In an earlier post, I described how it seemed that the church today is operating very differently than the church in Acts, even opposite in many ways. In future posts I plan on detailing these observations, but here is a more concise list. In this list that follows, I often use the term “church” in Acts to refer to believers as a whole, as they gathered together, recognizing that they did not evidence the same congregation-in-a-building style that we have today.
Today, we often build relationships with people so that, hopefully, eventually, we can lead them into a relationship with God. In Acts, people were brought into relationship with God through proclamation of the Gospel, then joined in relationship with other believers. The ancient perspective put the focus on God, and people’s relationship to Him, so that relationships between people were based on that. We could move in that direction by being intentional about creating and fostering personal relationships within the church, and being intentional in Gospel proclamation outside.
A common practice today is to focus on inviting people to church, with the idea that the Gospel is proclaimed there, and so they will have opportunity to come to faith. In Acts, the Gospel was proclaimed outside church and people came to faith, then they came together for fellowship, study, and prayer (and presumably worship). It was a reflection of the “go” aspect of the Great Commission. We could reflect the Acts perspective by changing our worship and study times to be strictly for the community of faith, and couple that with explicit evangelism outside the church.
A common practice in today’s church is to come together to pray for healing for each other, and people we know, sometimes even in the form of healing services. In Acts, the vast majority of miraculous healings occurred outside the church or were seen by those outside the church. As if God’s purpose was to bring people into the Kingdom eternally, rather than just to bring comfort to those who were already there. We could move in this direction today by establishing prayer ministries explicitly for those outside the faith, leaving the results completely up to God.
A very common form of outreach today involves performing physical ministry for people outside the church. In Acts, virtually all physical ministry was performed within the church, within the family of faith. It was a living out of Jesus’ command for us to love one another, and that those outside would know us by that. We could renew that perspective today by making internal benevolence a key, and prioritized, activity of the church.
(Taken together, the previous two items give a picture of believers expressing love within the church, and unleashing God’s power for Kingdom growth outside.)
One of the most common terms used within the church to describe ourselves is “believer”, while we rarely refer to each other as “disciples”. In Acts, members of the church were most commonly referred to as “disciples”, while “believer” was used only a few times. This reflected Jesus’ call to make disciples, and could be emphasized more today by understanding the difference between these, and changing our focus from study to discipleship.