In this post, I turn to scripture to study the early church. I believe it is important to go to the source if we want to understand something. The church is no exception. We first read about the church in action in the book of Acts. After the Holy Spirit falls on the disciples and all of those gathered with them, the believers immediately form a community.
This community is described by Luke at the end of chapter two. "All of the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord's Supper) and to prayer." Acts 2:42. There are four activities they devoted themselves to, resulting in a very vibrant church. There was a deep sense of awe and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. It blows my mind how these first-century men and women, who had no church model to emulate could create a movement that is still going strong two thousand years later.
In this post, I will briefly discuss each of the four tenets of the early church and then future posts will discuss each one more thoroughly. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching. They recognized the authority of the apostles and the wisdom they gained from three years with Christ. I believe the teaching going on was more like a Sunday school classroom than a sermon. In their excitement, I'm sure there were lots of questions. In the church today, the Bible must be central to all teaching. If a church fails to recognize the authority of scripture, the church will not succeed.
Secondly, they fellowshipped. They spent time together getting to know one another, perhaps sharing their experiences with the living Christ. And stories of those they reached out to and shared the gospel with. And those new converts were probably brought into this fellowship to be encouraged and taught. Remember Jesus told the church that they were to make disciples. I believe they took that task seriously and through fellowship strengthened their relationships and shared their faith. Our churches today must do the same. We cannot simply offer physical comforts to unbelievers, we must also share the good news and teach them how to be Christians.
Food was important in the early church, as it is today. They shared food, ate together, and enjoyed conversations together. The Lord's supper was included in this. Each time they ate the Lord's supper, they could talk about what Jesus did for us, the sacrifice he made because he loved us. Through informal conversation, others learned about Christ. Relationships were strengthened and new converts were readied to share the gospel with their friends and family. Today's church uses formal instruction too often and has forgotten the benefits of simple conversations.
Most importantly, the early church spent lots of time in prayer. Each day they went to the temple courts to pray. I have no doubt prayer in the early church was integral to their success. I also have no doubt that if prayer was central to a Christian gathering or church today, we would have overwhelming success. We would regularly witness miracles in our meetings. We would carry the power of the Holy Spirit within us as we share our faith in today's world.
The early church grew by leaps and bounds without a building or a paid pastor, What it did have was a group of men and women devoted to Christ, prayer, and witnessing to unbelievers. The church of the 21st century could do the same with the same devotion because the God of the 1st Century church is the same God of the 21st Century church.