They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
Doesn’t this sound ideal? The fledgling church is a tight-knit community, fellowshipping together, praying together, learning together, and meeting one another’s needs. And they are seeing the fruit of their efforts! More and more people are coming to Jesus. Isn’t this what we long for when we think of being part of a church community? A place where we and others belong and grow, and we witness the work of the Lord and the growth of his church daily.
So many times I have seen this passage in Acts held up as the gold standard. This is the real church, how we should behave, how we should model all our Sunday morning gatherings and small groups. Anything else is a broken model, too bureaucratic or consumeristic to really make a difference or honor scripture. This all-or-nothing, Acts-or-nothing, approach to the church isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s a desire to see the people of God at their best. And, maybe, a desire for a blueprint to “get things right” when church, by its nature, can be messy. But I do think this approach is missing something.
The believers gather together in response to the amazing message of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and their belief in it. They don’t live in community with one another, and love one another in such a remarkable way, because it’s a good thing to do. They live in community with one another because it’s an outflow of their shared belief and hope. Yes, we should strive to follow their example. But if we do so because we see their lives as a “should” of Scripture, just a template for us to obey to get this Christian life right, it will inevitably fall short and be empty of the lifeblood that makes it so appealing in the first place. Christian community without the hope of Christ is still a community, but not the community we long for.
How can you, if you follow Jesus, reflect this kind of fellowship today? Look for a way to gather with and encourage a brother or sister in Christ because of your shared hope in your savior.
By Jessica Rust