“If I only had this as my guide… if all I had was the Bible… and I was to read this book and then start a church, what would it look like? Would it look like the thing that we’ve built here and all refer to as church? Or would it look radically different?” – FRANCIS CHAN
Ok, so it’s been like 2000 years since this church thing got going on the other side of the planet from me. I’m sure we’ve lost some authenticity over all those years and languages and cultures. So, let’s get back to the basics.
What is church? What is church as the Bible describes it?
In the book of Acts, a dynamic little book wedged between the gospels and the epistles, we see “the church” in action for the first time. We also see what it isn’t.
- Church isn’t a place.
- Church isn’t a worship service.
- Church isn’t a group of friends.
- Church isn’t people who always get a long.
- Church isn’t a group of people who always agree.
- Church isn’t about the preacher.
- Church isn’t about the members.
- Church isn’t about me.
The word “church” is one of those words that has been Englishized and Americanized and lost its meaning over the years. The church, as it is referred to in Acts, is the word ekklesia. (You can thank my bible college for that little nugget of Greek I walked out with.) Ekklesia means the called-out or assembly. The church was never meant to be a location or an organization. It’s a collective assembly of people. In this case, one’s that all follow Jesus.
After Jesus was killed, his followers panicked and scattered. I would too if I watched the leader of my movement get crucified. None-the-less, the resurrection pulled them all back together with renewed fervor. The book of Acts, which is basically the sequel to the gospel of Luke, starts out with Jesus ascending to heaven and the disciples gathering together in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit bursts onto the scene and, after a power message delivered by the apostle Peter, the church is birthed.
Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”
Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Acts 2:37-47
After Peter’s convicting message these people moved. They dedicated themselves to Jesus and have left a significant imprint on what “church” should look like, feel like and fellowship like.
To this first ekklesia, church meant:
- Jesus Christ
- Baptism for forgiveness of sins
- The Holy Spirit
- Apostles’ teaching
- The Lord’s supper
- Common meals
- Communal living
- Joy and Generosity
- Praise to God
- Spiritual growth
- Numerical growth
I am convinced and deeply convicted myself, that what most of us do in our daily lives isn’t what these folks did. What most of us consider to be “church” isn’t what they thought church was. How most of us live the life as a “mature” disciple doesn’t include half the things these first followers started off with on day one.
So today, I am ready to start my journey back, back to the basics. Today I am ready to just be the church, plain and simple and powerful. Are you?
So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day. Acts 16:5
Yesterday’s post: Is Church Important?