When the early church began to grow, what foundation was set for the people of God to stand upon? For years I’ve heard how the church needs to “assimilate” new members and that the only way for new members in the church to maintain a healthy attachment to the congregation is to provide avenues of involvement. However, pot-lucks and programs are not the formula for spiritual vitality and maturity in the church.
It seems to me that a current trend in many churches is to build a fellowship that is geared toward the self-interests of the congregants. That is to say, many churches have adopted ministries and programs that only serve to feed the constant demand for entertainment and emotional hyperactivity. Pastors must be performers and the musicians had better be marque or the membership will move on to more pleasant pastures.
There was something different about the early church. Their leaders were “unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:13). They had no marque members, no organized social events, no Sunday school, no eight-week study course on spiritual formation and no building to meet in that could be decorated according to the whims of the women’s auxiliary. The early church didn’t stage protests – they prayed. They didn’t organize marches – they ministered. And they didn’t call people to a self-imposed religion – they called people to a self-denying repentance. And they changed the world.
What was it about the early church? They were devoted, not to a cause but to Christ, and that devotion was played out in every aspect of their lives. It is a devotion that is sorely lacking in the hearts of many Christians today and it is what we will be exploring, with a call to embrace the same principles that built the early church and gave it a strong and secure foundation. If we ever hope to build a Biblical culture, it has to start here. So let me encourage you: take these four commitments as a challenge for your own life. You may be surprised at how God will use you when you follow them.
Acts 2:42 - “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
· Apostles Teaching – Devoted to the Word of God
This is where it begins. Without a true devotion to the Word of God, there will be no real foundation that can be trusted. But this foundation cannot only be knowledge of the Word of God, that’s just where it starts. The true foundation is built through obedience to the Word of God.
This is how discipleship is built: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).
The Great Commission of God concludes with this: “…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19b).
Love is seen in obedience: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).
Personal Commitment - Commit to participating in a regular Bible study
· Fellowship – Devoted to the People of God
God has called us to live in fellowship. There are Christians today that harbor the idea that they can be the “Lone Ranger” Christian and live their faith without the structure and support of the church. But God has purposed that only together will each individual Christian grow and develop as God intended.
Through fellowship we become mature: “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16).
It provides the means of mutual encouragement: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
The evidence of real faith: “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us” (1 John 2:19).
Personal Commitment - Commit to gathering with the church every Sunday unless God prevents it
· Breaking of Bread – Devoted to the Worship of God
The issue of “breaking bread” together is two-fold. First, it is the remembrance that Christ has given us when He said, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). It is an expression of worship and a reminder of why we have salvation – the sacrifice of Christ. Second, it is an expression of sacrifice toward those around us by bringing them into our homes to “break bread” with us, especially those who cannot repay.
It is a call to self-examination: “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28).
It shows a heart of generosity: “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:13-14).
Christ is honored in this: “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
Personal Commitment - Commit to a personal sacrifice once a month for someone who cannot repay
· Prayer – Devoted to a Life with God
In all healthy relationships communication is critical. No marriage truly grows in depth and happiness without it. No family can survive when communication is lost. And no believer in Christ will have any hope of truly knowing and living in a relationship with the Lord if prayer is not an essential devotion in their lives.
Prayer is personal communion with God: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).
Prayer should fill the fellowship of God’s people: “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him” (Acts 12:5).
Prayer is essential for spiritual readiness: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).
Personal Commitment - Commit to daily, vocal prayer at home and at least once a month with your church
People are devoted to many things. Watch a football game and see how devoted the fans are. The team might be losing but the devoted fan will cheer them on as if they’re ready to take the Super Bowl. People are devoted to causes, political endeavors, altruistic philanthropy, medical research – and all these can be good. But the Christian must be devoted, first and always, to Christ Jesus our Lord. This devotion is played out in four arenas: the Word of God, the people of God, the worship of God and a life with God. This is how the early church anchored their faith and grew in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The modern church must return to this or risk losing her identity to the world.