The Early Church Family

 

Church is a family as we discussed last week. Like any family, we have our quirks, our weirdness, or as James puts it, we are “a peculiar people”, some more peculiar than others.

There are people running around saying we need to do church in a Biblical way and I  agree. But what does the Bible actually teach about how a church family should behave?

 

Acts 2:42-47 (ESV Strong’s)

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.

 

The early church was known for four activities that should be foundational for every kingdom-minded local church. These 4 activities are a blueprint for churches today, no matter the form they take, where they meet, the people they embrace or the country they are in.

 

These are…

 

1.      TEACHING

 

First, they had devotion to the apostles’ teaching. Thus, believers learned God’s perspective (based on his inerrant Word) on every matter so that they could obey him, experience spiritual growth, and make kingdom impact. They were not led by whims, feelings, vague words or even by rules, the direction of the early church was solidly built on the teaching of the apostles and leaders. That’s why James warns,

 

James 3:1 (ESV Strong’s)

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

 

Teaching is an essential part of church. God wants education for His family. These early Christians grew in the knowledge of the Word and the apostles’ doctrine. You can’t grow beyond what you know. Doing church without Bible based teaching is a recipe for heresy, because we all need godly Biblical teaching to know God properly, and to grow and prosper in the Christian faith.

 

Colossians 3:16 (ESV Strong’s)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

 

Without Bible based teaching a group will always drift into error. Most cults start with a group of people sincerely seeking God, but they head off track without Bible based teaching.  As the family of God we need the Word of God to be central, hence the Bible reading plan, and right from the beginning in Acts, the church needed strong and Bible based teaching. Not human wisdom, God’s Word…

 

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV Strong’s)

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

 

The Word of God cuts through the mess of our lives, penetrates the soul and spirit, and discerns or separates the thoughts and intentions of the heart. The teaching of the Word is central to our Christian lives, and this church family.

 

2.      FELLOWSHIP IN A CHURCH FAMILY

 

Second, they devoted themselves to fellowship—mutually sharing the life of Christ within the family of God. Ps Tony Evans said, A disconnected Christian is a disobedient and unfruitful Christian, because we are made to be together.

 

The Acts church experienced fellowship, and describes believers’ connection with one another, their mutual sharing of the life of Christ with each other. After months of isolation, most of us crave fellowship. Now their fellowship was really deep…

 

Acts 2:44-45 (ESV Strong’s)

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.

 

Fellowship is not chatting about the football, or talking about houses, cars, money or politics. Fellowship talks about the things of God. Fellowship is deep, it’s helping each other, caring for each other, praying for each other, serving selflessly. It is not the reserve of the pastor and leaders alone, it is something all of us should be involved in.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV Strong’s)

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

 

Fellowship is unity, bearing with one another’s faults, caring for each other. Sadly many churches and many believers think their God given spiritual gift is criticism. It should be encouragement.

 

3.      WORSHIP AND PRAYER IN A CHURCH FAMILY

 

Third, the church regularly prioritised worship, reflected in the breaking of bread (i.e., the Lord’s Supper) and prayer (2:42). Worship involves the recognition of God for who he is, what he has done, and what we are trusting him to do. The Bible says,

 

Psalms 22:3 (ESV Strong’s)

Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

 

God inhabits the praises of his people, and Worship is central to spiritual growth. Jesus said,

 

John 4:23-24 (ESV Strong’s)

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

 

True worship is in spirit and in truth. It’s not fake, it’s not trumped up or hyped, and it doesn’t need laser lights or smoke machines. The Greek word for worship is PROS-KY-NEO, which literally means to kiss or lick the hand like a dog would affectionately lick his master’s hand. So much for COVID protocols! Worship is intimate, it is vulnerable, it is genuine.

 

The Word for Truth is ALETHEIA, meaning the genuine truth regardless of consequences.  Spirit is PNEUMA, meaning breath or a current of air. It implies the Spirit or the soul of man, the very being of a person.

 

So Spirit and truth is a term that means genuine, wholehearted, soul wrenching worship, without tradition, without constraint, without embarrassment. It is King David,

 

2 Samuel 6:14 (ESV Strong’s)

And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.

 

So often worship in church is controlled, it’s something that you do to a point, but you make sure you’re not embarrassing yourself. True worship in spirit is without constraint, without embarrassment, without fear. You lose yourself in worship.

 

4.      OUTREACH

 

Fourth, they were engaged in evangelistic outreach because every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved (2:47). Everyone was involved in evangelism; they weren’t merely letting the apostles take care of it.

 

The church started with Peter’s sermon and 3000 converts, but the the daily additions were not through preaching, they were because the people were being salt and light in their communities. They were meeting peoples’ needs, loving them and sharing their faith and God was adding to the church daily. Their outreach was not handing out tracts or having evangelism campaigns, it was the natural overflow of their lives. They lived in the world, they shined in the world, and when asked why they behaved as they did, they replied,

 

1 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV Strong’s)

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

 

The early church family lived genuine, honest lives shining in the darkness of their world. St Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” I don’t agree. Preach the gospel with your life and with your works but also with your words. Good works are just that without your telling people about Jesus.

 

On a plane to Wagga.

 

TIME TO RE IGNITE!

 

Early believers committed themselves to follow the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship together, to sharing in the Lord’s Supper (worship) and to pray together. They then out reached to their community. They helped those in need by sharing their food, clothing and even their homes. The faith, joy and loving support of the early believers were so contagious that large numbers soon joined them.

 

Spiritual growth does not take place in isolation. We need people to walk along with us, encouraging us when we become discouraged and holding us accountable when we stray. This common bond helps us preserve our spiritual gains, and binds us together as a church family.

 

If we concentrate on obeying, God will concentrate on expanding.

 

Coming out of COVID most churches are either confused or running scared. Ignite is not. We have a clear, exciting vision for the future.

 

We are going to build more community because that’s what God is doing right now. Things are changing, and while government might try and restrict us, they can’t stop us obey the Lord.

 

As we reignite church, I have to tell you that this week I have been savagely and viciously attacked by the enemy. Those closest to me tell me I should rejoice because I just be on the right track, but it still batters and bruises you.

 

The devil is hell bent on disrupting unity, and spreading disunity among our church family. Things that divide and split churches, no matter how legitimate they may appear, are generally not of God. God loves unity in His family.

 

But I believe that God has called us together as a family, we are better together, and I am prepared to lay my life down for the church family I love, and am dedicated to leading.

 

I believe we are better together.  This is our moment to close ranks and stand for the Lord in a nation that desperately needs direction. So my challenge to you this morning is will you stand with us? I believe God is about to do something remarkable, and that unity is where He bestows a blessing, so let’s pray and commit ourselves to the Lord and to each other.

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