We are working through an article by Scott Thomas on replanting an existing church, that is, renewing a church so that it grows and matures as a church plant does.
d. Envision an Acts 2 commitment to fellowship (Acts 2:44-45).
- In what ways will the body seek to meet the needs of one another (spiritual, social, financial, physical)?
- What attitudes need to change to be sacrificially generous of time, money and resources for the encouragement and edification of the body?
- How will the body serve one another actively and responsively in an unprompted way?
- What will the membership requirements be? How will it communicate a covenantal commitment?
“Acts 2” is, of course, a reference to —
(Acts 2:42-47) They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he 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 favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Whew! This is a tough one. You see, the American mindset is a consumer mindset. We go to the church store and buy church stuff — salvation, relationships (most people would say “friends,” but this is church), a sports program, moral instruction for the kids. A coffee shop is optional but would be nice. We shop for the best supplier of Christian services, and that’s where we go.
And so being devoted to these things is a bit hard for us. We go to church to buy one week’s supply of salvation. We aren’t devoted to it. It’s what we have to do to get what we want. You see, we’re devoted to ourselves and so we do what’s best for us — pay the lowest price possible for the best package of options and standard features.
Some would argue for a membership covenant — a document that lays out the church’s expectations for its members — but this follows in the very same mindset: you aren’t holding up your end of the bargain, so we’re going to put it in writing. It’s all very commercial, don’t you think?
Imagine that you meet a beautiful girl and it’s love at first sight. You ask her for some coffee, you get along, you ask her on a date, and she hands you a contract to sign. Not really the stuff of healthy, you know, relationships.
To me, the problem centers around our tendency to treat Christianity as a bargain. You get one (1) eternity in heaven for the low, low price of faith and baptism.*
* Regular church attendance and contributions to the church treasury are required. Other terms and conditions may also apply. Choice of wrong denomination may result in revocation of this offer. (Not that we’re a denomnination.) See the full terms of the contract in any Bible (KJV or AV only). And then read the tracts out front to understand the contract.
And so, what do we promise people to get them to change their hearts? What bargain do we strike? What pitch do we make? How do we market devotion?
Can’t be done, can it? And that’s why we don’t see Jesus acting the huckster. Rather, he says stuff like —
(Mat 10:34-39) “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law– 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Not exactly Madison Avenue, is it? How about —
(Luke 9:57-62) As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
There are hard sayings because they directly contradict the American consumerist mindset. All we can do is read and wonder what Jesus really meant.
So here’s the deal. It’s impossible. You cannot sell Christianity and Christianity is not for sale.
(Mat 13:44-46) “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
Well, actually, you can buy it. You just have to be willing to give up everything. We like to say “give up as much as Jesus demands” (and thank goodness he doesn’t demand all that much). That’s not the point.
The point is that you can’t be an insurance-policy Christian. It’s not allowed. You have to be an all-in Christian. That’s the only kind there is.