Acts:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
I’ve spent the last few days going over this passage with various groups, doing a bit of a “Lectio Divina” -reading the passage slowly two or three times- and seeing what words or phrases light up in our minds and hearts.
Here are some of the thoughts from this:
“Devoted” -a word we rarely use these days- but a word which means a loving commitment, and what were they committed to? They were committed to and loved the Apostles teaching (the words of Jesus from the lips of his eye witness disciples), and fellowship (committed to each other, supporting and encouraging each other in Christ “by this will all people know that you are my disciples that you love one another!”), the breaking of bread (remembering Christ’s sacrifice) and to prayer (the engine room of any Christian movement).
This early Church are devoted to the right things, the things that actually matter.
The problem is people get devoted to things maybe that are not important, or at least less important: “the building”, “the history”, “the denomination”, “the style of worship” or perhaps even the “denomination”.
“Everyone was filled with awe” -On Sunday I spoke of the lack of awe and wonder in our worshipping life together. When I was a youth worker I used to talk about the “Wow factor”. When was the last time God made us (both as individuals and corporately) go “wow”!?
“at the many signs and wonders performed by the Apostles” -is the supernatural part of our daily experience of following Christ. Do we see, hear, notice and recognise what God has done and is doing in our lives and the lives of those around us? Perhaps we need to share testimonies, our everyday experiences of God in our everyday lives? Do we come before him with bold expectancy (I know I don’t as much as I should).
The word “many” also struck me, knowing that I tell stories sometimes that are a decade old, are my experiences of God’s miraculous signs ‘few and far between’ like trying to pick out a raisin in a bowl of muesli.
All the disciples were together” often “togetherness” is something we don’t value enough as Christians, the power of ‘just being there’ is incredible, it is worth noting that many of the greatest miracles happened when the disciples were in pairs after-all “iron sharpens iron as one person sharpens another”.
“and had everything in common” –sharing our lives together with one another, rather than living our compartmentalised existence where our church life is confined to a box for an hour on a Sunday morning… In many Churches people don’t know each other, strangers in the pews, a brief handshake and polite small talk is often the extent of some Churchy relationships. Stemming from the view that “religion is a private matter, and I have nothing in common with my fellow spectators”.Church is seen as a service which is consumed rather than a family to belong to.
“They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” when we did this at a Churchy brunch, someone said, “if I’m a Christian and have lawn-motor, I should be generous and lend it out, so other Christians don’t have to buy one” -she’d got the idea!
Sadly our Church forked out a stack of cash for a new photocopier even though both neighbouring Churches also have flashy photocopiers -perhaps they’ve not got the idea?
Sadly the Church in the west is stingy and materialistic.
Too often practical problems are met with a sad but sympathetic smile and a murmur that we will pray for them.
Yet sometimes we are called not just to supernatural ministry, but to actually feed, cloth, love, share, bless, listen to people. I remember in Salisbury seeing some guys “Treasure Hunting” bouncing up to a homeless guy asking him if some prophetic words meant anything to him -they didn’t- and then they ran off… Allana and I bought him a cup of tea and a pasty.
We are called to be a generous people, helping those in need. Paul talks of “the body of Christ” where “one part suffers, every part suffers”… seeing what we have not as our possessions but Christ’s everything all belongs to Christ for his glory.
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts” -Church not hidden away behind closed doors, but out where people were, being out and about amongst the Spiritual seekers. The word “everyday” is key, this is whole life stuff, every day relationships with other believers, this is a real community with relationships.
“They broke bread in their homes and ate together” -the word together occurs again!
Togetherness is at the heart of the Gospel, the modern lense of individualism wasn’t in the mind-set of the early Church.
The idea of hospitality and sharing food together is the greatest intimacy of relationship within the Jewish world, its a sacred and spiritual act, perhaps this is why Jesus says in “behold I stand at the door and if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them” (Rev. 3:20).
“with glad and sincere hearts” -gratitude and sincerity being at the core of who the Christians is.
“Praising God” -at the heart of what it means to be Church is worship, it all stems from our response to all that God is, and all that he has done for us and our gratitude.
“and enjoying the favour of all the people” I believe that there is something wonderfully and beautifully attractive about life lived God’s way, the world craves real community, people long for compassion, and a cause to live for. People saw the Church as something positive, rather than a fossilised irrelevance tainted by scandal.
“And the Lord added to their number” important to remember that God is the one who grows his Kingdom, Jesus said “I will build my Church”. At the heart of the first Christian community is the missionary God doing what only he can do, draw people to himself.
“Those who are being saved” not just drawing a crowd of spectators, but rather real people experiencing salvation.
At the heart of what is means to be Church is a missionary movement bringing salvation.
Salvation happening on a daily basis.
This Church isn’t all about a couple of Sunday meetings but rather about a missional lifestyle lived corporately and authentically, which serves practically but is expectant of the miraculous, with the words of Christ etched in its DNA, loving one another and remembering at the heart of it all is Christ crucified and resurrected remembered in communion together.