The early church as described in Acts 2:42-47 was a learning, loving, caring, sharing, worshipping, witnessing church. We may feel we don’t measure up very well and it’s always good to ponder carefully our shortcomings and look at how we can change and improve (the purpose of our ‘Building Blocks’ meetings and team building days.) All such things have to be done in an attitude of expectation and humility: expectation that God hears and answers prayer and an awareness that He is the one that adds to the church those who are being saved, not us. Salvation is His work and He is the head of the church. Nonetheless, it’s good to ask ourselves hard questions about the state of the church as we meditate on these verses in Acts, for these adjectives are useful in considering our church life and our commitment (‘devotion’) to that life.
A learning church
Are we keen to learn? Do we devote ourselves to studying God’s word, both privately and in our corporate gatherings? We live in a society where concentration spans are being eroded; I’ve heard numerous people tell me sermons above ten minutes are ‘too much’ for people to bear. In India, people gather for hours to listen to God’s word because of the value they place on this. We need to be people who are hungry to learn. As Heb 5:11-14 reminds us, we need to grow in our faith, moving from the milk of the word to solid food! How can we demonstrate devotion to the apostles’ teaching and grow through our delight in God’s word?
A loving, caring, sharing church
Jesus firmly placed the emphasis on loving God and loving each other and told us this is a valuable witness to a world desperate for love. ‘As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ (John 13:34-35) These verses in Acts 2:42-47 challenge us to move beyond being ‘churchgoers who pass each other by on a Sunday’ to believers who share everything together. Community living is messy, heart-breaking, discouraging and frustrating… but it’s also invigorating, reassuring, exuberant and worth it! We need to learn to care for each other the way those early disciples did. Perhaps that starts with a phone call or visit to someone this week, just reminding them that they are loved and appreciated? At our recent Team Building day we discussed the different ‘love languages’ needed for different personalities. Perhaps someone needs to hear that they are appreciated and valued. Another person may need you to spend time with them to signify they’re important. Someone else may need a hug, that physical touch that connects them to another person or perhaps a bunch of flowers or small gift may be the way to their heart. Someone else may need to see love in action – mowing a lawn or making a drink, perhaps. Whatever the means, as we focus on the needs of others, we can serve Jesus and show His love to others.
A worshipping church
When we worship, we take our eyes off ourselves and fix them on God. When we join together in prayer, singing, reading the Word and sharing Holy Communion, we acknowledge the centrality of God to our lives and we acknowledge that we are not in the driving seat. Only as our eyes are firmly fixed on Jesus can we hope to see the signs and wonders that the early church experienced. (Col 3:1-3) As a church, we need to be firmly rooted and established in God: ‘So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.’ (Col 2:6-7)
A witnessing church
We need to be committed to witnessing, to outreach, to telling others the good news of Jesus Christ. God is the only one who can save people and add them to the church (Acts 2:47), but we have to be willing to be His witnesses (Ps 107:2, Acts 1:8). Corporate outreach is crucial (helping at the youth club, the Parent & Toddler group, teaching children on Sundays, serving at the coffee morning, talking to the folk at Cherry Tree Court), but there is always more we can be doing. Let’s ask God to show us how we can best fulfil the ‘Great Commission’, as individuals and as a church, and let’s be praying for opportunities to speak to those around us – neighbours, acquaintances, colleagues, friends and family – about the wonderful works of God.