I am reading the Book of Acts – the history of the life of the early Church and the work of the Holy Spirit through some very normal people who were obedient disciples of the Lord. As I am reading I am noting the differences between what we see today in the average church and what the early Church was like. let me list a few I have noticed…
NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
INSTITUTIONAL (man made) CHURCH
Moving from house to house daily and coming together to celebrate regularly
Meeting only in sanctuaries weekly
Apostles and prophets
Pastors and teachers
Sharing all they had – tithing as foundational (ownership)
Giving what is left – tithing redefined or ignored (management)
Community lifestyle and corporate expression of faith
Individual – personal faith
Natural discipling of neighbours – multiply self
Outreach, action, programs, specialists – little multiplication or even addition
Getting the Church out into the community (homes)
Getting people into the church building
Small, intimate groups where life is shared
Large, impersonal groups with little to no life is seen
Kinetic, discussion based teaching times
Static, sermon centered teaching times
“Go and make disciples!”
“Come and become a member!”
Equipping oriented (everyone involved)
Performance oriented (professionals only)
Church sending itself as a multiplying unit
Church sending specialized missionaries
There are certainly more differences. They can be seen in each chapter if one simply takes the time to examine the life of the early Church as described by Luke and the experience we are having weekly in our local churches – assuming you have not given up on the institutional church.
However, with determination and perseverance we can change ‘what is’ into ‘what should be’… It is not easy, it will cost you, it will take time – but it is worth it. However, you will need to be intentional as change does not happen in and of itself nor will it happen by accident. As you work hard and are patient with others who don’t see what you are seeing – the transformation will certainly happen. As the changes are implemented you will be seriously encouraged as more and more life is experienced and you begin to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.
However, if the group you belong to is no longer experiencing life and is not willing to change it may be time to close it down and move on. Or, if they are comfortable and don’t see the need to change – it may simply be time to quietly exit and begin again. Believe me, there is always a remnant – people who are hungry for what God is doing so you won’t be alone. You can start again in a new way with a new format that allows the life of God to flow. It is this life that is the light for the world (john 1:4) and without it we are simply an institution that is busy with self-preservation.
The New Testament Church is the model or pattern we are to begin with. No cost is too great if it results in a body of believers – the Church – that Jesus is building and that sees the very life and nature of God flowing daily as people are being save and added to the local assembly.