We were blessed to have Efrem Smith preach today on the topic of the Church as a “Revolutionary Community: Going from a crowd to a community.” The text for this message was Acts 2:41-47.
We were blessed to have Efrem Smith preach today on the topic of the Church as a “Revolutionary Community: Going from a crowd to a community.” The text for this message is Acts 2:41-47. The sermon began with an acknowledgment that there are some struggles common to large churches. Efrem observed that people who attend large churches, while often happy with much that is going on in the church often feel lonely, lost in the crowd. We all have a need to know others and feel known. In short we need to establish meaningful relationships with one another if we are to live in true community. The large church setting does not facilitate this naturally. Nevertheless, God wants us to be in community: first as individuals before God reconciled through Christ, and secondly with one another in the Body of Christ, the Church. This community consists of communion, fellowship, intimacy, and sharing life together.
Acts 2:41-47 offers several hints as to how this can happen. Verse 42 mentions that they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayers. Efrem pointed out that “devoting” ourselves is an act of sacrifice. We must “die” to some things in order to live with God and each other in the way God intends. Devotion has to do with commitment, discipline, willingness to put others first. The first thing that is “devoted” to in this passage is the apostles’ teachings. The content of this teaching is the life, death and resurrection of Christ into which the people were baptized according to verse 41. Devotion did not stop with that, the new converts devoted themselves also to fellowship. In true fellowship, all participate, all have gifts needed by the others, and everyone’s unique role is honored and respected by the others. All have a voice that must be heard for the community to be healthy. There was also a commitment to the breaking of bread together. This act has at least two noteworthy meanings. First, according to the apostles’ teachings, it is done in remembrance of Christ and establishes the basis of unity for all at the table. Second, meals themselves are very conducive to building relationships and sharing life with others. The last item given in verse 42 instructs us to pray for one another. We all need people to pray for us and we in turn must pray for one another. Our commitment to fellowship together can facilitate the discipline of prayer. The depth of relationships increases as we press on in these things by offering transparency to one another, invite others into our lives, be willing to ask and hear hard questions from each other, and intercede for one another. Christian communities like this are what enables the Church to meet the essential needs of individuals in the Church as well as those God wants to bless through the Church.
In our culture, it is increasingly difficult to transition from the crowd to a true community. Entertainment has become such a dominant element of our society that we easily find ourselves in the posture of “spectator” or “observer” rather than participant. We elevate people with outstanding gifts of various sorts and they draw crowds to come and see what they can do. So long as what they do is in some way extraordinary and interesting we are entertained and we don’t ask questions about their character or the eternal value of these events. Verse 43 indicates that the people were in awe of what God was doing in their midst. They were in awe of God, not Peter, who had been preaching (see verse 47). Large churches run the risk of having people come and be “in awe” of the preacher, the worship leaders, the music, the building, even the large crowd itself! However, we see that this need not be the case since this passage in Acts shows that it is possible to have many wonderful things happening and still keep the focus on the only one worthy of our praise! Let God call you out of the crowd, which is only suitable for things of this world, and into the community where your gifts can be used and needs can be met for the advancing of God’s Kingdom.
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