One of the most descriptive passages of a healthy church is found in Acts 2:42-47. In this passage Luke describes the priorities of this first group of new covenant believers. The Holy Spirit not only sovereignly saved 3000 souls on the Day of Pentecost, but He also divinely guided these new believers giving them a devotion to God, a devotion to each other and devotion to the mission of spreading of the Gospel. It shouldn’t surprise us that these three priorities are still the priorities of every healthy church today: To worship God, build believers, and reach the lost.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Their devotion to God was evident in their commitment to study the Word of God (“Apostle’s teaching”), their desire to remember Jesus by celebrating the Lord’s Table, and having hearts of praise. Their devotion to the spreading of the Gospel was evident in their evangelization and the growth of the Church. But they also had a devotion to one another. This devotion to each other is the focus of this article. When you read the paragraph above, there are a few things that jump out as evidence of their devotion to one another:
- They were continually fellowshipping together. (v. 42)
- They had all things in common (spiritually unified). (v. 44)
- They were selling their material possessions to help one another. (v. 45)
- They were together worshiping in the Temple. (v. 46a)
- They were daily meeting in homes breaking bread together. (v. 46b)
- They were continually eating together. (v. 46c)
- They were worshiping together. (v. 47)
The one word that stands out is the word “together.” These new believers in Jesus Christ could not help but to be with one another. They worshiped together, fellowshipped together, and even ate with one another in each others’ homes. This togetherness was not manufactured but a Spirit-induced longing in their hearts to truly love one another and be with like-minded people. This togetherness created a warmth and compassion for one another. Every healthy church should be marked by a togetherness.
If we are all honest with ourselves, we all have made excuses (some good and some bad) for not getting together with others in our church. We find it difficult to make time for others as we are busy with our lives, with work, kids, etc. Maybe for some we are hesitant to invite others to our house because it isn’t as nice as we’d like or as clean as we’d like, or there doesn’t seem to be enough room. But we must put all of these things aside. And we must not be judgmental of each other or prideful in our hearts. We must work hard at getting together with one another and put all of these excuses aside.
As a kid, I remember families getting together after church for lunch and all the kids would play together. Those were such sweet times, as I remember singing together and having prayer together. We made lifelong friendships during those times. And after all of these years I couldn’t tell you if the house was nice, or whether the food was good. All I remember is great friendships and sweet times of being together.
One of the greatest excuses people make is simply “I don’t need kinship.” I have heard this argument over and over through the years. Our western affluent culture has created independent spirits in us all. We love our luxury and comforts. We love our privacy fences. But the Scripture commands that we gather! The Christian community cannot afford being independent and isolated from one another. We must pray that the Lord would rid us of our self-centered, ego-centric attitudes. This is going to be extremely hard for many. Healthy churches break out of those attitudes and create an atmosphere of sharing and caring in all of life. Just as the Holy Spirit created a desire for fellowship in the early Church, we must all seek the revival of our own hearts in this generation.
In order to try to foster togetherness most churches have put together some kind of small group ministry. At Ebenezer we have about 20 “Kinship Groups” that meet all around the Lehigh Valley in order to try to encourage togetherness. Ideally every person in the congregation should want to attend one of these groups. These groups provide a consistent opportunity for togetherness for prayer, praise, and accountability. You can sign up for a Kinship group here.
Make a Plan
Zig Ziglar has said, “You can’t hit a target you cannot see, and you cannot see a target you do not have.” Simply stated, if you aim at nothing you’ll hit it every time. For most of us, having others into our homes for fellowship is not on our radar; it simply is not a target in our lives. If change is going to occur, we are going to have to be purposeful. Change can be overwhelming, so it is best to start small. Get out your calendar and determine a few dates that are open for fellowship. Start small with dessert rather than dinner. I know of one family who has simply designated one Sunday night a month as fellowship night in their home. Over the years, people have gathered there to watch football, eat, fellowship, pray, play and so much more. Deep relationships have been made through simply gathering. This was accomplished because they set a target. If you are anxious pray that the Lord will help you and He will.
The Church is not a building, but rather, the Church is people of God. We are healthy when we are “encouraging one another” as we see the Day of Christ approaching (Heb 10:25). We need one another. Instead of complaining about not having friends and close connections in the church, we can foster relationships by simply breaking bread in each other’s homes. My prayer is that the Church will become healthier by getting into one another’s lives. Make it your goal to be a better Church!