Summary: We often hear talk of getting back to the New Testament church. The fact is we can’t. What we can do is learn to adapt the principles of the NT church that made it so effective.
3. The Book of Acts
June 7th, 2009
Unity with Believers
Have you ever been white water rafting? My youth group went one summer before a CIY conference. A group of us went to this extreme games camp where there was rock climbing, ropes courses, and of course white water rafting. The last day we were there we went down this river on these inflatable tube boat things. Each raft carried 6-8 people plus the guide. The guides really knew the river. Some parts were nice and relaxing and some parts were really intense and exciting. The boat that was traveling next to mine had a daredevil guide. There was the one spot where the river dipped and the front of the boat would drop almost straight down. The guide on the boat next to me waited until the back of the boat launched up into the air and then used the momentum to kick himself off the raft. With rocks all around this guy basically catapulted himself into the air. One of the people in our group just happened to take a picture at this moment showing him in the air about 5-6 feet off of the boat. Then the river levels out only a few seconds later. Some people in the group started freaking out when they looked back to see their guide was gone. Then out of no where he lands back in the back of the boat picks up his ore and starts barking out instructions. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. There was one part of the river in particular that was really fun. It was a long path of white water that moved the rafts really fast downstream. Immediately after getting through it like a four year old child playing with there dad you just want to go: again! Again! It was so powerful and exciting you want to re-do that part of the river but you can’t. You can’t go back upstream. You get caught in a current and once you have moved passed a certain point there is no going back.
Sometimes were hear people talk of getting back to the New Testament church. What they are saying is they want to go back to the way things were before, they want to ride that exciting part of the river one more time. The problem is: you can’t. We cannot go back to being the New Testament church. History, culture, religion, and the very world around us has changed. Even if we wanted to we cannot simply hit the undo button and go back to the way things were. We cannot go back we can only move forward.
When you look at the New Testament church we see things that I really wish we could get back. Look at what happens with the early church: In Acts 2:41 Peter gives a sermon and 3,000 people come to a relationship with Christ. When you consider that at this time they would have only counted the men it is very likely that with women and children factored in this number could be 2-3 times bigger. That is the first day in the life of the New Testament church. Acts 2:47 then mentions that the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. That would be pretty exciting to see. I remember about a year or so ago we had about two months where we had a baptism every week. It was amazing to be a part of. Can you imagine having that not just weekly but daily? In Acts 4 Peter and John were teaching in the temple and 5,000 men came to believe. Again the actual number of converts would likely be much higher when women and children were included. In Acts 6:1 the believers rapidly multiplied. We don’t know exactly what kind of numbers this would entail but if 5,000 converts are mentioned casually rapid multiplication would be something to see. In Acts 6:7 the number of believers greatly increased. No wonder people want to go back to the New Testament church. That must have been an exciting journey. 120 disciples of Jesus and 12 apostles are there at the beginning but their number grows by the thousands on multiple occasions. This is certainly an exciting part of the river. The church is moving. It is growing. The church is actually transforming the world around it. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could go back to being a church like that? Too bad we can’t.
That does not mean however, that there are not some things about the New Testament church we can adapt. We may not be able to go back to being the New Testament church but there are some things we can learn from them. While we cannot go back to being that church we can have the same transforming effect on the community that they had. We can’t become them. We can however continue to carry out the mission of God just as they did. That is actually the goal of our vision. We seek to join together to become passionate followers of Jesus. That is what the New Testament church was. That is why they were so effective in the ministry. They passionately followed Jesus with their lives. God used the New Testament church to transform the world because they made themselves available to God. If we want to have a church that is powerful and effective like the New Testament church was we need to learn to be usable by God. So what does that look like? How can we make ourselves available so that God can use us?