Summary: A message about what happens in a congregation that relies on the power of the Holy Spirit and is obedient to God's word.
“ESSENTIAL PRACTICES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH”
A paramedic was being interviewed on a local Dallas TV news program. The host asked, “What was your most challenging and unusual 911 call?”
The paramedic said, “It happened recently. We got a call from that big white church on 11th and Walnut. One of the ushers was franticly concerned that during their worship service about an elderly man who had passed out in a pew and appeared to be dead. The usher couldn’t find a pulse and it appeared that the man wasn’t breathing.”
The host leaned forward and asked, “What was so unusual and demanding about this particular call?”
The paramedic responded, “We carried out four guys before we found the one who was dead.”
We look at the church as it’s described in its early days and we’re amazed at the energy and life that radiated throughout their worship and their witness. We say to ourselves, “It can never be that way again.” But we’re wrong.
We have called our affiliated congregations the Restoration Movement. We believe because we’ve restored a few things, that we have fully restored the New Testament pattern. However, in many congregations, we’ve failed to restore some of the most important parts of the early church. Over the last two weeks, we’ve talked about restoring the power of the New Testament church – the Holy Spirit. We’ve also talked about restoring the preaching of the New Testament church – a focus on obedience to God’s word and God’s Son. This week, we need to talk about restoring the practice of the New Testament church.
The dictionary definition of the word “practice” is: “to do or engage in regularly; make a habit of; to do repeatedly so as to gain skill; to work at – as a profession.” There are a lot of congregations that are practicing – engaging in regularly; making a habit of; doing repeatedly; working at – the wrong things. They’re confused about what it means to be a practicing New Testament congregation.
Francis Chan commented on our misconception of what church is all about. He said, “You go to a building, someone gives you a bulletin, you sit in a chair, you sing a few songs, a guy delivers maybe a polished message, maybe not, someone sings a solo, you go home. Though Christians believe in an almighty and all powerful God who places His spirit in believers, he response among His people today is, ‘Hi, welcome to church. Here’s your bulletin. We’ll get you out in an hour. Come back next week.’ [And then he says] I mean, really? Is that all God intended for us?”
Let’s closely examine what the work of the Spirit and the willingness to obey God’s Word did in the lives of those who responded to the Spirit and the Word on the day of Pentecost.
Acts 2:42-47 – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of
bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the
apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods,
they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of
all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
THEY WERE A DEVOTED CHURCH
The KJV translates this term as “continued steadfastly.” The literal meaning in the original language was “to endure; to stick to something even when the going is difficult.”
One of the biggest factors in lifeless churches is uncommitted people. No one wants to participate but everyone wants to aggravate. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and complain about how the game is being played. It’s much more difficult to suit up and actually get in the game.
It seems that being devoted, practicing commitment, and staying course during difficult times is not a concept that very many Christian understand anymore. When a small group of complainers want to control things according to their personal whims, the church gives in because they don’t have the heart to fight. When the young people move to other congregations and the church finds it difficult to attract new young people, the church gives in to the traditionalists whose adherence to cultural and generational practices have driven the young people away in the first place. When the ground in which to sow the gospel grows hard, the church gives up and claims that nobody is interested anymore. But Gal 6:9 tells us: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.