What was it that made the church unique, set apart, and so powerful? For this we will look at the book of Acts. I want to wade through the significance of how they worshipped and grew together and how God added to their numbers daily.
There is no doubt that one of my favorite passages from Scripture comes from the book of Acts. The formation of Christ’s church on the day we commonly refer to as, the Day of Pentecost, is exciting. No matter how many times a read through those early chapters, the simplicity of the church captures me. The passion, commitment, and hunger to know and understand Truth and the Gospel is inspiring and convicting.
But with each reading, I’m left with one remaining question? What happened?
What happened to the church we see in the book of Acts?
Where is the simplicity of the message? Where is the community of believers? Where is the compassion to love and care for the one in need? Where is the devotion to know the truth of God’s teachings? Where is the desire to share and have all things in common?
I have for a long time considered the church we read about in Acts and wonder how did we get so far away from the point? When I look at the church of today, I see a corrupt and dying organization that man has over complicated to suit his needs.
I grew up in a small denomination who separated from it’s parent denomination to focus on maintaining a traditional form of worship. The denomination described themselves as, Biblical, Liturgical, and Traditional. The worship was beautiful as we participated in the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer. It firmly, and without question, taught the Biblical truths of God’s Word. And it’s commitment to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ led it to participate in missions around the world. But about the time I started attending seminary, I noticed a shift in the way things were happening. Throughout the denomination, black gowns were replaced with white and purple. Ruffles and gold crosses, shepherd’s crooks, and crosses on long poles appeared. Pastors were being given new titles such as vicar, the right reverend, the most right reverend, and the very reverend. The church I had known and loved suddenly became stuffy, proper, uptight, and ancient.
A number of years ago, I noticed some contradictions and inconsistencies in a different denomination I served in. Along with that denomination, other main-line denominations began pulling away from sound Biblical teaching and let the agenda of a sinful world move in to the pulpit. A wishy-washy gospel is now preached from the pulpit. Biblical teaching is often watered down so not to offend. And moral and ethical issues were decided with personal opinions and not with prayer and study.
Denominations may have once been a safe and secure way to affiliate with a group of people who shared your particular style of worship or faith/belief system, but now, they are infected with a cancer that is eating them alive. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, they are all struggling with the same issues. And year after year, they slowly inch further from scripture and closer to their own destruction.
So why the rant about denominations? Because I think that the “Denomination” has forgotten what the church started out to be. Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of faithful, Biblical, and evangelical churches who are doing it right. What I am talking about is the larger, more politically motivated denominations who have clearly stepped away from Biblical teaching and have accepted the world’s view of religion.
As we take this first step into our discussion about the healthy church, I want us to consider the Church in the book of Acts.
The Church we find in Acts is not the church I see today. The firm Biblical stand that the Apostle’s made less than 2000 years ago has grumbled, leaving Christians standing in shifting sand. It’s sad to think that we might be missing out on what God intended when the Holy Spirit came down to touch the lives of the people staying in that house.
There is no doubt that the early church was blessed with a supernatural and divine appointing. In chapter 2, we find the crowd that Jesus had left sitting in a house, waiting for the gift of the Father. What started with a violent wind, ends with 3000 people being baptized and the church is born!
What was it that made the church unique, set apart, and so powerful? I think it comes down to five key ingredients.
1. Consistent Biblical teaching, and preaching.
2. The immediate care and concern for those in need.
3. A genuine love for each other.
4. A commitment to learn and grow.
5. A real in sincere desire to worship and love God.
Verses 42 through 47 of Acts chapter 2, paint for us the biblical example of Christ’s church. But it’s not just in this chapter. Continue reading through the book of Acts. Even under intense persecution, the church of Christ thrives.
So what are we missing? What has happened?
In my small mind, I would say that we stepped away from the basics. We have forgotten Biblical preaching and teaching. We have forgotten to care and serve those around us. We forgot how to love each other. We have forgotten the need and importance to study God’s Word; learning and growing. And we have made Sunday morning about what we need to tell God and not what we need to hear from God.
At the foundation of any church, new or old, these five components must be mandatory and nonnegotiable. The leadership, both clergy and lay, must agree that above all things the church must worship God alone, love and care for each other, declare the Gospel of Christ, teach the people the Biblical truths, and serve the needs of people.
Without one, we miss a crucial part of what the church is.