The church we won’t become
Here’s a fragment of a post from last semester. I post it because it touches on some things I’m really wrestling with right now. I’m concerned that churches see themselves as witnessing communities who live out the Gospel in the places they find themselves. And I think we’ve got a long way to go to get near that description.
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 2:42-7, NIV
This semester I am leading a small group bible study on Acts. It’s a real joy to work through this book and examine the life of the early church. Mingled with joy is a profound sadness at just how much we miss the ideal expressed in this chronicle of God’s work among the young church. It’s difficult not to be depressed when looking at the state of the North American church, which has succeeded in copying much of our consumer culture rather than creating a counter-culture centered in the Lordship of Christ.
This week we’re looking at Acts 2:42-47. I have sort of taken these verses a lode star by which to chart and measure the direction and content of my life and ministry. Simply put, I want my life and ministry to be marked by discipleship, witness, and community.
I long, however, for these ideals to be more radical than their current manifestation in most churches. I take discipleship to refer to the transformation of my whole life after the pattern of Christ. It’s more than learning doctrine, though (perhaps) not less. Doctrine isn’t an end in itself rather it is a vehicle through which to make sense of our experience of God and God’s revelation of Himself through Scripture. Discipleship means how I spend my money ought to express the values of the kingdom as should other things like the way I spend my time and the way I vote. It means that I am growing in allegiance to the Christ who stands over against the culture of which I am a part and judges it even as he works to redeem and re-create it.