If you were to ask 50 random people at your church what the church is supposed to do or why it exists, you will get around 60 different answers. There is so much confusion, and most of it is not based on what the Bible says. Amazingly we have been given clear direction on the why of the church: make disciples and be witnesses (Matthew 28:18 – 20 and Acts 1:8).
We’ve even been given a picture of how the church is to function and what it should do.
There is an incredible passage in Acts 2 that lays out what the church did after Jesus returned to heaven and the Holy Spirit came upon them.
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. -Acts 2:41 – 47
Based on this passage, here are seven things the church should do or be known for:
1. Expect something to happen. The first day the church launched, 3,000 people were saved and baptized. There was an expectation that when Jesus gave his mission to the disciples (Acts 1:8) and said the Holy Spirit would come to help them accomplish it, they expected that to be true and to happen.
2. They submitted to leadership and teaching. This is incredibly countercultural because our culture hates authority and does not want to submit to anyone. Yet this is the first step to being a church. Someone is in charge, someone is accountable to God and to each other. Biblically Jesus is the chief shepherd of the church, and elders are called to lead the church Jesus has entrusted to them. In our culture a willingness to submit to another is one of the greatest witnesses we can have. On top of that, they allowed the Scripture and the teaching of the leaders to shape their lives. Instead of pushing back and saying, “Well, I want to do _______, so it doesn’t matter what the Bible or you say,” they allowed authority into their lives to shape them.
3. Eat together. Our culture does not do the slow, sit down and enjoy a long meal with friends and family. We don’t often open up our homes to each other to be hospitable and welcoming, and yet this is one of the defining characteristics of the early church. Jesus spent so much time in the gospels eating and partying with people, that it is astounding more Christians don’t associate that with the mission of Jesus. Yet this is one of the simple ways community is built and a church is seen.
4. They prayed together, and awe came over them. There was a sense of wonder in this church. This idea of, “I can’t believe I get to be a part of this and see what God is doing.” If you don’t have that feeling at your church, find a new church or get more plugged into your church, as it may be happening and you’re missing it. There were miracles, which can be anything from a changed life, marriages being saved, people not believing lies and battling the idols of their heart, or moving into community instead of living in isolation.
5. They had all things in common. A common belief in mission is pulling the rope in the same direction, not being divisive. Making sure everyone in your community has what they need. While some have more than others, those who have more are generous, so those with less have their needs met.
6. They met regularly. They did life together. This is not a one time a week event; this is a daily exercise of being in each other’s lives. Eating together, playing, working at the same place, having play dates, going on vacation, watching football, sitting around campfires. Sharing life. This is the longing of all people, to stop being in isolation and be known, and this church did this, day by day, the text says.
7. They had favor with all people. Reading this last verse is kind of astounding in our culture. What’s interesting is that the first century was just as hostile to the message of Jesus as our culture (just read Romans and 1 Corinthians). In their love for each other, their city, their welcoming of strangers (yet still submitting to the teaching of the Scripture and the apostles teaching), they had favor with people. This is how we know the church has gotten off track in our world. People outside the church should look at the church and think, “I may not agree with them, but I like them. They are kind, generous, loving. They are good neighbors, co-workers and bosses. They are hospitable, opening their homes to people, not bashing people on social media.” Instead Christians are seen as hateful, mean, arrogant, and spiteful.
They were part of the gathered church, hearing the word of God preached, worshiping through song and prayer and then scattering to live out that preached message in daily life.
The result? God added to their number daily. This is the goal and prayer of the church. Imagine, everyday a new person began a relationship with Jesus! I’d love to see 365 people a year begin a relationship because of coming into contact with every church, including mine.