The Start of the Church: A Community committed to making a difference
July 7, 2019 (click here for PDF version)
Overarching theme: Living a year in God’s presence through the practice of following Jesus.
Core Point: The beginning of the early church started with some very simple activity by the growing community. The early church grew through the activity of people devoting themselves to teachings, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. These four simple, yet galvanizing, practices helped the church to develop into a life changing organization.
Over the course of the next three weeks, we will be looking at this model of the early church. The week of July 14th, we will dialogue about the aspects of Teachings and Fellowship. The week of July 21st, we will dialogue about the aspects of Break Bread and Prayer. The final Sunday of July, we will wrap the concept up with focusing on being Called and Sent.
Start point: Acts is the second letter of a two letter series written by Luke. The first letter is the Gospel of Luke. Luke was a physician who traveled with the apostle Paul. The date of the writing is believed to be around 62 A.D. when Paul was under house arrest, awaiting trial before Caesar. Many scholars assume Acts was written then because it does not record Paul’s defense, release, and further gospel preaching. The themes in Acts center on the Holy Spirit empowering the believers to declare the Good News of Jesus the Christ to both the Jews and the Gentiles. As they declared the Good News, people started to believe, resulting in the Christian church being established. Luke’s purpose for writing his Gospel (see Luke 1:3–4) applies to Acts as well: to give an “orderly” account of the early church after Christ’s resurrection. Dedicating the two-volume work to Theophilus, Luke wanted him to have “certainty” about what he had been taught. Basically, Acts is the story of how the church was established and how it grew through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, with the story of Christ Jesus, and service of the disciples.
Reflect on this Scripture:
Acts 2:42-47 (NRSV)
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Questions to Ponder:
What jumps out at you in the text?
What are the primary aspects of the early believer’s devotion?
What all do you think drew the people into the early Christian community?
How do you need to develop your devotion in light of this passage?
The early church grew by being supported by the move of God through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gave strength to the disciples and believers to witness to the power of God in this world through Christ. The Holy Spirit seemed to lead the community in unity of belief, practice, and activity. Notice how the believers spent time together. They spent time together practicing the four pillars of the church. In a world that was government directed and ruled to the point of mass abuse, the Christian community learned an uplifting way to live with like-minded people committed to a belief in the Savior, Jesus the Christ. Did everyone believe the same thing all the time? No. They did believe in the fundamental power of God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. The community became so close that they shared whatever was needed between each other. Their practices were contrary to what was of the prevailing culture at the time. It is amazing how much more accepting we can be of someone the closer we associate with that person. By the early church committing to a message, developing a close community, and centering on a point of unity, growth happened. Even though the believers had their own jobs, they committed themselves to being active together, and growing in the knowledge and grace of God.
Questions to Ponder:
What do you see happening to the church today?
How are we like or different from the early church developed in Acts?
What do you think is holding the church back from growing?
The early church’s commitment to the four pillars led them to reach out in service. How can you become more service-oriented this week?
In worship we broke bread with one another at the communion table. How does the experience of communion help you grow in God’s grace?
Activity of for the life of a disciple:
1. Write on a piece of paper:
“Acts 2:42-47 (NRSV) 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
Place it somewhere for you to read it every day.
2. Think on what you can do to practice the 4 aspects of the early church as a devotion to God