What is the church? What should the church look like? What should the church be doing?
These are really important questions. If the church doesn’t understand its identity and its role in the world, then it is bound to be confused, paralyzed and ineffective.
This past Sunday we looked at Acts 2:42-47 and looked at some of the characteristics and descriptions of what the early church looked liked.
Based on Acts 2, we read of a few things that the early church was DEVOTED to (not merely did regularly, or did religiously, but truly DEVOTED and COMMITTED to).
1) The early church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.
This is what we have as the New Testament. We have access to the same teachings that the early church had. We have the same God-Inspired Word that the early church devoted themselves to.
2) The early church devoted themselves to fellowship.
Not just hanging out with one another or having a potluck, but truly sharing their lives with one another. They were real people meeting real needs and joining together to fulfill a real mission. We are called to do the same.
Imagine what church would look like if everyone truly and fully loved one another.
God tells us that fellowship is even more important for us NOW since his return is coming soon (Heb. 10:24-25)
3) The early church devoted themselves to the breaking of bread
This is both a reference to communion (the Lord’s supper) and to sharing meals. They would do both. They were regularly (possibly even daily) share meals with one another and doing so take the bread and wine and celebrate the new covenant that Jesus made with His people, the church.
Paul highlighted the significance of this ritual:
“As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).
In taking communion, we are proclaiming that Jesus’ sacrifice is CENTRAL to our mission and our life together as the church.
4) The early church devoted themselves to prayer
Prayer was the church’s means of receiving strength and guidance from the Lord. They DEPENDED on intimate communion with the One in whom they had put their trust.
A church that is devoted to prayer is a church that knows God’s mission is the most important pursuit one earth. It is a church that knows it cannot succeed WITHOUT God.
Taking those and reading more in Acts and the New Testament, we can begin to see some characteristics that defined the early church – as we do ask yourself how these characteristics can play out in our unique situation, in our unique church.
1) A GENEROUS COMMUNITY
The early church had such a concern for their brothers and sisters in Christ that they were willing to sell their own possessions to meet a physical need. (Acts 2:44, 4:32, 2 Corinthians 8:3-4)
Such generosity is the fruit of transformed hearts.
2) A HOLY COMMUNITY
The early church was a community SET APART for God’s purposes. Even the outside world took notice of what was happening. (Acts 2:43, 2:47)
3) A FEARLESS COMMUNITY
Suffering was a very real part of following Jesus in the first century, and the same holds true today.The early church BOLDLY proclaimed the truth of the gospel and fearlessly reached out to the hurting world around them. Because of this, they often encountered persecution and even martyrdom. (2 Timothy 3:12)
4) A MULTIPLYING COMMUNITY
The early church grew remarkably. Churches were planted as the apostles and other believers took the gospel all over the known world (partially due to the very persecution mentioned above). But all of this was CLEARLY the Lord’s work (Acts. 2:47, 4:23-31, 8;1).
The point of the example of the early church is not primarily to make us dwell on their strengths, but rather to make us MARVEL at God’s strength.
The same God who multiplied the early church works through the church today.
The same Spirit who lived in the midst of the Christians in the first century lives within the church of the 21st century.
It is our responsibility to bring that same message of healing and salvation to our modern world through the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
What do you think the Holy Spirit would want your church to do in an effort to fulfill the church’s mission in your unique setting? If you don’t know, make it a priority to pray and seek the Spirit’s guidance on this issue.
Ask God to guide and empower your church for the mission He has given you. Pray that the church today would be everything God designed it to be.
Homework reading from Sunday:
1 Peter 2:9, 1 Timothy 3:15, Ephesians 2:19-22, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 5:22-33