The book of Acts gives an account of the early church. After the ascension of Jesus, powered by the Holy Spirit, they continued to carry out His work of proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom. The result of this Spirit-powered activity was explosive growth of a unique Body of His disciples [Acts 2:41, 2:47, 4:4, 5:14, 6:1, 16:5]. It “turned the world upside down” [Acts 17:6]. But what’s happening today?
The church continues today, but in many ways different. On occasion, we still see mighty works of God, congregations expanding and growing spiritually, lives being changed, and disciples being made. But increasingly one cannot but recognize that the church, at least in the West, is on the decline. It’s not a matter of congregational size or number of baptisms, but of the effectiveness of Jesus’ disciples in bringing people into the Kingdom. It just isn’t happening.
As I’ve thought about this, the Lord has led me back to the book of Acts over and over. It’s very interesting to compare the church today with the one in Acts, for in doing so, many things stand out as fundamentally different. The church today reflects the early church in basics of the faith regarding things like the Jesus’ resurrection, meaning of the Gospel, etc. But like the reflection in a mirror, some things are backwards. For some reason, many of the approaches to “doing church” that have become common now, are very different than 2000 years ago. And in many cases not just different, but directly opposite.
These comparisons are not always black-and-white, but by being sensisitve to the the overall contrast, one can’t help but wonder if this isn’t related to the ultimate ineffectiveness of the Body today.
I started a list of these observations, and will be sharing them in a series postings all around the theme “Reflections of Acts”. Reflection in the sense of observing and pondering, but also in the sense of considering these backwards items. In some entries, I’ll also suggest what it could look like to turn things around and try to look more like the early church, both individually and corporately. While there is value in criticism, there is more in also providing direction for growth.