A Church like Mom
It seems more than a coincidence to me that we read this passage about the early church on Mother’s Day. When you think about it, it seems like the early church acted just like our mothers would want us to! When God gave birth to the church, so to speak, it behaved like the family of a loving, caring mom. How can we do what they did so our church will be faithful and grow?
1. Make Worship a Priority
“They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God….”
The early church was built on prayer, worship, and fellowship. An expressive, worshipful church results from sincere praise and communion with the Savior. It’s not something you schedule to draw a crowd. To become a worshiping church means focus has been shifted. Our natural inclination is to worship other “gods,” lesser things like money and power. But the Bible teaches that we are put on this earth primarily to know and walk with the God who made us and to bring glory to His name.
Our worship of God must engage the mind, but it must also engage the affections, the heart, our emotions, and our spirit. That does not mean that worship has to necessarily be emotional or involve an outward emotional display to be “in the spirit,” but it does mean the heart must be engaged. We show outward excitement and worship to sports, musicians, and celebrities. It would seem only right that God would deserve more.
A worshiping church is a place where God is exalted in spirit and in truth.
2. Open Your Heart and Your Hands to Others
“Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.”
As we read the accounts of the first church, it becomes clear that literally everything they did culminated in reaching out to new people with the gospel. We should want to go and share our faith. We talk about what is important to us. The early believers had been touched by Jesus; He had forever changed their lives, so much so that they were willing to give their lives for Him. It has nothing to do with winning a debate with someone who believes differently from what we believe. It has everything to do with sharing who we are and what is vital in our lives.
Evangelism was not a planned event in the early church; it was a natural out growth of a healthy relationship with Christ. The early believers took everyday situations and turned them into opportunities to share the Gospel. They stepped out in faith and spoke the truth of the Gospel and God showed up.
3. Magnanimously give
“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common…continuing daily with one accord…and having favor with all people.”
This sentence illustrates just how literally we’re called to love one another. The reason the early church could share their possessions was that they were actually living out the second great commandment to love their neighbor as themselves. We see that their unity and love were so powerful that “all the people” thought well of them. And isn’t that just what our moms teach us, to be loving, kind, generous, and faithful?
Who wouldn’t want to join in on such a love fest where everyone was cared about and accepted? As a result, their numbers exploded and thousands came to Christ!
When we are talking about being a loving church we are talking about a people who are connected to one another in close fellowship and people who serve one another in true ministry. Jesus said in Matthew 19:19 “Love your neighbor as yourself.” What would happen if we truly began to take Jesus at His world and live this way? What would this do to our church? Can you imagine how different things would be if we operated by this principle? What would it be like if we really were as concerned about others’ happiness, problems, and disappointments as we are about our own?
Our love one for another is one of our greatest witnesses to the world. It backs up everything that we are trying to do and say to the world. Remember in Acts all the believers were as one? The response was a daily adding to their numbers. People came to Jesus because they saw how Christians loved each other. People still come to Jesus when they see how we love each other.
So, on this Mother’s Day, let’s listen to our moms: Let’s make worship a priority, open our hearts and hands to others, and be magnanimous. Let’s be more like the early church, which was a small refuge in a multi-cultural society fighting for its life. And if we do, the 21st century church will blossom just as the first century church did.
Stranger, Guest, and Host
I love the story of Jesus walking with two of his disciples on the Road to Emmaus, (Luke 24:13-35) because it is a picture in miniature of the path we all take as disciples.
In the beginning of our journey, Jesus is a stranger to us. Oh, sure, we hear the stories about Him in the Bible. We sing the hymns at church. But what do we really know about Jesus? He seems very far away from our daily lives. A Jewish carpenter who lived 2,000 years ago; an itinerant preacher whose lessons are more cryptic than clear; a person who was willing to die when He had it within his power to escape death – Jesus is truly a stranger to us and to our whole way of life.
But as we grow in faith, we begin to invite Jesus to be our guest. We want to spend more time with Him and learn about what He has to teach us. This is all on our own terms, of course. When it is convenient for us we ask Him over – we pray to Him, or we read about Him, we begin to participate in worship and ponder His difficult sayings.
As time goes on, though, and we become more convinced that Jesus is who He said He was, we eventually reverse roles, and become the guests at Jesus’ table. We open ourselves to Him, not only as our Host at communion, but also as the Lord of our lives. Instead of fitting Him into our schedule, we let Him dictate the schedule and fit our lives into His purpose. We become a part of his Body and we acknowledge Him as our head.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all this could take place in one day, as it did for those disciples on the Road to Emmaus? For most of us, it takes a lifetime, and our journey is not a straight path, but one that doubles back and snakes around as we wrestle with Jesus over who is in control of our lives.
But the truth is, we all can open our eyes to Christ’s leading in our lives wherever we are. When our hearts burn as we hear His message, Jesus is speaking to us. When we commune at His table, Jesus is hosting us. When we pour ourselves out in compassion and love the way He did, no matter how worthy the recipient, Jesus is guiding our hearts, minds, and souls.
And the best thing about traveling on the Road to Emmaus is that in the end you don’t just reach a dusty village. You find your way to the Kingdom of God.
Rev. Dr. Shannon Smythe
United Presbyterian Church