They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he 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, NIV 1987).
My Musings – While these are clearly challenging times as the world comes to grip with this global pandemic, (perhaps unprecedented to most of the world’s population living today), they pale in comparison (at least to date) to challenges that previous generations have endured. Our grandparents sent an entire generation of young men off to fight fascism and aggression in Europe, North Africa and the South Pacific. This came just a few short years after the great depression, where U. S. unemployment peaked at nearly 25% (probably much greater in other countries). The Spanish Flu (probably not a politically correct name by today’s standards) infected an estimated 500 million people and claimed the lives of an estimated 50 million (some estimates go as high as 199 million) souls. This was when the world population was around 1.8 billion. During the 14th century, it is estimated that 30% to 60% of the world population of 450 million died from the Black Plague.
One might ask, how does the Church respond to the crisis facing the world we live in today?
I would propose that it should have very little to do with how we “do” church and very much to do with how we “be” the Church.
In certain respects, the above text gives many a overly romanticized impression of the first century Church. “Why can’t we be more like the first century Chuch?” But we must remember, as persecution spread, the Church in Rome was driven underground into the catacombs beneath the city. Then, of course, there was persecution in the middle ages where people like Wycliffe, Hus, Zwingli, More and Tyndale were put to death, not to mention the religious persecution the led to settlement in the “new world.” Even today, in certain communist and Islamic countries, Christians constantly face persecution and death.
In light of all this, how we “do” church (worship style, time of service, length of sermon, systematic versus topical versus textual preaching, color of carpet, etc.) is fairly trivial compared to how those mentioned above were committed to being the Church. As we reflect on the crisis facing the world today, our focus as well should be on how to be the Church in a world that needs the hope that only Christ offers. Especially if we are just beginning (much worse to come) to experience the “birth pains” that Christ warned about in His Olivet Discourse and the tribulation to follow that the Apostle John recorded in Revelation.
My Advice – Be the Church. What are some practical ways we can put into practice some of the following ways of being the Church to our neighborhoods and communities?
Love One Another – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34–35, NIV 1984).
Do Unto Others – “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12, NIV 1984).
Live At Peace With Everyone – “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18, NIV 1984).
Be A Servant – “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25–28, NIV 1984).
Do For The Least Of These – “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:35–40, NIV 1984).
Practice Pure and Faultless Religion – Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27, NIV 1984).
Be A Witness – “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NIV 1984).
Be Prepared With Your Reason For Hope – Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15–16, NIV 1984).
What Remains? – “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV 1984).
Here are some suggestions from my local church: (https://www.fbcsycamore.com/)