Summary: Some today proclaim that the church is an archaic thing of the past and that the church Jesus envisioned isn’t anything like church as we know it today. So let’s go back and examine what church is really supposed to be. And it’s all summed up on one word.
Is the church a thing of the past? So much has been written lately about the demise of the church. Our post modern age seems finished with something so antiquated and old fashioned as the church. In fact, Robert H. Schuller, successor to the Crystal Cathedral said” I think we are entering an era in the church. And that era is ‘denominationaless.’ I think the Church is actually going to reflect what Jesus Christ has envisioned the church being since day one. I think it’s going to be a body of believers, not necessarily congregated in a specific location.”
Today we are going to go back to “day one” and see just what the church was like. But I think Reverend Schuller might be surprised with what we find. There is no doubt that the idea of the church in today’s society has changed, but I would submit to you that it is what we have added to the church that is the problem, not the concept of the church as it was created. To find that model we have to back 2,000 years to the church in its infancy. We find that in Acts 2.
If you could sum up the definition of the church in one word, it would be this: connection—connection to our Lord and connection to each other. Apart from all the books and seminars and modern re-defining of the church, we can come back to this very simple yet profound concept and know that it is at the heart of what naturally took place a the birth of the church on Pentecost.
We have added a lot to the definition of the church over the centuries and certainly in the 20th and 21st century America. The church has become a place to be seen, a place to feel cool, a place of entertainment, a place to meet a spouse, a place to have fun, a place to be wowed by the spectacle, a place to hide out or to hide who you really are. Rather than making connections, the church in the mass media age has become a place for collective aloneness.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The early apprentices of Jesus Christ sensed innately the need for connection and the Spirit fostered it in a model that we can still use today. Here at Calvary Chapel Newberg we based our fellowship on the principals found in these verses. Let’s take a look and see what the church can and should be like.
This one verse contains what are known as the four pillars of the church: teaching, communion, fellowship, and prayer. It says here that the 120 + 3,000 were “devoted” to these things. The word there means to “be strong towards” something, to “be constantly diligent”, “to adhere closely to.” The character of how they felt about and acted on this new thing, the church, was not light or casual.
How “strong” towards the church are you? We don’t worship the church but we worship the Lord of the church collectively. I’ve said this many times, a Lone Ranger Christian is easily picked off by the enemy.
Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ESV
To be the strongest Christian you need the encouragement that only comes by devoting yourself to connecting together.
Let’s look at the four pillars individually:
1. The Apostle’s teaching
In those days, of course, the church didn’t have the New Testament. What they did have were the 12 Apostles, who spoke for God as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. They, or their agents, wrote gospels, histories (like Acts), letters, and prophecies (like Revelation) to be shared. They spoke and wrote ex-cathedra, which means, with the authority of God.
What the Apostles said was the Word of God. Peter talked about it later in one of his letters:
2 Peter 1:16-21 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. ESV