What would your church do if God brought revival to your church and in a relatively short time period thousands of new people started coming to your church? What we have seen in the first church was that 3000 people were added to their number that day in Acts 2. If that happened to us, we couldn’t fit all the people in our church sanctuary. Packed to the gills, we would still need to and have worship services every day of the week and probably some days have two. And that is just worship services. How would all those people get to know one another, grow in Christ, serve, and become part of the church family? It would be a wild ride.
And then I thought, “Wait a minute. That actually did happen to the early church. What did they do to incorporate all those people?” Remember back in chapter 1 verse 15 where we learn that there were 120 of them at the beginning? After Peter’s sermon, how did those 120 people bring 3000 more into their church family? Because some of them were from other countries, only in town for Pentecost, it is reasonable to think that they would have returned to their home countries. But there were still many that lived in Jerusalem or nearby, as we will see, and they had to be incorporated into the church family. This gets back to question I asked at the beginning of the sermon. How did they start the church? Did they form a building committee and start a capital campaign, thinking they better build a building to fit all those people? Nope.
They moved from revival to discipleship.
What we read next is not revival but discipleship, the formation of a church family into a group that lives out the way of Jesus in their world. Read Acts 2:42-47 to see what I mean.
This is the earliest description of how the first church family organized itself after the Spirit arrived. What did they do? It says they were devoted to a few specific practices. Devoted means that they applied intense effort to things. It is a passionate commitment. As you read the practices they were devoted, consider how these relate to your church. Is your church devoted to them as well?
First, they were devoted to the apostles teaching. These were the people who spent three years walking with Jesus, the people who Jesus invested deeply in. By the Spirit, they communicated the teaching of Jesus to the people.
Second, fellowship. This is word that refers to the people relating to one another, caring for a loving one another. The next few habits will show how they practiced fellowship in their community.
Third, breaking of bread, probably referring to meals together that included communion, is also fellowship, but probably worship too. The earliest Christians met in the temple, likely for large groups, but as we will see, not for long. Their worship gatherings took place in homes, and thus were comprised of smaller groups. They would sit around tables for dinner, and that would include a meal, discussion about the apostles’ teaching, singing, praying, and communion. The passage also says that their gatherings were daily.
Fourth, prayer. We’ve seen this a lot already from this group of early Christians. They were a bunch committed to prayer. They didn’t just pray as they waited for the Spirit to empower them, they kept praying, they made it a regular practice of their gatherings. Prayer is vital.
Fifth, they treated their possessions as not their own, but were willing to sell possession to help those in need. Their amazing generosity was precisely what Jesus taught them.
Through this community of worship, fellowship and discipleship, the Spirit of God was still at work for outreach. The chapter concludes saying that they enjoyed favor and God added to the number daily those who were being saved.
At the beginning of this week’s series on Acts 2, I asked what you would do if you were given the task of starting a church. Through studying Acts 2, we’ve learned how the first Christians started their church. No building needed. No programs. Just a Holy Spirit-filled group of people who are devoted to God, to one another, and to the mission of his Kingdom. Yes, it involves devotion to God’s Word, which for them was the Apostle’s teaching. Yes, it involves gathering together regularly, to support and encourage one another and discuss how to live out that teaching. And this is most easily done around tables where there is good food. Yes it involves prayer together. And yes generosity. Notice how sacrificial was their generosity.
As I said, above, no building needed. There is nothing wrong with having a church property and building, as long as we keep the building in proper perspective. The church is the people, not the building. The building is a tool. If disaster happened, like a fire, and your building was out of commission, your church family would still be the church. Some might ask, “Then why do we put all this money and energy into the building? Is it wrong to have one?” No, as long as you use the building as a tool for the Kingdom. Use it as a gathering place for your community, as a place that can serve the mission of God, to make disciples. Keep your rental fees very reasonable, and be willing to offer the use of your building at no cost.
Those first Christians give us an incredible picture of how to be the church. Their situation is not the same as ours, so it is expected that our expression of church will likely look different than theirs. But we can still learn from them. We can still be devoted to what they were devoted to. As with any church, yours is likely not perfect. We can and should have the posture of learning, changing, pursuing becoming the church that God wants us to be. A devoted church.