My Father’s glory is shown by your bearing much fruit; and in this way you become My disciples. (John 20:21)
In 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, two college drop-outs, started Apple Computers in a garage. Both left the company nine years later. Subsequently, the company speedily spiraled downward so the Board was forced to ask Jobs to return in 1997. Four years later Apple lifted the curtain on the very first iPod. From that point Apple has grown exponentially, so that it has impacted the entire world. Get this! Upon his return Jobs addressed the employees with these somewhat prophetic words: “Apple at the core, its core value, is that we believe people with passion can change the world for the better.”
Jesus said: “I will build My church.” Not surprising words from a carpenter! He first gathered personnel: “Come, follow Me.” After mentoring the crew less than three years Jesus announced His departure. The enterprise was entrusted to the Eleven with this simple directive: “Go and make disciples in all nations.” By 300 AD Christianity had, so to speak, conquered the Roman Empire when Emperor Constantine became a Christian. Though his conversion was probably more political than spiritual, it does show the inroads of the Christian faith even to the top levels of governmental power.
So, what accounts for this meteoric growth of the church in the early years? Obviously, it wasn’t personnel. By any standard the Eleven were all ragtags! To them Donald Trump would most likely have said: “You’re fired!” (Theological professionals didn’t surface until the late second century.)
Second, given the fact that the Eleven had never ventured more than 100 miles in any direction, their worldview must have been rather narrow (perhaps that’s the reason Jesus advised them to start in “Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria” … places they could grasp).
Third, the company had no buildings (not until the third century according to archaeology).
Fourth, they didn’t have an authorized New Testament until the fourth century. So, Bible study, as we know it, was non-existent.
Fifth, until 325 AD there were no doctrinal standards to which one could appeal (the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Southern Baptists, Reformed, Methodists, and Assemblies of God would be out to sea in a small raft!) Just a little humor!
Get the point? Every ingredient that we view as absolutely necessary for the church to succeed was nonexistent in the early years. Inquiring minds want to know: what was the secret of the early church’s growth? Steve Jobs nailed it! They were People with Passion for a Person!
Many years ago—so long ago that I remember neither the author nor the title—I read a book that evaluated the American Church by the standard which Jesus set at His departure. The author compared the church today to an experience at Cape Canaveral, Florida. We have garnered the most brilliant space experts known to humankind. We have designed incredibly complicated and unbelievably powerful rocket launchers. We have built giant launch pads for the rockets. We have engineered complicated electronic control sites, like the Houston Space Center, capable of outer space tracking. And, to top it off, we even have a spectator’s gallery for watching a launch.
Everything is in place: the launch stage, the mission plan, the rocket, the professional personnel, the electronics and the spectators. NEVERTHELESS, “HOUSTON! We have a problem!” There’s seems to be no fuel in the rocket tanks, so it can’t be launched. According to the author the church in America can boast of literally everything except that which Jesus proposed as the goal of His operation. It’s a devastating assessment. Nonetheless, a scientific appraisal such as that done by Barna Research will prove the point. Paul seems to describe our situation in words written to Timothy: We have a form of religion but lack any power in our rocket tanks (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
What’s to be done? Our most natural and powerful response is denial. If I put our excuses in black and white, I would get sick of mind and heart. The only other response is that of REPENTANCE … A CHANGE OF MENTAL PERSPECTIVE!
I grew up in a small business so I shall use common sense parameters. For all of the time, treasure and talent invested in the enterprise of the American church, what dividends are we reaping IN TERMS OF THE GOAL JESUS PRESCRIBED? I shall state it more personally: “I am the vine; you are the branches. It is to My Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, thus demonstrating that you are My disciples” (John 15:5-8). As you read this are YOU able to identify by name specific fruit on your branch? At stake is the glory of your Father as well as your identify as an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ.