Summary: As the first Christian church described in Acts 2:42-47 was may our churches be.
If there is one thing of which we have a great number in Tulsa it is churches. Have you ever looked through the Southwestern Bell Yellow Pages to see just how many churches there are in our community? There are sixteen full pages with churches listed on them. Some of these churches are very large. Others are smaller than ours. Some are old. Some are new. Among these churches there are those that are Bible-based and conservative and those that are more social in nature. These churches are also very different in their styles of worship, their history, and their membership.
As we seek to find the place of our congregation in this community we might look at these other churches to see what makes them successful or what has caused them to fail. Why do people flock to one church? Why do people seem happier at one church than at another? What makes a church warm and inviting to outsiders?
Before we get too carried away looking at how people evaluate churches we certainly want to look at how Jesus would evaluate churches that bear his name. Then, with that as our starting point, we can also turn to the other things that make churches strong and growing. Would you believe there is a plan for churches that makes them pleasing to God and pleasing to people? Would you believe that a church of any size can offer everything that people are looking for in a church?
Let’s turn our attention to the church that was formed at the first Pentecost almost 2000 years ago. Through the Means of Grace, the Scriptures and the Sacraments, three thousand people joined the first Christian church in one day. But the story doesn’t end there. Listen to the description of the church in the days and weeks following Pentecost. We read from Acts 2:42-47. (You may read the verses on the front of this sermon copy.) The post-Pentecost Christian church was pleasing to God and to outsiders. No, it didn’t have a large sanctuary. It didn’t have youth programs and multi-media presentations. It didn’t advertise in the Jerusalem newspapers. It didn’t have any of the things people think a church needs to be a success. In its simplicity it had what its members needed and what outsiders wanted. May our prayer be today:
“LORD, GIVE US SUCH A CHURCH AS THIS”
I. One devoted to your Word
II. One dedicated to fellowship
III. One generous in giving
The fire of the Holy Spirit among these early Christians didn’t fade after the awesome events of Pentecost. The church that grew by three thousand members was still growing. And they didn’t have any “back-door” loses. People weren’t leaving the church. They had the kind of church everyone wants and that is pleasing to Jesus. The members were devoted to the Word of God. They were dedicated to fellowship and they were generous in their giving.
Yes things have changed since the first Pentecost. Instead of one visible Christian church there are now many. But the basics of what makes a church strong and growing have not changed one bit. A church that is pleasing to God and that is attractive to non-members must be built on this pattern recorded in Acts 2. It must be a church devoted to the Word of God. It’s members must be dedicated to fellowship with one another and generous in giving. In light of these verses may our prayer be, “Lord, give us such a church as this.”
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” What do you think it means that these believers were devoted to the Apostles’ teaching? If you are a devoted spouse you don’t want to be married to someone else. You treasure and love your spouse. A person who is devoted to a sports team sticks by that team in winning and losing seasons. He or she is constantly interested in what his or her team is doing. Devoted employees give dedication to their employer.
These post-Pentecost Christians were devoted to God’s Word, which the Apostles taught them. Remember that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to the Apostles so that what they taught was inspired by God. It was and still is God’s Word. These believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. They loved it and treasured it. They were in the Word at every opportunity.
If we are going to ask the Lord to give us such a church as this we need to take a look at ourselves. Can it be said of us, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer”? Are we devoted to the Word? Fathers and mothers, are you having regular devotions with your children? I don’t believe anyone would consider an hour a week to be devotion to the Apostles’ teaching? This morning we will be starting two new Bible studies. One will focus on the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In that letter you will hear about God’s grace. There will be practical application for husbands and wives. One chapter deals with putting on spiritual armor. The other Bible study will look at how we manage the things God has given us and use them to his glory. We put a copy of the Meditations, a book of daily devotions in the mailboxes of our members. Are you using your copy? Friends in Christ, God wants us to have a church like this one in Acts 2--one that is devoted to his Word.