Out on a Limb in a 1st Century Church

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.

Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.     Acts 2:42-47 (HCSB)

Here I am out on my usual limb and today I am going to talk about our churches, or whatever you call the fellowship that you are a part of. God’s Word is clear that it was His plan for His children to be a part of group of Believers who would meet together to study and worship, pray and serve. Too often in my travels I have heard adults and teens who are done with organized churches. They say they are done because the characteristics of the 1st century Church are not seen in the church that they attend. And it is worse if they are members of committees or hold offices in the church. What is going on? What can we do?

Pray. It is an obvious point but one that is not done enough and certainly not done first. It is so much easier to complain, whine, rant and rave. I am guilty of it. There is so much to complain about! When I spend the majority of my time and spiritual energy complaining, I, first of all, am telling God that I know better than He does about the problems. I must pray first. I must ask God to bless the leadership of the church with wisdom, obedient hearts (obedience to Him), and encouragement. It is not about praying that they will see things my way but that we all get some of that “holy fear” that is noted in this passage of Scripture.

Encourage the leadership. Most churches have a very “top-down” hierarchy. The pastor is the leader. I do not see that model in Scripture. The apostles worked together. The Head of the Church was Jesus! Not Peter. Not John. Not James. Not Paul. What if I went to my pastor and told him/her that I didn’t expect him/her to do everything? What if I said I was praying and shared how I am praying and then said, “How can I help?”

Serve. If you are not currently serving in your church, then get on your knees and ask God how He wants you to serve. My husband wrote a book if you need a tool to help you, Identifying Your Gifts and Service . If you are homebound, get some note cards and start sending notes of encouragement. Make a pan of muffins on Saturday and give them to someone on Sunday. Help someone in church school. Help the choir or praise band by singing, running copies of music, or learn how to work the sound board. Decorate the bulletin boards. Help write up or fold the bulletins. Use your talents – or lose your talents (Matthew 25:14-30).

Money. While most people in a church will say that we should tithe and they pick 10% of our income is the “right amount”, the truth is – it all belongs to my LORD. All of my income, monetary or otherwise, comes to me by the grace and favor of my LORD. It is to Him that I must give obediently and with joy (2 Corinthians 9:6-14). It is true that many fellowships(usually associated with organized denominations) are compelled to give to programs(apportionments) that are difficult for me to reconcile as approved by God. Which brings me back around to prayer. Luke says in this passage that there was distribution to those “in need”. There are plenty of people in need. There are many people who would be blessed to receive a “hand up”, a gift of encouragement, that might look like money but it could be a bag of groceries or some gently used clothes or school supplies for their children. Maybe your job is an opportunity to give something “pro bono” to someone else.

Every day the 1st century Church met together to pray or break bread; to encourage and support each other. Yes, we say we want to belong to a 1st century church – but are we willing to prioritize our lives to make that happen or do we just want to visit the 1st century one hour per week to see what it can do for us? Something to pray and think about, isn’t it, while I am out here on that limb?

 

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