Summary: These early believers were devoted to prayer, one another, God, and people were being added to their number. They showed up daily in the temple courts and shared what they had e.g with the paralysed man. What can we learn?
‘And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved’ (2:47)! People being saved daily!
My brothers and sisters to what degree do you want to see people being saved daily in Billericay? It would mean we’d have to learn at least seven new names a week, and incorporate at least seven new people into the life and worship of the church. Some would come with huge needs and issues. There would be black, white, Asian, European, male, female, adult, teenager, children, tattoos, addictions, convictions, reputations, previous relationships, muck, mess, joy, pain, new life, new birth, packed churches, longer queues for coffee, more funerals, more baptisms, more weddings, more noise in church, the need to plant new churches and new congregations, and the extension of God’s Kingdom here on Earth. The Vicar couldn’t possibly know everyone’s name and the church would change beyond recognition.
Some of you want to shout out, “Hallelujah, bring it on!” and some of you are thinking, “Please, not in my lifetime. Not more new people.”
It was the experience of the Jerusalem church that people were added to their number daily; and I don’t say this to make us feel bad or to criticise our progress in making new disciples; I say this because it can happen in our day and there are places where it is happening. Now usually when a preacher says this he or she will refer to the incredible church growth that is taking place in China and in many parts of Africa and all of that just feels too far away to us to be real, even though we will no doubt rejoice and give thanks; but we’ll probably think to ourselves, “That’s fantastic but that’s not Billericay.”
How do you react to this? In the ten weeks leading up to 28 April 2014 almost 600 people (8 per day) have come to faith in Jesus in Coleraine, Northern Ireland.
On average eight people a day, sixty people a week being added to their number; and I love this one line item of good news from Mark Marx who coordinates evangelism at Causeway Coast Vineyard Church in Coleraine. The Church run a programme called Encounter for students to get better at sharing their faith; and on May 8th Mark wrote this: “Just heard that Tom, our 83 year old Encounter student led another 3 people to Jesus today!” 83 year old student! Another 3 led to Jesus! Tom hasn’t been a Christian for long. He came to faith when he was in Coleraine one day and got into conversation with a Christian who offered to pray for him. Tom received healing. He gave his life to Christ, and a few days later Tom’s 82 year old cousin also became a Christian. Tom, an 83 year old Encounter Student just loves leading people to faith.
In the fledgling church the believers devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer (2:42).
Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles (2:43). There was devotion to the faith, devotion to meeting together for worship, eating meals together, and devotion to prayer. There can be no substitute for being together in God’s presence; and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Are you asking, “Why and how is this happening in Coleraine? I am certainly asking that question!” A line from Acts chapter 2 that is easily missed says this: ‘Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts’ (2:46). Life and faith was a daily event - not something reserved for the Sabbath; and the temple courts were places where questions and conversations about faith took place. So the believers met daily in the place where conversations and questions were commonplace. They were the equivalent of our coffee shops, our Tuesday drop-in, Dads and toddlers groups, the pub, etc.
And as Peter and John were heading to the temple for prayer they came across a man unable to walk since birth (3:1-2). He asked them for money (3:3) but since they had no money on them they gave him what they had (3:6). Peter took him by the hand and said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (3:6-7). The man’s ankles became strong, he was able to walk and jump and praise God and the people who knew him were filled with wonder and amazement (3:9-10).
He was seeking alms …but they gave him legs!
On 7th March I was on duty at Youth Group and as I left the building at about 10.10 p.m. there was a man in his 20s loitering and only too willing to engage in conversation with me. Very quickly I felt as if we were in the Temple Courts because we were exchanging information and views about the world. Clearly he was in need and so I popped the question, “If God could do a miracle in your life what would it be?”