I once was a part of a church that prayed each week for at least one person to find Jesus. Over the course of the year that added up to 52 people. I thought it was a simple, fantastic prayer. And an encouraging one too, as we saw God work in many many lives. But I realized sadly that many churches struggle to expect God to work that often. It seems too much to ask God to multiply let alone add. Many churches hardly expect one person a month to be changed by Jesus. Some are curious if one person a year is impacted deeply.
The math in the book of Acts is amazing. In chapter 1 there are 120 people. In chapter 2 there are over 3000. In chapter 3, more people. In chapter 4, the Jesus followers prayed for great boldness to share the Good News to others. In chapter 5, "more people believed and were brought to the Lord." Chapter 6, "God's message was preached in ever-widening circles. The number of believers greatly increased". In chapter 7, persecution against Jesus followers started. But in chapter 8, the region of Samaria was turning to Jesus and an official of Ethiopia gave his life to God. In chapter 9, Saul the persecuter dramatically turned his life over to Jesus and Peter shared about Jesus all over Israel. In chapter 10, Cornelius and his family, Gentiles in every sense of the word, became followers of Jesus. In chapter 11, a mega church in Syria grew and grew. In chapter 12, "God's Good News was spreading rapidly, and there were many new believers." Chapter 13, Paul and Barnabas share the message of Jesus on Cyprus and what is now southeastern Turkey. In chapter 14, churches are started all throughout what is now central Turkey. In chapter 15, we hear reports about how people are becoming Christians all over the place. In chapters 16-17, the Gospel spreads all the way through Greece and is discussed by the philosophers of Athens. In chapters 18-19, a mega church takes root in Ephesus and becomes a staging ground for mission. In chapters 20-21, it has become clear that Christians are now all over the Roman Empire. And in the final chapters of Acts we read about how the Gospel was being proclaimed to large numbers of people throughout Rome.
By 64 A.D. Nero blamed Christians in Rome for burning half of the city. By 70 A.D. there were churches in Spain, Sudan, Iran and perhaps even India. By 110 A.D. the Roman Temple cult system in northern Turkey had all but shut down because there were so many Christians- to the point where the governor (Pliny) started executing Christians if they didn't worship Caesar and the Roman gods.
Today, in China the Church is expanding exponentially. In South America it is growing. In parts of Africa people are finding Jesus like it's the first century all over again. Meanwhile today, the church in Europe has subtracted. It is now only a fraction of itself. The church in North America has divided and stalled.
I think we need to get back to the math of Acts.