“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. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47
It's quite a regular thing for people to say, and not least to clergy, 'You don't have to go to church to be a Christian'. My only comment, and I could pass quite a few, is that they are missing the point. As I have said on many occasions and no doubt others have too, 'the church is people not a building - take away the people and what are you left with?!' The church is a meeting of people – Christian people and when they meet they do various things - and there I pause for it bring us to the reading I want to look at today: Acts 2:42-47.
Before that I want to put that reading in its setting and then bring it to ours. Acts chapter 2 the real and visible start of the life of the Christian Church - almost its birthday. It was the festival of Pentecost and was the day God poured out the Holy Spirit on believers and Peter preached the first sermon to the crowds in Jerusalem who were there for this festival and v 41 records that 3000 people became Christians that day. The verses we have had read, vv 42-47, are a kind of footnote from Luke, the author of Acts, which tells us of the sort of activities that marked the life of the emerging church as it came into being. What we see is a people (church) full of life, activity, excitement and I guess anticipation. If you want to know more of how this church grew then you have to read the book of Acts.
They were devoted - verse 42 - It mentions specifically: the apostles teaching - learning about Jesus; fellowship - we hear more about that later; communion - but not as we know it; prayer - the powerhouse of the church. People wanted to know about Christianity and how to live it. Understanding faith, exercising faith through prayer and learning from each other.
Filled with awe - verse 43 - People were being healed and set free from all sorts - no details given but the 'action' was making a real impact on the people.
They were together and shared and cared - verses 44-45 - There was a great deal of closeness and commitment to each other. People weren't being selfish but looking to the needs of all those who were believers. Strength comes when people stand together in and for a cause and there is no better cause than that of Jesus and the gospel.
They were worshipping regularly - verses 46-47 - This is in addition to what is mentioned earlier, and altogether, these activities became the driving force and life giving force to this church. The outcome:
They were growing - verse 47b - It says new people were becoming believers each day because 'the Lord was adding to their number those who were being saved. It was them at work but the Lord through them.
In his ministry Jesus called people to follow him and belong. After the Ascension and the giving of the Spirit his first followers took on that role with direct down to earth preaching and things were happening. Christianity was alive and well and growing. In many ways the church in the western world has become formalised and staid. We need to get back to our roots with a bit more life and commitment because otherwise, at the rate things are going, there will be little or no church before long. We as a Team are committing ourselves to that and I hope we continue to do so and thus give the Lord the opportunity to do his work in changing lives, transforming outlooks and developing a people in this area that are continually reaching out for him, seeing growth and more lives changed.