For the past several decades, churches have believed that if they could simply emulate the activities of the early church they could somehow produce the same results. For example, in the early 1970’s, a Californian named John Wimber believed that if the modern church could replicate the same miracles that were reported in Acts, evangelism would naturally result. His conviction led to the establishment of the Vineyard Church movement.
Others have looked to the 30 sermons of Acts and believed that if modern pulpits could recapture the persuasive power of oration that people would come to hear the gospel. We have witnessed all kinds of attempts, from the homogenous models of the church growth movement to the purpose driven model to emphasis on church health. But are we foolish to attempt these things? Could it be something deeper?
There are seven summary statements in Acts, the second of which concludes Acts 4. By this time in their early history, the number of disciples is clealy in the thousands. There was something magnetic about this emerging assembly. But was it really due to their actions? I think it was a matter of the heart.
Whether they knew it or not, they were forming a new society that was counter-culture to the status quo of everything else that was occuring in time. The early church was different than anything people had witnessed in government, culture, society, and even religion. These believers were uncommon…not like anything else in their very vanilla existence.
For example, these believers shared an uncommon unity. Acts 4:32 says that the believers were all “of one heart and one mind.” In their fragmented world, unity would have been an uncommon dimension of life, as is ours. In fact, I think the only place we seen unity and belonging today is in the world of athletics.
College football season began this past weekend. People love sports, partly because of the sense it gives people of belonging to something greater than themselves. If you talk to a football fan on Sunday and asked them how “their team” did the day before, it is not uncommon for them to reply “we won” or “we lost.” Really? Did they play? Probably not, but you get what I’m talking about.
These early believers were part of a magnetic movement that provided opportunity for new additions to belong to a common cause and to others with similar commitments and interests.
This week I want to break down some of the attitudes and values that marked the early church. I think its a grave mistake to assume that if we do what they did in Acts that we’ll get what they had. Our focus and study has to be on internal stuff, not the externals.