Pastor’s Blog September 2017

In last month’s blog I suggested that rather than seek to be relevant the church should in the first place simply seek to be true to our calling. I suggested that Acts 2:42 provided the best description of the foundations of that calling. Let’s consider what those foundations are:

  1. The context of v42 is a large number of people believing in Jesus Christ, turning from their sin in repentance, being baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. The first principle is that the church is made up of people in a living relationship with Jesus Christ who are on a day by day basis being filled with the Holy Spirit. To put it simply, a relevant church is a church where disciples are being made.
  2. Luke tells us they devoted themselves, which means they gave themselves diligently in an ongoing way, to the Apostles teaching. For us the Apostles Teaching is contained in the New Testament. We are to be people who are being shaped by our encounter with the bible. People who not only know the bible but live their lives by it.
  3. They devoted themselves to the fellowship. This is the Greek word koinonia and its meaning has been somewhat watered down. Fellowship is much more than a coffee and a chat at the end of a service. One way to understand the weight of this word is to think of a partnership. We are partners in the mission of God. We are partners in a shared way of living under the Lordship of Christ.

Monastic communities have a shared rule of life by which everyone in that community agrees to live. I have begun to wonder whether we should understand church membership in a similar way. I suspect it would be closer to the biblical understanding of belonging to the church, rather than a collection of individuals who choose to gather together, we should see ourselves as partners, living by a shared set of values, drawn from scripture, which shape our personal devotion to God, our life in the world as missionary disciples and our life together as a community of disciples. The picture the N.T. gives us of the early church suggests that the early Christians had an openness to being helped, guided and sometimes rebuked by fellow believers that we possibly lack. We are partners in following Christ and we need one another.

  1. They devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. I think this tends to be read as being communion. But this is unlikely. The more likely sense is that they ate meals together. Not all 3000 at once, but that across the church there was a sharing of life together over a shared meal. It was here that people were built up and encouraged.
  2. Finally they devoted themselves to the prayers. Which probably indicates that they continued to participate in the pattern of prayer adopted by devout Jews. This was personal and corporate.

If we want to be relevant in our time then we would be advised to give attention to being an authentic church living out Acts 2:42. The reality is that what I’ve described here is not a pattern of meetings and activities but an intentional way of following Jesus together as his disciples. It isn’t a vision of a spiritual life but of ordinary lives lived in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Phil Dixon