So what kind of crew gathers around leaders that are courageous, obsessed, Jesus imitators?
The Chaotic and Wild First Church of Jerusalem
So the 12 are in Jerusalem leading the way by example. They are imitating Jesus with courage and an unstopable obsession. Round them the first church forms. Luke gives us two snap shots of the pandemonium: one in Acts 2 and one in Acts 4.
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.
All the believers were one n heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
So we (church leaders) typically do two very bad things with these passages.
First, we ignore all the “selling your possessions” crap. That totally makes us uncomfortable. We don’t really want to talk about it; so we just pretend it is not there.
Second, we use these passages to justify our existing programs and create new ones. For example, ever heard a pastor say, “When we look at the new church what did they do? They devoted themselves to teaching and they worshiped. That is what we do here on Sunday morning. It is important you are here EVERY Sunday. Also, they met in homes. That is why we have started these fancy-nancy, shinny and bright, sparkly and new, solve-all-your-problems, heal-your-marriage, grow-hair-on-your-chest, radically awesome-cool small groups! You can sign up today in the back of the church.”
I think we completely miss the point of these passages.
Think about Peter’s first sermon in Acts 2. In summary Peter says, “The Old Testament said this would happen. Jesus was God and you killed him.” The people then say, “How can we fix it?” And Peter replies, “Repent!”
Do you think he went from that speech to setting up programs? Were they teaching how to lead a great small group?
“Jesus, the Son of God, died on a cross and rose from the grave…So tonight at your house spend the first fifteen minutes chating. We’ll call this the community time. Then open the group in prayer. Make sure everyone is sitting in a circle so they can see each other. Eye contact is crucial…”
I don’t think so.
I have a feeling in the temple courts the 12 were telling their Jesus stories. They were talking about the last three years they spent with the Son of God; and people couldn’t get enough. They wanted more Jesus because these wild guys’ stories made sense of the world. So they came back every day for more.
Why were they gathering in homes? Because after work they went to the temple and heard these wild Jesus stories and they wanted to talk about them more. Their whole world was being turned upside down and they loved it. They couldn’t get enough; so they invited their friends over for dinner.
And why were they giving everything away? Maybe Peter gave a fantastic five point sermon on the blessing of tithing? “Give to God and he will give back to you!” Hmmm… I’m thinking probably not.
If you are a rich guy in Jerusalem who has fallen in love with Jesus and you hear the story of the rich young ruler and you take it at face value, what else is left for you but to give it all away? (For those not familiar with the story, Jesus tells a rich guy that if he wants to be a disciple he needs to sell everything he has and give it to the poor.)
Often when we look at Jesus we excuse away the things about Him that make us uncomfortable. This first church was busting at the seams and going wild because they were taking Him seriously.
And it started with the 12, the leaders.
So what was the 12’s mission statement?
What were their core values?
What was their vision?
Their strategic plan?
Be like Jesus. Talk about Jesus.
What was their five year goal for development and growth?
Are you starting to get it? In the opening of the book of Acts we find a group of leaders that obsess over Jesus and an out of control, unplanned, unstructured movement of people form around them (the first church) because they too fall obsessively in love with Jesus.
Here comes my shot below the belt…
Ready for it?
Gird your loins cause here it comes.
Why don’t our churches look like that first one?