Sunday August 16, 2015 | Seth McCoy
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds[a] to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home[b] and ate their food with glad and generous[c] hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
In this next installment of our Mixtape series, Seth McCoy explores the richness of the early church as described in Acts 2:42-47. The beauty of the early church is evident as we look at this passage and explore the spirit of this church and how that could affect the spirit of the church today. We also look at the myths of this early church as often perceived or romanticized today and breakdown any misconceptions that might get in the way of living out what God has for His church today.
The focus of this week in our Mixtape series is the powerful description of the life of the early church in Acts 2:42-47. Seth McCoy walks us through this passage with an eye looking at the radical nature of the early church, but also how that vision draws us forward to the life of the church in our world today. This message consisted of three main directions: 1) The history of the early church and their practices, 2) Myths for how those practices can often be romanticized in the present day church and 3) Practical ways to move in the direction of the Spirit that was so present in the early church.
The history of the early church was marked by fellowship (koinonia). This fellowship was deeply rooted and birthed out of the radical choices of the earliest Christians to leave everything to follow Jesus. These groups of believes would enjoy a meal together intermixed with communion. This group exemplified the communal experience, particularly seen in the use consistent use of the words “all”, “everything”, and “everyone”. This passage occurs directly after an impassioned message by Peter where 3000 people are added to this fledgling community of 120 followers of Jesus. Imagine the chaos that would have ensued as this quickly growing group attempted to assimilate this new group of people. This early group of believers emphasized the core belief of Jesus that there was always enough love to go around. It is also evident in the early church that good leadership is central to the success of the church and that the attitude of the believers was one of gladness and sincerity.
One of the difficulties when discussing the fellowship of the Acts 2 church is that it can often lead to romanticizing the reality of this church over and against the difficulty experiences of forming a church. This leads to myths with the church today that the Acts 2 church was both the model of authentic community and the example of radical discipleship. While the church in Acts 2 was certainly a beautiful community, they were not a community for the sake of community. They were a community that emphasized genuine care and concern for people. They did this through radical generosity and discipleship. You don’t see examples where the early church is simply giving with no purpose, the believers are giving because someone else is lacking and that genuine concern for the other is the core of the community. This church was trying, as best they could and understood, to incarnate the radical community of Jesus in their fledgling community of believers. While we can learn a lot from the early church it can sometimes lead us in the wrong direction by keeping our focus on the past rather than inviting God to guide us to the next cutting edge part of culture where we are to incarnate Jesus.
Finally, Seth highlighted 2 Timothy 1:7 where he noted that the evidence of the Spirit of God working is that there will power, love and self-discipline. Our job is not to simply to copy the practices of the early church, but to tap into that same Spirit that is in our churches today and find ways to contextualize that same power, love and self-discipline. The book of Acts is about the action of the Spirit of God in the lives of real people and our job is to invite that same Spirit to our gatherings today.