If you were to ask 10 people at your church why the church exists or what it is supposed to do, you would probably get 10 different answers. This confusion leads to frustration for leaders, it causes people to wonder if the church is worth the time and effort, and ultimately, it keeps the church from being all she could be.
Yet, in places like Matthew 28:18 – 20 and Acts 1:8, we have been given a picture of why the church exists and what it should do.
There is an incredible passage in Acts 2 that I preached on recently that lays out what the church did after Jesus returned to heaven, and the Holy Spirit came upon them.
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. -Acts 2:41 – 47
Imagine, in one day, the church exploded. God’s kingdom broke into the city of Jerusalem powerfully.
But what does this tell us about why the church exists for today?
1. Expect something to happen. On the first day the church launched, 3,000 people were saved and baptized. There was an expectation that when Jesus gave his mission to the disciples (Acts 1:8) and said the Holy Spirit would come to help them accomplish it, they expected that to be true and to happen.
They expected that when they showed up, that God would show up. That when they prayed, God would answer. That when they followed after God, they would partner with God in what He is doing.
What if we expected and looked for God to move?
2. They were devoted to teaching. The word devoted means constant, given over to or a large part of what someone does. The church in Acts devoted themselves to what the apostles taught them; the apostles were those who saw the risen Jesus, many who had walked with him, and heard his teachings on the kingdom of God.
For us today, this means that we need to devote ourselves to what the Bible says. Not what we’d like it to say, but what it says. We need to allow it to shape who we are and who we are becoming.
3. Eat together. Our culture does not slow, sit down, and enjoy a long meal with friends and family. We don’t often open up our homes to each other to be hospitable and welcoming, yet this is one of the early church’s defining characteristics. Jesus spent so much time in the gospels eating and partying with people that it is astounding more Christians don’t associate that with the mission of Jesus. Yet this is one of the simple ways community is built, and a church is seen.
This church was devoted to each other, spent time together in the temple and homes, worshiping and eating together and praying together.
4. They prayed together, and awe came over them. There was a sense of wonder in this church. This idea of “I can’t believe I get to be a part of this and see what God is doing.” What if that was the sense we had when we were part of a church? Being blown away by the move of God.
There were miracles, which can be anything from a changed life, marriages being saved, people not believing lies and battling the idols of their heart, or moving deeper into the community instead of living in isolation.
5. They had all things in common. A common belief in the mission is pulling the rope in the same direction, not being divisive. Making sure everyone in your community has what they need. While some have more than others, those who have more are generous, so those with fewer needs are met.
6. They met regularly. They did life together. This is not a one time a week event; this is a daily exercise of being in each other’s lives. Eating together, playing, working at the same place, having play dates, going on vacation, watching football, sitting around campfires. Sharing life. This is the longing of all people, to stop being in isolation and be known, and this church did this, day by day, the text says.
7. They had favor with all people. Reading this last verse is kind of astounding in our culture. What’s interesting is that the first century was just as hostile to the message of Jesus as our culture (just read Romans and 1 Corinthians). In their love for each other, their city, their welcoming of strangers (yet still submitting to the teaching of the Scripture and the apostles teaching), they had favor with people. This is how we know the church has gotten off track in our world. People outside the church should look at the church and think, “I may disagree with them, but I like them. They are kind, generous, loving. They are good neighbors, co-workers, and bosses. They are hospitable, opening their homes to people, not bashing people on social media.” Instead, Christians are seen as hateful, mean, arrogant, and spiteful.
They were part of the gathered church, hearing the word of God preached, worshiping through song and prayer, and then scattering to live out that preached message in daily life.
The result? God added to their number daily.
This is the goal and prayer of the church: it’s why the church exists.
Imagine, every day, a new person began a relationship with Jesus! I’d love to see 365 people a year begin a relationship because of coming into contact with every church, including mine.
I believe this can and will happen when we are the church each day.
This article originally appeared here, and is used by permission.