Do you ever have that feeling? It can be the desk that needs tidying. The inbox that needs sorting. The garage that needs clearing out (this is an ongoing issue for me!). You know what needs to be done, but the task looks overwhelming. So you retreat from it in frustration and fear, put the kettle on and sit down to watch the telly.
I had that feeling this morning about the church. Now don’t get me wrong. Our church is in many ways very healthy. They’re are lots of people serving the Lord Jesus, loving him, seeking to share the good news about him with others. People making many sacrifices for Christ, in his strength and for his glory. But…
…the church in the Bible sets the bar pretty high. When the apostle Peter preaches the gospel in the power of the Spirit for the first time on the day of Pentecost, 3000 people become Christians in Jerusalem. This is what their church looked like:
Acts 2: 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 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, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
It’s a church where:
People are devoted to God’s word.
People are devoted to prayer.
People are devoted to one another relationally. They met together and shared food in each others homes.
People are devoted to one another materially. They treat their possessions as though they belong to everyone and even downsize to give away money to those in need.
People are devoted to the Lord and one another temporally. They meet daily.
This church is characterised by the miraculous happening, people praising God, outsiders thinking well of it and the Lord adding to their number.
It’s so different from where we have ended up in the Western church today. Where it’s a push to get people to be regular at more than one service a Sunday and a mid week meeting. Where people are quicker to organise their lives to see Avengers End Game than to make a prayer meeting. Where our homes are our homes, not gifts from God to be used wholeheartedly in his service welcoming in the outsider. And where I read an article by a Christian charity recently that said that most Christians give less than 2% of their income to gospel work, despite us being the most affluent Christians ever to have lived.
So where do I start? Especially as I’m as much a part of the problem as the solution. Living a comfortable, middle-class, western life that doesn't look that different from my non-Christian neighbours, except for the fact that I go to a lot more meetings where people talk about Jesus. And I’m supposed to be the pastor!
Fortunately I was saved by my inbox. Not by the need to tidy it taking my mind off the huge disparity between the church of Acts 2 and my life. But rather by an email about a helpful article: “Changing culture - one heart at a time”.
It’s a simple testimony by one man as to how his love for people has grown as he has taken listening to the Bible being preached more seriously. How through the simple week in week out ministry of the word his family have been changed to serve Christ more wholeheartedly.
So here’s where I need to start:
2 Timothy 4:2 …preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.
Now I just have to master “great patience”!
Here’s the article https://library.thevineproject.com/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=changing_culture_one_heart_at_a_time_news_from_vinegrowers_april_2019&utm_term=2019-04-24#/resources/changing-culture-one-heart-at-a-time