They had large and small churches. Healthy, sick and dead churches. Churches with strong leaders, weak leaders and sinful leaders. They worshiped God imperfectly and fought over theology. Some churches gave abundantly to the poor, while others didn’t. Some were led by the Holy Spirit, while others got so worldly they put the pagans to shame.
Besides, if we’re going to pattern ourselves after the New Testament church, which one should we pick? The congregations in Jerusalem, Corinth, Laodicea and Ephesus were so different from each other, they had little in common outside the practices of communion and water baptism.
In short, the first century church was not the ideal template for Christian life, theology and worship that many people think it was.
Church Growth Was Never a Solution
It is precisely because of the imperfections in the early church that we have several of the books in the New Testament. Many of the writings of Paul especially, were responses to theological and behavioral problems within the congregations he had founded.
The New Testament writers told argumentative churches to get along. They chided immoral churches to repent. They warned sinful churches of God’s (and their) impending punishment if they didn’t stop sinning.
The apostles addressed an extraordinarily broad range of church issues. But there’s one thing they never did.
No New Testament writer ever told a church to get bigger.
This is either a glaring oversight on their part, or they didn’t consider it to be as important as we do.