by John Meador
In a surprising news release, the leaders of what many are saying is the most effective church in the history of Christianity, gave incredible insight into the success of the church.
A report was released that documented the priorities of the church, as well as the way the leaders approached day-to-day operations. Instead of the usual "professional staff report," this document was slanted toward revealing the practices of the leadership from a layman's perspective. The report was actually written by a layman-a physician who was closely linked to the key leaders.
The church, comprised of nearly 4,000 active attendees, was actually a recent church plant at the time of the report. Somehow the leaders, most of them young and none of them seminary-trained, learned early in their ministry the keys to effective church growth. Surprisingly, their methods do not include what many would consider necessary protocol for building a successful church. Most, if not all, of their guiding principles are unique to them, and none of these leaders were influenced by any other church models, as so many are today.
In addition, the leaders themselves do not fit the model of what most of us would say are leadership essentials. None of them are former business executives or marketing experts. In fact, their professions before entering into ministry are rather mundane, blue-collar type activities. None really had the ability to rely upon gifts or talents cultivated in the business world.
They did, however, have a very clear sense of simplicity and dedication to a few principles. The report states that the leaders determined that three very clear priorities would be established from the inception of the new church.
First, they would insure that the members of the congregation themselves would take care of pressing physical and spiritual needs in a spirit of love-even designating a group of volunteers to see that this would take place. It was determined that the professional staff would not be able to meet the vast majority of needs that such a large group of people normally have, but that among the large group would be many who could willingly take on that passion and responsibility.
Second, the leaders decided to place an unusual amount of importance on the study of Scriptures so that they might be able to teach effectively. In a nutshell, the priority for these leaders was letting God's Word be the centerpiece of their time and their lives. They reasoned that the most important next step for people after their conversion to Christ was an understanding of His words. Consequently, the leaders insure that the Word of Jesus Christ undergirds every activity they undertake. There is an almost non-stop devotion to the Word.
Third, the leaders devoted themselves to spending much time in prayer. Perhaps the most unique thing about these leaders was their lack of "professional confidence." They are convinced they cannot adequately perform their roles by themselves. They are in no way depending upon their education or anything they could learn in a classroom. Their trust seems to be placed squarely on God Himself, as evidenced by their time in prayer.
Apparently, this three-fold focus has produced overwhelming results, with thousands coming to faith and being baptized. Not content to simply get an initial commitment, this church has mobilized to insure healthy follow-up through mentoring and discipleship. They seem to be "doing life" together.
The church also experienced unusual and miraculous intervention on a frequent basis, with healings and surprising conversions taking place among the most unlikely of people. Even those most difficult to convince, according to this report, have come to faith in Christ.
In addition to all the above, the congregation itself sees to it that the message of the church just keeps spreading from person to person and from neighborhood to neighborhood. Acutely aware that 4,000 voices are better than a few, their manner is for each to be dedicated to sharing the message with as many people as they possibly can while they have opportunity.
This simple, but powerful formula has been overlooked by the many thousands of churches that aspire to see the kind of results that these leaders have experienced.
The church doesn't even have a marketable name. It is simply called "the church" in its particular geographical location-Jerusalem.
The physician is Luke.
The report is found in Acts 6:1-7.
John Meador is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas.