So We've Studied Acts. What Now?
Jason Evans, one of our excellent pastor-teachers at Bethel Hill, is concluding his series on the book of Acts this month. It has been an astonishing look at the early church. (For summaries, go to the BHBC blog.) How can what happened then happen now? This is the question I can't get out of my mind.
So we've studied Acts. What now?
These early Christians were not perfect. But they put first things first. Evangelism was a "first things" category, and every believer sought to bear witness to Christ. "Make disciples of all nations" was more than a platitude. They were in the Good News business, all of them. They evangelized the world, and did so without mission boards or courses in soul winning. There is no hint they viewed ministry -- whether pastoral or missional -- as the task of the ordained clergy alone. Everyone was a minister! Moreover, the spiritual was never separated from the social. Like Jesus, they went everywhere doing good and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom. Why can't we aim for the same balance today? We cannot have presence alone or proclamation alone. Both are needed. The early church was salt in the midst of a crumbling society. People could see in their lives the transforming power of the Gospel. They cared about the hungry and the poor. They realized that preaching without loving practical assistance was mere talk. Ask anyone who comes to our health center in Southern Ethiopia what brought them there and their answer will be the same: the health care! That many of them are, at the same time, brought under the conviction of the Holy Spirit is due to the genuine Christianity of our staff and their zeal to share the love of Jesus with everyone they meet.
The early church had a quality of shared life that must have been remarkable. Theirs was an every-member priesthood. Theirs was a shared leadership. They prayed and fasted. Their meetings were invariably participatory. Let specatorism be left to the pagans in the arena! We each have a gift. We each have a responsibility to take some active initiative for Jesus! They saw static religion and an over-emphasis on buildings as a betrayal of the New Covenant. (See Stephen's speech in Acts 7.)
What more can I say? The guidelines are there, and they demand from us a response. At every stage we are completely dependent upon the Spirit in the work of renewal and restoration. We cannot effect change on our own. We cannot force the issue. And we cannot escape our utter dependence on the work of the Spirit in us (2 Cor. 3:18).
Don't we want that power in our churches today? Or will we be content with the status quo -- churches that are dull, predictable, bourgeois, dominated by clergy -- a shallow and ineffective parody of what the church should be?
February 19, 2011
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.