42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
46 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,
47 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
Does this even begin to resemble what we call church? Let’s be honest, for most of us church consists of sitting in rows for an hour or so listening to someone tell us what they think the Bible says. The congregation is silent, with the exception of an occasional amen or the rustling of shirtsleeves as people peek at their watches. Prayers are usually formalities inserted at appropriate times to bless the offering or the Pastor’s sermon.
The saddest part of our church experience is that it consists of an hour or two on the weekend and if super religious maybe the mid-week prayer meeting or Bible study. But what about all the rest of the stuff Luke talks about in the above verses? I recently listened to a sermon on that topic and the speaker proclaimed that these phenomena only took place at that particular time and was never intended to be part of the Christian tradition. Really!
Since when is helping those in need, sharing our goods with each other, meeting together, having fellowship in each other’s homes not part of the Christian tradition?
Last evening I had the privilege of spending the evening at the home of two wonderful friends. There were thirteen or fourteen of us and we had a wonderful meal together. Eventually, Ruth hauled out the guitar and we sang a host of praise songs and I must say we sounded good worshipping God. We talked a little about the misconceptions of the place of women in the body of Christ. Just an aside, if you are interested in having your preconceptions of the role of women in the church challenged listen to a talk by Ben Witherington lll titled, “Women and the Bible” on YouTube.
As the evening came to a close I couldn’t help but think that what we had just done last night was church. We had fellowship, we broke bread together, we praised and worshipped God and reflected upon His word. We had fun and entered into a sense of closeness and love for each other.
The nature of “church” challenges us in so many ways. Worshipping God should be fun, awesome, and heart changing. Worship springs from the heart and bubbles over, not only into the moment, but also into our lives. Shouldn’t church (worship) really be about joy, happiness, celebration, peace, assurance and wonder?
Paul’s letters were meant to read in church, out loud, to the entire congregation. Have you ever wondered what kind of discussion and what sort of questions sprung from those letters? How would you like to be one of the churches of Galatia and receive Paul’s letter to the Galatians? Gulp! I’m sure there were some heated debates and questioning going on when that “hot” epistle was read.
Church is meant to be dynamic, alive, disruptive, breaking the status quo, revolutionary, and relevant to the culture. It is to be a place of life and hope. The early church, during the time of the Roman Empire, grew because it was the place where women could find shelter from forced marriages, unwanted abortions, rape, and becoming child brides. The church was where women found relevance, hope, security, and comfort.
Today, we are arguing over such things as women being ordained or their ability to speak and teach in church. No wonder young progressive women shake their heads in disbelief at an institution that is so out of touch with common sense let alone Biblical understanding.
We just need to look around the church to see that the youth, and for that matter young married couples, are becoming as scarce as hen’s teeth in the church. Oh, experts write articles and pontificate about the problem and the possible solutions but none of us takes Acts 2 seriously.
Maybe the reason the church is not becoming the light to the world that it was intended to be is because we aren’t the church we were intended to be. Think about how the entertainment industry pokes fun at and mocks Christianity. They often portray Christians as uptight, rigid, out-of-touch holdovers from the eighteen hundreds. The sad truth is we often give off that persona.
For many of us who don’t attend church we long to be part of a church that is family. We desire to give our money and dedicate our time and energy to changing the conditions and hearts of the discouraged and broken. We wish to worship and celebrate the goodness and wonder of God freely and with joy.
The house church model is growing by leaps and bounds and for many of us it fits our needs, our vision, and belief regarding the church much more fully than some of the more traditional ways church is conducted.
The take away from this post is find people who wish to worship and even if there are only two or three of you—do it. Our worship needs to flood our soul and fill our hearts with wonder. Christianity is a “supernatural” faith and we need to get back to the spontaneity and wonder of it all.