t just a building. So what powers the church, the body of Christ that meets in the building? It’s the resurrection of Jesus. Throughout the New Testament, we read about the power of the church that was found in the resurrection of Jesus. In Acts 4:33, we read, “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.” The early church had a powerful message – that Jesus died on the cross to forgive our sins and rose again to give us eternal life – and they shared it powerfully.
The early church grew in faith and in numbers because of that powerful message. Acts 4:32 describes their transformation, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.” The power of Jesus’ resurrection changed their beliefs, their thinking, and their actions. And by that power, the church continued to grow.
But how was that power transmitted? Acts 6:4 says that the apostles focused on the preaching and teaching of the Word of God and through prayer. It’s interesting that the context of Acts 6 is trouble in the early church; a certain group of widows within the church was being ignored in the daily distribution of food. This simple conflict had the potential to derail the church, but the apostles kept their focus on the primary purpose and tasks of the church: to make disciples. They didn’t get distracted by secondary concerns; as important as feeding the widows of the church was, it was not the primary task of the apostles. Acts 6:2 says, “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.’”
The power of the early church was not in the way the Christians fed the widows. It was not in the way they shared their possessions among themselves (Acts 2:45; 4:32). It was not in special programs or events. It was not in beautiful church buildings. It was not even in powerful preachers and teachers. It was in the resurrection of Jesus. Paul himself testified to his need for this power in his own life, writing in Philippians 3:10-12:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Even this powerful apostle, preacher, teacher did not believe he had it all figured out, but he depended upon the power of the resurrection to be the sole foundation of his work, proclaiming the Gospel message. This is why Paul boldly states in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”
So when we start to wonder or even worry about the power and the effectiveness of the church, we must not be distracted from the primary task of making disciples by preaching and teaching the Gospel from the Word of God. Others may tell us what we have to do to attract people to the church – change our style of music; change the preacher’s style of preaching; change the color of the walls, pews, and carpet; change the brand of our coffee – but those things are secondary to our purpose to make disciples. Jesus said, in John 12:32, “When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”
As we approach the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, let us remember the power of his resurrection. Let us use that power to do what Jesus sent us to do, to make disciples; then the church will grow.