It’s been a while since we looked at the Jerusalem church. I want to get back to their success. Their first key was being devoted to God. Now we are examining their unity. Acts 4:32 says the congregation was of one heart and one soul. We have also examined why unity is so important based on Philippians 1:29-30. Today, we continue our look by examining how we can have this unity in a congregation. Philippians 1:27-2:11 provides 4 Keys to Congregational Unity.
The Jerusalem Church
(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Thursdays is my day to talk about God’s way for our congregations. Right now I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the eleventh post in the series. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)
The Keys of Their Success
We’ve been taking a long, hard look at Jerusalem. If there is any church that had success, that was it. Not only was it successful, we know it was successful God’s way. No doubt, there are churches that do some interesting things, but we are often left wondering if that is really what God wants us doing. Just because they pack people in the pews doesn’t always mean a church is doing what God wants. But we know Jerusalem was on God’s path. So we’re looking to Jerusalem to help us learn how to develop a godly, growing congregation.
We are at a midway point here. So, I think it is good to recap where we’ve been (especially since I haven’t kept this up weekly like I intended) and then a summary of what is left to come.
Recap of What We’ve Learned
We began by discarding the two major copouts that some might want to use to ignore the success Jerusalem had. Things worked in Jerusalem, but two things that didn’t make it work were:
Further, we wanted to make sure we kept our vision clear about the Jerusalem Church. Putting them up on a pedastal like this might lead us to draw some inadvertant conclusions. We don’t want that happening, so we’ve made sure to get those out of the way right at the beginning.
We have learned that the Jerusalem vision is…
A Look Ahead
Now it is time to get to the nitty-gritty. Enough discussion about what the Jerusalem church wasn’t and what it didn’t do. What are the actual keys to its success. What attitudes and actions can we mimic today to have the kind of success they had? In this post, I’ll give you a run-down of the keys and a brief summary of each. then we’ll spend the next several weeks looking in depth at each key.
Key #1: The Jerusalem Church was continually devoted to God
Acts 2:42 makes it clear. The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to God above all other things. The text says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” That’s the right kind of devotion right there.
Key #2: The Jerusalem Chuch was of one heart and one soul
Acts 4:32 demonstrates one of the greatest keys of Jerusalem’s strength. They were united. “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.”
Key #3: The Jerusalem Church aggressively dealt with problems
We’ve already noted that the Jerusalem vision is not of a problem free church. Rather, they had problems. For all their devotion and unity, they had struggles with hypocrites and sin and even doctrinal questions. They great key was they dealt with these problems quickly. They didn’t let them linger.
Key #4: The Jerusalem Church lost no one in the crowd
Jerusalem had a crowd, no doubt. By Acts 4:4, they had 5000 men. That doesn’t count the wives, widows, and children. But they didn’t simply relate to one another in the crowd. Because they related to one another from house to house, they didn’t lose people even if the apostles didn’t know everyone by name.
Key #5: The Jerusalem Church knew nobody can do everything
Churches today often have impossible expectations for each member or, at least, for some members. They expect some folks to do everything. No wonder these churches don’t grow. No one can do everything. The Jerusalem Church learned this in Acts 6. We can learn a lot from them to help our congregations grow.
Key #6: The Jerusalem Church was bold in the face of rejection
These early Christians understood that success in Christ didn’t always mean success with the people. They recognized that the Gospel would not only save people, it would also cause others to be hardened and turn away from God. Those who were hardened and turned away would not be friendly to them. More than mere rejection and public scorn, the Jerusalem church even faced intense persecution. But they were bold in the face of that rejection.
Key #7: The Jerusalem Church did not rely on free agents
It is not wrong to bring in someone to work with the local congregation. That is exactly what Barnabas did with Antioch in Acts 11:25-26. However, this wasn’t the norm. The Jerusalem church worked on training up its insiders to do the work at home and abroad. They relied on their farm team, not free agents.
I hope this summary gets your blood pumping and excited to keep coming back as we learn exactly how it worked for the Jerusalem Church. Come back next week as we dive in and see how the Jerusalem Church was continually devoted to God.
(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Thursdays is my day to talk about God’s way for our congregations. Right now I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the eighth post in the series. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)
Close-knit Family, not a Corporation
As we learn about the Jerusalem church, we will discover that they understood the principles of delegation and division of labor. As we start talking about that, many people will miss the point. We may use catch phrases that are common in the business world because there are many parallels. We may talk about mission statements, goals, plans, budgets. Even this series is talking about having a vision for the congregation. But Jesus didn’t die to establish a corporation. Jesus died to establish a community. He died to establish a close-knit family.
Consider Acts 2:42-47. Here were people that had all things in commong. They were selling their possessions and giving to each other. They were assembling in the temple every day and they were meeting in smaller groups from house to house every day. They praised God together. They ate together. They cared for each other.
Consider Acts 4:32-37. The brethren were of one heart and one soul. They were united in their care and concern for each other. They did not have a needy person among them because they took care of each other. Some even went to the extreme of selling land and houses and giving the proceeds to the needy among them.
Does this sound like a cold corporation? No. This wasn’t about ledger sheets, budgets, programs, plans, and bottom lines. This was about community and family. The Christians were finding a family as they met from house to house with each other. They were finding a family as they assembled with the entire congregation. They were finding the kind of support we ought to have in our families. But they were finding it sometimes from strangers who only knew that they were family in Christ.
It is amazing that this can be said of 3000 people who quickly became 5000 and potentially 10,000.
If we want to be what the Jerusalem church was, we will remove any visions of corporation and replace them with a vision of community and close-knit family. That is the great blessing God would have for us in His church.
(Make sure you come back next week as we learn that the Jerusalem vision is not Communism but sacrificing for the good of the congregation.)