Having just come through Easter and imagining the rollercoaster ride the disciples travelled over that weekend we emerge on the other side of the cross and the resurrection. Everything had to be re-oriented in light of the new reality. And then things were turned even more upside down with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. After the dust settled what do we find the new community of God doing and what characteristics did they display as they began to live in the new reality of the Kingdom of God?
We read in Acts that a few things became the hallmarks of this new community of Jesus followers. They devoted themselves to the teaching of the Word, to the “fellowship” (that is to each other), to the breaking of bread (meals together in which they celebrated Jesus) and to prayer. And they met together daily in worship and praise. They were generous in sharing with each other, and the Holy Spirit was present in power through ongoing signs and wonders.
Now we know that the challenges of this new community came thick and fast as the reality of being “church” and a functioning body of Christ made up of people from all strata of society and religious education set in. Very quickly they were having to wrangle significant challenges and disagreements and lies. There were ethnic and money issues that could have easily derailed the work of God. However, they refused to be distracted from the core of what it meant to be the new people of God.
They continued to devote themselves to the Word and the teaching of the Apostles, to prayer, to regular meeting together for worship and praise, and to sharing fellowship and meals together in each other’s homes. We are a long way culturally and time wise from the early church community, however it seems to me the basic tenants of our gathering are, and should remain much the same.
We weekly create space for the teaching and exposition of Scripture by those gifted by God to teach. We meet weekly to praise and worship God (Father, Son and Spirit). We share around the Lord’s table, we offer up prayers thanksgiving and also requests on behalf of others, and we meet through our small groups and house churches to have fellowship together. If we neglect these basic practices then I believe we lose our way as a Jesus centred community. The early church was known for its love and I hope we demonstrate that too.
There is so much that distracts us in our culture and world. There is so much noise and “busyness” that hinders us living as the people of God. Each of these tenants and practices of the church through the ages requires intentionality and prioritisation, week in and week out. If we want to remain Jesus centred and Kingdom focused then we have no other blueprint. So from time to time it is good for us individually, as families and as a church community to check in with how we are doing with these disciplines. Hopefully if we are doing them out of a heart of love we will like the early church experience the joy of “glad and sincere hearts”.
Grace and Peace - Garry