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The Acts 2 Church

When did the Church REALLY get it right?

(EXCITING NEWS: Have you heard our radio programme on PREMIER RADIO yet? You can hear past episodes here.)

Let us go back to the Biblical Church of the first apostles. In an earlier article I asked whether it is truly possible to return to a true Acts 2 Church, where:

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. (Acts 2:43-45).

We have seen how these Christians met in homes, shared everything, exercised their gifts and had a very loose organisational structure. And that brings us nicely to that thorny subject of leadership. How did that all work out for them? Surely the words of Jesus echoed in the ears of those who had heard these words first hand:

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant ...” (Matthew 20:25-26)

How many of our Christian leaders are true servants? Some may say they are, some may even give the appearance they are at certain times, but how many really have a heart of servanthood? The problem is that in society at large, leaders tend to float to the top through sheer force of personality and often with ruthlessness. That’s how the Gentiles did it in Jesus’ day. That’s how our captains of industry, our directors of corporations, our CEOs and managing directors tend to get there. Certainly not through servanthood.

And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth ... (2 Timothy 2:24-25)

The way of the Gospel is not the way of the World. Christian leadership is a quality best detected in a person by those who surround him or her, by those who have worshipped and studied with them, preferably in the context of a small group, the best environment for true relationships to develop. As a rule, the best Christian leaders are the last people to see the quality in themselves. But not all of them. Some of our Christian leaders, alas, have personality types more in common with Rupert Murdoch than Mother Theresa.

And this is how the Biblical Church of the first apostles selected their leaders.

So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them ...” (Acts 6:2-3)

These were the first deacons, chosen from among the believers as men full of the Spirit and wisdom. Do we promote from within and how do we make our choices for church leadership? Perhaps you already do so, following sound Biblical instruction. But are all our church activities in line with how the Bible advises? Let’s return to that very first description of the activities of that very first Church.

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. (Acts 2:43-45).

Let’s delve deeper ...

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching ... 

What teaching do we receive? Is it the apostles’ teaching? How do we really know if we are receiving sound teaching? How do we judge it? Do we discuss it or examine the Scriptures, as did the Bereans, “to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11) ?

Whether we receive this teaching interactively through Bible study or through the efforts of gifted, anointed preachers, we need to maintain a steady diet of good, solid Biblical meat and learn to discern any meat deemed, by the yardstick of Holy Scripture, as unfit for consumption.

This is so vital, so central to everything and will be discussed in the next set of articles, when we explore how to think Hebraically.

 ... and to the fellowship, to the breaking of breadand to prayer.

Do we really get time to interact with each other, to discuss the things of God rather than the trivialities of life? What is our understanding of the ‘breaking of bread’? Is this referring to Holy Communion, in which case, how did they partake of this memorial of Jesus’ acts at the Last Supper? Every indication is that it was in the context of a fellowship meal, derived as it is from the Jewish Passover service, a noisy and evocative family occasion that, of course, survives to this day. How much of what we do is dry ritual rather than a spontaneous celebration of our glorious standing in God’s Kingdom? How much prayer is there and is it spontaneous or just one element of an order of service?

Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

Does the supernatural ever break in? Does God ever show up in power? When was the last time you were filled with awe in church? A good friend was telling me that at one of their small group meetings a lady from within the congregation quietly prayed over each person in the room and had prophetic words for each of them. Each word was relevant and encouraging, made more awesome by the fact that she did not know the folk well enough to be able to voice these words without there being a supernatural element. God evidently spoke through her and everyone was filled with awe. So it can still happen today!

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

Are you a true, sharing collective or a group of private individuals who just meet up for a couple of hours every week? If one of you had a need would you share it with others? Would you respond sacrificially to another’s needs? Would you sell your possessions and goods to meet these needs?

Or am I being unrealistic? Have we just moved on from that simpler World? Is it just not possible to “do Church” in the same way as those first believers? History is littered with many who have tried and failed, so why bother?

For the next article in this series, click here.

For the previous article in this series, click here.

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