Yesterday, we looked at Paul standing up before a group of people and proclaiming Jesus using elements of the culture by way of contextualization. Today, we are going to look at a way of engaging the culture that we see in the book of Acts that does nor involve standing up and preaching the Word but rather living out the Word in the context of a biblical community. This picture is found in Acts 2: 42-47 (ESV):
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Luke paints this picture of the early church which clearly points out the different priorities of this initial group of Christ-followers who were pioneering what it meant to be the church in the midst of a culture:
- Apostles’ Teaching– The church of the book of Acts were devoted to the teaching and proclamation of the Word and the truth found within. This is essential for any group of people seeking to follow Christ in that the primary way that God speaks to believers is through His Word. The focus on the Bible keeps the church focused on God’s priorities for the church as a whole and its individual members. When we look at the Word, we see how God calls each one of us to live. When we live in the way prescribed by God, we will live in a way that is completely radical yet very attractive to people who do not know Jesus. We will also be found as being an authentic people because we seek to not just talk but follow our talk up with action.
- Fellowship– The early Christ-followers lived out their Christian walk in community. This is something that is essential, yet I think that we have missed this in modern Christianity. Through community, we experience accountability, encouragement, and challenge. The church, in my definition, is a group of people who have been awakened to the greatness and grace of Jesus Christ and are seeking to live out authentic lives pursuing His mission. Community is something that is extremely eye-opening to a post-modern world. People are starving for relationships that are real and people who care. A united fellowship of believers seeking to follow Christ in the midst of a fallen world would be beautiful and make an impact to the broken people in the culture around us.
- Breaking of Bread (Communion)-The early church also practiced communion like Jesus commanded them to. The taking of communion kept the church focused on the death of Jesus and the grace that they had received through His substitutionary death on the cross at Calvary. Communion also focused the church on the gravity of sin. When we look at the cross of Jesus, we cannot help but come face to face with the costliness of out sin. This also leads us back to a place of recognizing our utter dependence on God and his grace. A refocus of the church on the fact that we are still people who struggle with sin seeking to follow Jesus helps us to keep from judging others. A church that does not judge people who do not know Jesus but instead loves them is very attractive to the culture.
- Prayers– The early church was a praying church. Through the discipline of prayer, they kept themselves submitted to Jesus and his leading as they desired to carry out His mission of “making disciples of all nations.” A praying church is a church that is desperate for God to work in and through them to impact the culture.
- Were Together and Had All Things in Common– The early church was united in their mission. Unity is a factor that is missing in the church today. The modern church is best characterized by division. Whether that be division on the context of race, denomination, musical style, or age, division is the defining mark of the modern church. What does a divided and fighting body of Christ look like to the culture around us?
- Selling Their Possessions and Belongings and Distributing the Proceeds to All, as Any Had Need– The early church was a giving church. They did not just give to each other, but rather they gave to “any” as needs came about. The modern church is so defined by keeping and spending. We build multi-million dollar buildings while people are starving all over the world. A giving church would make such an impact on people who do not know Jesus. What if people could meet Jesus and see His gift of salvation through our giving?
This is I believe a very clear picture of an authentic and missional church living out the gospel in the midst of their culture. You see what God does in the midst of this community of believers: “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2: 47b).