Blake Allen, Student Pastor, LHBC
40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
The definition of picture perfect is “lacking in defects or flaws; ideal. With this definition, can anything really be picture perfect? We live in a fallen world tainted by the effects of sin. When sin entered into the world, it changed everything. And yet, we want the picture perfect job, wife, house, family, friends, investment opportunities, etc. We want everything to be perfect in the way we define perfection.
The reality is this: there is not a thing or a person other than God that is perfect. Why is this important? Because it reminds us that flawed people are in need of something outside of themselves to remedy life’s problems. The church is no different. We need Jesus each and evey day. The difference between the church and the world is not that the church is perfect or sinless. The difference is believers recognizes its sinfulness and admits its need for a savior.
And yet, it is amazing the standards we create for the church. As one who has experienced church hurt in the past, I fully recognize no church is perfect. And we cannot expect it to be. It is, in fact, a gathering of sinners who have been turned into saints by the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from our sin. Although the church should look drastically different than the world, Paul himself reminds us that, at times, even he does the things he does not want to do (Romans 7:15).
This is an important reminder for us that nobody is perfect, no church is perfect, and our expectations of the church are often times imperfect. But it also calls into question whether or not there is such a thing as a “picture perfect” or “ideal” church. Though not perfect, there is a picture we receive from the New Testament on what a church “should” look like. In Acts 2, we can see the following characteristics of a thriving church:
A Thriving Church is Committed to Christ
A thriving church starts with a thriving relationship with Jesus. After Peter preached his sermon in Acts, he called for his hearers to repent and believe. As a result, 3,000 believers were added to the church. If you are not a fan of “bigger” churches, you probably wouldn’t have liked the first church formed in Jerusalem either. God blessed the faithfulness on Peter, one who knew Christ, and established His church.
The first sign of this thriving church was souls reached for the kingdom of God. Three thousand people repented and put faith in Christ Jesus as their Lord. After receiving the Holy Spirit, they continued to make Christ known. As a result, the Lord “added” to their number day by day. This church was not thriving because of its size. However, the numbers added were a reflection of their faithfulness to God. It’s not about numbers, but it is about lost souls turning from sin and placing faith in Jesus.
You might be asking, how could a church this size truly experience fellowship and intimacy? Acts 2 answers this question for us.
A Thriving Church Commits to Christs’ Church
The church in Acts experienced fellowship and intimacy by meeting together regularly. Assembly together was more important than fishing, sports, new ventures, hobbies, etc. Nothing is wrong with these things. However, how often do we prioritize the stuff of the world over the stuff of God? The believers in Acts saw participation in the life of the church as essential. They did not “have” to meet together; they “desired” to. They considered it essential and nessary to be a part of the gathering.
The 3,000+ people gathered together in the temple regularly. How were they able to connect? They joined a family group. It says they broke bread together in homes, receiving their food with gladness, and praising God. For practical purposes, the believers went from the big gathering to smaller and more intimate gatherings. At these gatherings, they shared meals; they observed the word of God together; they exchanged prayers; etc. There is some debate on whether or not the “meals” refers to the Lord’s Supper or an actual meal which was normal in their culture. Regardless, this thriving church gathered together, joined family groups, and enjoyed intimacy. They never developed a “church too big” mentality. They took initative in developing relationships within the church and seeking out fellowship.
A Thriving Church is Committed to its Neighbors
They gave their time to loving others as well. They gave financially when their was a need. They met the needs of the surrounding community (3:1-10). They not only cared for the spiritual needs of their neighbors, but they also meet physical needs.
I’m not a big fan of the following quote: “share the gospel; use words when necessary.” Words are always necessary. How does anyone get saved apart from hearing the “word” of God? Or as Paul say, “How can they call on the one they have not believed in. And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard. And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? How beautiful are the feet of the one who brings the “good news” (Romans 10:14-15).”
Words are essential and necessary. But so are actions in addition to words. Actions confirm we believe what we proclaim. We don’t need to pick one over the other; we must meet both physical and spiritual needs. We must proclaim and live the gospel.
The Results of a Committed Church
We see lives changed by the power of the Gospel. We see God’s power on display. We see believers filled with joy. We see believers singing praises to God. We see worship, transformation, life, vitality, and spiritual flourishing in motion. We see a thriving church. We see an “ideal” church. This leaves us with a couple of questions:
- Is your personal relationship with Christ dead or thriving? Do you have a personal relationship with Christ? Do you spend time with Him daily? Are you making Him known?
- Are you a spectator or active participant in Christs’ church? Are you a part of the large group gathering on Sunday? Are you a part of a family group? Are you doing life together with other believers? Are you taking initiative in seeking out fellowship?
- Are you generous with your time, money, and resources? When you see a need, do you meet it? Are you sharing and living truth?
If we are going to be a thriving church, it will take all of us going All-in together. We each have a part to play. It’s much easier to be a critic than a participant in God’s church. But it’s harder to criticize something you are heavily invested in. Sometimes, self-reflection is the best medication for our perception of the church. We are not perfect. We are all flawed. But we can all contribute to making our churches thrive. Will you buy in to going All-in for the church?
PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, may we be the church you intended us to be. Amen.
MEMORY VERSE OF THE WEEK:
Psalm 42:13: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
Amen and Amen.