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The 3 Kinds of Internal Problems Churches Face

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The Jerusalem church is a stellar example of success for God’s kingdom.* They continued to grow and continued to grow and then they faced persecution and were blown apart. Then they continued to grow and continued to grow. But this doesn’t mean they were problem free. After all, there were people in those churches too, just like there are people in churches today. They had humongous internal problems that threatened to rip them apart, but they dealt with them aggressively and overcame. In this post, I want to share with you the three major internal problems they faced. We’ll examine how they handled each one in later posts.

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4 Keys to Congregational Unity

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It’s been a while since we looked at the Jerusalem church. I want to get back to their success. Their first key was being devoted to God. Now we are examining their unity. Acts 4:32 says the congregation was of one heart and one soul. We have also examined why unity is so important based on Philippians 1:29-30. Today, we continue our look by examining how we can have this unity in a congregation. Philippians 1:27-2:11 provides 4 Keys to Congregational Unity.

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The #1 Reason a Congregation Needs Unity

group hug by NicestAlan 300x214 The #1 Reason a Congregation Needs Unity

The Jerusalem church grew like wildfire. No doubt, the quickly developing relationships within that local body helped promote the rapid and sustained growth. According to Acts 4:32, the “full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul…” Unity produced stability. Stability produced growth. If we want to grow like Jerusalem, we need unity. But why?

(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Right now, when I write about God’s Way for Our Congregations, I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the 14th post in the series. I know, I know, that’s awfully long, but there is a lot to learn from the Jerusalem church. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)

Why is Unity So Important?

Philippians 1:27-2:11, provides a great outlook on why unity is necessary and how to achieve it. Today, we’ll start with why unity is necessary.

Philippians 1:29-30 demonstrates that unity within the congregation is necessary because when we venture into the world, we are going to suffer. Satan can’t stand that we have dedicated our lives to Jesus Christ. He is doing anything and everything in his power to get us to separate from Jesus. One of the easiest ways to accomplish that is to separate us from Jesus’ family. If we are isolated, disconnected, unassociated, we are easy pickings. The mountain lion doesn’t attack the gazelle in the middle of the herd. He looks for the one that is separated and disconnected.

Because of our suffering, we need connection to people who understand where we’ve been and where we are. We need people to rely on. We need a safe haven of friends to uplift us. For a good example of that, look again at Jerusalem. In Acts 4:1-31, Peter and John had been taken prisoner for healing a man. (Imagine that! “Um, yes sir, we have to arrest you for healing that man. We can’t have any unauthorized healings going on around here.”) When they had been threatened and released, where did they go? They went to their friends. What did they do? They prayed. When Peter and John suffered, they had friends they could turn to for help and rely on for powerful encouragement. They had a unified group of believers who would help them turn to the only place they could get true strength and courage.

Why Is Disunity Such a Problem?

I don’t want to simply provide you with an unhealthy dose of guilt. However, I can’t think about this without wondering why there are so many churches that aren’t unified. Sadly, I think the problem is so few of us (myself included sometimes) let the gospel so affect us that either Satan or the world sees us as a threat. Therefore, they let us pass through without any notice. Because they aren’t attacking us, we don’t need a safe haven. Therefore it becomes too easy for us to turn in on ourselves and become the backbiters and devourers against which Paul warned in Galatians 5:15.

I’m not saying we should go out and pick fights with non-Christians or Satan. I’m just suggesting that when we let the gospel radically affect us, suffering will increase. When that happens, we will learn why we need unity in the body. Then we’ll understand why it helped Jerusalem so much.

In my next post, I’ll talk more about how to achieve unity. What are your thoughts? How can a church achieve this kind of unity? To add your input, click here.

The Jerusalem Church (Part 13): The Keys–One Heart, One Soul

(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Thursdays is my day to talk about God’s way for our congregations. Right now I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the twelfth post in the series. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)

Jerusalem by mharrsch The Jerusalem Church (Part 13): The Keys  One Heart, One Soul

One Heart, One Soul

One of the most important questions churches ask today is, “What is the difference between a strong, living church and a weak, dying one?” Articles are written, books are sold, conferences held, and speeches given, all trying to answer this question. Everyone has their model and plan for the way a church should be run. Christians and churches have been willing to pay big money to hear the answers men have to offer. We, however, can learn the answer without spending a dime. God wrote the manual for the strong, living church and if we simply follow it, we will be one.

No doubt, the strongest church we could study is the one in Jerusalem. Acts 4:32 provides the next key to their strength and success.

“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.”

Consider what some have said about this unity:

“Considering the large number of persons in this congregation, and the variety of social relations from which they had been suddenly drawn together, it is truly remarkable, and well worthy of a place in the record, that they were ‘of one heart and soul.’ The unity for which the Saviour (sic) had prayed was now enjoyed by the church and witnessed by the world. The most surprising manifestation of it was seen in that complete subsidence of selfishness which led one and all to say that the things which he possessed were not his own, but the property of all. This was … the spontaneous expression of the love of God and man which had taken possession of every heart” (McGarvey, J.W.; New Commentary on Acts of The Apostles; Gospel Light Publishing Company; Delight, AR; v I, p 79.).

“Rich and poor, learned and simple…Levites and Jews, were so united in Christ that all other distinctions were lost. Selfishness was gone for each loved his brother as himself. What each man had he held it not as his own, but as a steward of Christ for the good of all. … The ordinary worldly life seemed to have melted into the life of faith and godliness. Their wants were spiritual, their occupations were spiritual, they joys were spiritual. In this happy state, in the clear atmosphere of love, the great truths of the gospel shone out with marvellous (sic) brightness; the resurrection of Christ especially stood out in the lineaments of a distinct reality; and there was a rich glow of grace over the whole Church” (Hervey, A.C.; Pulpit Commentary; Eerdmans Publishing Co; Grand Rapids; 1950; v 18, p 128.).

This unity did not mean everyone knew everyone else, did everything with everyone else, or had directly helped everyone else. It meant they were of the same mind and not divided (I Corinthians 1:10), no one thought more highly of himself than he ought (Romans 12:3), they regarded one another as more important than themselves (Philippians 2:3-4), no one sought preeminence in the group (3 John 9), and they loved one another despite gender, nationality, education, background or socio-economic status (I John 4:7). They were one heart and one soul. As Lenski wrote, “As in a living body only one heart beats … It’s whole active life was one in thought, feeling and will” (Acts, p 186.)

How does a church develop and maintain this kind of unity? You can add your input by clicking here.

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Come back next week. We’ll take a deeper look at this unity, why we need it, how to accomplish it based on Philippians 1:27-3:11).

The Jerusalem Church (Part 12): The Keys–Devoted To God

(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Thursdays is my day to talk about God’s way for our congregations. Right now I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the twelfth post in the series. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)

Jerusalem by mharrsch The Jerusalem Church (Part 12): The Keys  Devoted To God

The Jerusalem Church was Devoted to God

The first great key of Jerusalem’s success was why they were even gathering together as a church to begin with. They were gathering because they were devoted to God. What they did was about God, not about themselves.

They didn’t gather for entertainment. They didn’t gather for social recreation. They didn’t become a part of the church for social status. If they did, they wouldn’t last long. Pretty quickly, the church was going to lose its social standing. Persecution would begin and being a Christian would no longer be popular or cause increased favor with the people. These Christians didn’t stay with the church because of its felt-needs based ministries. They didn’t stick around because of what it provided for their kids. These folks were part of this church because they were devoted to God.

On the day of Pentecost, they had been convicted that they crucified the Messiah. In that moment, they were left hopeless, helpless, and despairing. They cried out, “Brothers, what shall we do?” That wasn’t simply a logical question asking, “What must I do to be saved?” That was a despairing cry. “What on earth can we do? We’re doomed.” But surprisingly, Peter had an answer. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Can you imagine the shock among the Jews who understood what Peter meant. They could actually receive the gifts promised by the Holy Spirit through their father Abraham. They hadn’t destroyed their hope of salvation through the Messiah after all. Perhaps they had misunderstood what the Messiah intended to bring. Perhaps they had misunderstood what the Messiah really was. But they hadn’t lost all hope. God had provided a way.

No doubt, their devotion to God was born in the midst of this realization. If God had done this for them, despite their having nailed God’s Messiah to a cross and asked for his blood to be on their heads, to whom else would they want to offer loyalty and devotion?

Their Devotion Demonstrated

The devotion of these Jerusalem Christians was demonstrated in four ways.

#1 The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to the doctrine of God; they were devoted to the apostle’s teaching.

It may be hard for us to imagine. Over the past 50 years, since the advent of television, we have become so entertainment oriented and emotionally driven. These Christians did not gather around the apostles because of their wonderful speaking style. They didn’t congregate to hear the apostles because of their comedic timing or their oratorical presence. They gathered to hear the doctrine the apostles would teach. They gathered to hear what God wanted them to do as expressed by the mouthpieces of Jesus Christ.

As the apostles once told Jesus, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Luke 6:68), these disciples knew the apostles were speaking words of life on the Lord’s authority. Where else would they go?

No doubt there is a place for entertainment. Even Jesus used entertainment as an illustration (Luke 7:32). But if we really want to have the success of the Jerusalem church, we have to be devoted to God’s will and God’s word. We need to devote ourselves to hearing it. We need to devote ourselves to accomplishing it. Why? Because God’s way works.

We need to be a thinking, reasoning people, who consider the teaching of the Lord. We need to be people who weigh the words of those who would speak on God’s behalf. We must not follow the path of our culture becoming mere passive receptacles of other men’s ideas that have been foisted upon us with emotionalism and oratorical skill.

Granted, in our entertainment based society, we may be able to produce churches with 10,000 members through our ability to entertain them. However, if we want to create disciples devoted to God, we have to focus them on the apostle’s doctrine. Otherwise, the church may look like Jerusalem on the roll book, but the members won’t look like Jerusalem Christians in their hearts.

#2 The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to God’s people; they were devoted to fellowship.

The Jerusalem Christians came from their own backgrounds. This was spiritually the opposite of the Tower of Babel. In that day, a people with a common goal were divided because of varying languages. On Pentecost, people divided by their languages were brought together by a common goal. This means the individuals had their own lives, their own livelihoods, their own plans and purposes. However, on Pentecost all of that was superseded by their desire to have forgiveness in Christ. Suddenly that meant a change in their community.

Now, instead of being Parthian Jews, Median Jews, Elamite Jews, Mespotamian Jews, and so on, they were disciples of Jesus Christ. They had a new community. They had a new sense of belonging. They got their identity from a new group. This was going to engender new traditions, new ways of thinking, new values, and especially new friends (or perhaps I should say new family).

Please do not be misled by the modern idea of fellowship. When we hear fellowship we immediately jump to potluck suppers and pick-up games of basketball. The Jerusalem church didn’t build a hall for recreation and call it fellowship. No, we see their fellowship in Acts 2:44-45. They were one now and they cared for each other as one. They were a community and they had all things in common. Some Christians even went so far as to sell their own land to care for Christians in need. Why not? They were family. Though, no doubt these sellers were local and the needy were likely from faraway lands, separated from their livelihood, they saw each other as “one of us.”

Further, we some sense of fellowship accomplished together as a congregation. They met in the temple daily with one another, praising God. That is, they jointly participated as a congregation in the work and worship of the Lord. But we also see some sense of fellowship that was not accomplished together as a congregation but pursued outside the congregational setting because they were members of the same community. They met in each other’s homes, eating together and continuing their praise of God together.

If we want to have the Jerusalem success, we have to learn this devotion to God’s people.

#3 The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to God’s mercy; they were devoted to the breaking of bread.

This is not saying the Jerusalem Christians were devoted to eating. This is not reference to what was going from house to house, taking their meals. No, this was the first reference to “the bread that we break” (I Corinthians 10:16). This refers to the Lord’s Supper. The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to this memorial.

Of course they would be. What better object of devotion than the greatest reminder of God’s love and mercy. These folks had become disciples, but they hadn’t become perfect. They were growing, but they still made mistakes and sinned. They needed a continual reminder of God’s mercy and love for them. They found that in the breaking of bread, the communion.

Each week (yes, I do believe they practiced this weekly), the Christians were reminded of their Savior. What special significance must this memorial have had for these Jewish disciples who had cried out, “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25). They had meant one thing, but their request was being fulfilled in a completely different sense. They had meant it in violence and reproach, but for these, God was fulfilling it in reconciliation and glory. What special significance must this memorial have had for those few who had actually witnessed the sacrifice. They had seen the body given for them, the blood of the new covenant shed for their forgiveness.

When they partook they remembered what brought them together. It was not their ancestry. It was not their works. It was not their nationality. It was their Savior. They were sinners who needed God’s mercy, so they gathered together devoted to the God who offered it to them.

The Lord’s Supper must never simply be an “act of worship” to check off the list. It is not a sporadic celebration on annual “holy days.” It is a continual memorial. We must be devoted to it. If we let that memorial slip into the background of what we do as a church, we will lose sight of the very thing that makes us a church. We will lose sight of the very reason we are gathered together. We will lose sight of the very need that keeps us turning to Christ. If we will have the success of the Jerusalem church we must be devoted to God’s mercy, we must be devoted to the breaking of bread.

#4 The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to God’s power; they were devoted to prayer.

The Jerusalem Christians understood where real strength was. They understood where the power of forgiveness and victory resided. It resided in God. They were devoted to having God work in them and through them. Therefore, they were devoted to prayer.

Let me ask you, when you hear “devoted to prayer,” does that sound like they got together and did several different things but they always had an opening and a closing prayer? No doubt prayer was a center piece of all that they did. The 120, who had been waiting on the coming of the Holy Spirit, had laid the ground work for this. According to Acts 1:14, they were devoting themselves to prayer with one accord. What does that sound like to you? Does it sound like minutes in prayer or hours? Does it sound like prayer was something they did on occasion in their meetings or does it sound like they had entire meetings just for it.

Sadly, few churches today either understand or truly believe in the power of God and the importance of prayer. Most churches spend more time making announcements than they do praying together. But not Jerusalem. They were devoted to prayer. Their leaders were devoted to prayer. In Acts 6, the apostles refused to take charge of the widow’s care because it would hinder their praying. Wow! How would that go over today?

According to Ephesians 3:20-21, God will do far more abundantly than all we ask or think by His power working in us. But do we realize what that means? It means we need to ask and think big. Prayer must be one of our main devotions if we wish to have the success of the Jerusalem church. Through it we understand that our success is not dependent upon us but upon the strength of God.

The Jerusalem church was strong and successful. But that isn’t indicated by their numbers or their programs. That was indicated by their devotion. They were no whitewashed tombs. They were devoted to God, devoted to His will, His people, His mercy, and His power. If we will have their success we must learn to mirror their devotion.

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Come back next Thursday as we dig in depth into Jerusalem’s unity.

The Jerusalem Church (Part 11)–The Keys of Their Success

(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Thursdays is my day to talk about God’s way for our congregations. Right now I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the eleventh post in the series. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)

The Keys of Their Success

Jerusalem by mharrsch 300x225 The Jerusalem Church (Part 11)  The Keys of Their Success

We’ve been taking a long, hard look at Jerusalem. If there is any church that had success, that was it. Not only was it successful, we know it was successful God’s way. No doubt, there are churches that do some interesting things, but we are often left wondering if that is really what God wants us doing. Just because they pack people in the pews doesn’t always mean a church is doing what God wants. But we know Jerusalem was on God’s path. So we’re looking to Jerusalem to help us learn how to develop a godly, growing congregation.

We are at a midway point here. So, I think it is good to recap where we’ve been (especially since I haven’t kept this up weekly like I intended) and then a summary of what is left to come.

Recap of What We’ve Learned

We began by discarding the two major copouts that some might want to use to ignore the success Jerusalem had. Things worked in Jerusalem, but two things that didn’t make it work were:

Miraculous Gifts

Different Times

Further, we wanted to make sure we kept our vision clear about the Jerusalem Church. Putting them up on a pedastal like this might lead us to draw some inadvertant conclusions. We don’t want that happening, so we’ve made sure to get those out of the way right at the beginning.

We have learned that the Jerusalem vision is…

An Exemplary Church, not a Mother Church

One More Member, not 10,000 members

Every Hand Working, not Enough Hired Hands

Enough Workers, not 12 Evangelists

Close-knit Family, not a Corporation

Personal Sacrifice, not Communism

Problem Solving, not Problem Free

A Look Ahead

Now it is time to get to the nitty-gritty. Enough discussion about what the Jerusalem church wasn’t and what it didn’t do. What are the actual keys to its success. What attitudes and actions can we mimic today to have the kind of success they had? In this post, I’ll give you a run-down of the keys and a brief summary of each. then we’ll spend the next several weeks looking in depth at each key.

Key #1: The Jerusalem Church was continually devoted to God

Acts 2:42 makes it clear. The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to God above all other things. The text says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” That’s the right kind of devotion right there.

Key #2: The Jerusalem Chuch was of one heart and one soul

Acts 4:32 demonstrates one of the greatest keys of Jerusalem’s strength. They were united. “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.”

Key #3: The Jerusalem Church aggressively dealt with problems

We’ve already noted that the Jerusalem vision is not of a problem free church. Rather, they had problems. For all their devotion and unity, they had struggles with hypocrites and sin and even doctrinal questions. They great key was they dealt with these problems quickly. They didn’t let them linger.

Key #4: The Jerusalem Church lost no one in the crowd

Jerusalem had a crowd, no doubt. By Acts 4:4, they had 5000 men. That doesn’t count the wives, widows, and children. But they didn’t simply relate to one another in the crowd. Because they related to one another from house to house, they didn’t lose people even if the apostles didn’t know everyone by name.

Key #5: The Jerusalem Church knew nobody can do everything

Churches today often have impossible expectations for each member or, at least, for some members. They expect some folks to do everything. No wonder these churches don’t grow. No one can do everything. The Jerusalem Church learned this in Acts 6. We can learn a lot from them to help our congregations grow.

Key #6: The Jerusalem Church was bold in the face of rejection

These early Christians understood that success in Christ didn’t always mean success with the people. They recognized that the Gospel would not only save people, it would also cause others to be hardened and turn away from God. Those who were hardened and turned away would not be friendly to them. More than mere rejection and public scorn, the Jerusalem church even faced intense persecution. But they were bold in the face of that rejection.

Key #7: The Jerusalem Church did not rely on free agents

It is not wrong to bring in someone to work with the local congregation. That is exactly what Barnabas did with Antioch in Acts 11:25-26. However, this wasn’t the norm. The Jerusalem church worked on training up its insiders to do the work at home and abroad. They relied on their farm team, not free agents.

I hope this summary gets your blood pumping and excited to keep coming back as we learn exactly how it worked for the Jerusalem Church. Come back next week as we dive in and see how the Jerusalem Church was continually devoted to God.

Jerusalem Church (Part 10): The Vision–Problem Solving Not Problem Free

(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Thursdays is my day to talk about God’s way for our congregations. Right now I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the tenth post in the series. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)

Jerusalem by mharrsch 300x225 Jerusalem Church (Part 10): The Vision  Problem Solving Not Problem Free

Problem Solving Not Problem Free

As we continue to look at the Jerusalem church as a model for all congregations, we will notice victory after victory. We will see positive example after positive example. We may begin to wish we could be more like the Jerusalem church. If we were, then we wouldn’t have all the problems we have now.

That, however, is not true. The Jerusalem church had people in it just like we do. Those people were imperfect sinners just like we are. Do you understand what that means for that congregation? It means they had problems.

In Acts 3, there was the persecution problem. In Acts 5, there was the hypocritical members problem. In Acts 6, there was the partiality problem. In Acts 15, there was the circumcision problem. These are just the problems that we see recorded. No doubt in the Jerusalem congregation people got their feelings hurt. No doubt tensions flared. People struggled with sin. People argued with each other. Someone was slighted. Someone didn’t get invited to a party. Someone taught something that was incorrect. Some people lost their jobs. Some people had marriage struggles and parenting struggles. Their leaders made mistakes. On and on the list would go.

We don’t see problem-free in Jerusalem. Rather, we see a group of people committed to solving and overcoming the problems as quickly as possible. Because they admitted their problems, faced their problems, and worked on their problems, they had a surprising amount of unity.

What other choice did they have? There were no other churches to run to. If they were going to stay with Christ and His church, they were going to stay in that congregation. It didn’t occur to them to solve the problem by starting the East or Westside congregation.

No doubt the numerous congregations in many places is a blessing in some ways. However, it can also be a curse as people who want problem-free hop from church to church instead of facing the problems. Sadly, all too often, the reason we never face the problems is because we fear we might find out that we are the problem. It is easier to run away than recognize that dealing with the problem may mean we have to deal first with ourselves.

Don’t try to develop a church that is free of problems. That will never happen. Rather, develop a congregation that deals with the problems at hand. That is the Jerusalem vision.

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(Keep coming back. This post wraps up our look at the Jerusalem Vision. As we continue looking at the Jerusalem church we are going to see seven principles that caused them to set the world ablaze.)

The Jerusalem Church (Part 9): The Vision–Personal Sacrifice not Communism

(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Thursdays is my day to talk about God’s way for our congregations. Right now I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the eighth post in the series. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)

Personal Sacrifice not Communism

Jerusalem by mharrsch 300x225 The Jerusalem Church (Part 9): The Vision  Personal Sacrifice not Communism

For some strange reason, people keep trying to read modern politics into the Bible or find defense for modern political idealogies in the Bible. The fact is the Bible is not a political book. Jesus wasn’t trying to impact governments. He was trying to impact individuals. We seem to forget that Christianity was birthed under imperialism and not once did Jesus, Peter, or Paul tell Christians to do a single thing about that except pray for the governing officials (I Timothy 2:1-2).

But, because so many want to find politics in the Bible, they cherry pick passages without considering them in their real context. For instance, supporters of Communism love to bring up Acts 2:44-45.

“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were sellign their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

“There it is,” we are told, “the first Christians were Communists.” That couldn’t be farther from the truth. According to Isms: A Compendium of Concepts, Doctrines, Traits and Beliefs from Ableism to Zygodactylism* The Jerusalem Church (Part 9): The Vision  Personal Sacrifice not Communismcommunism is “a social system characterized by government ownership of the means of production and organization of labor by a coercive bureaucracy.” Thus, if the early church was communistic, the church would own the communal property. But that is not at all what happened.

Sadly, we learn the truth of this matter from a dreadful sin committed by Ananias and Sapphira. These two conspired together to trick the congregation. They sold some land for one price, but told the congregation they had sold it for a lower price. Then they kept the difference for themselves. They were judged harshly by God for their deception.

However, notice what Peter said to them in Acts 5:3-4.

“But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?”

When people became Christians, ownership of their property did not transfer to the church. The group did not own the individuals property or take control of it. The group did not get to decide what to do with it. Had Ananias wanted to, he could have kept his land. After he sold it, he could have kept some of the profits and given only what he wanted. It was all completely under his control.

If this wasn’t Communism, what was it? It was individuals sacrificing for each other because they were part of a new group. Christians were caring for each other not because some commune became owners of their property and decided to care for its members. Christians as individuals were deciding to make personal sacrifice to give to the church that it might care for those of its number that were in need.

If we are going to have the Jerusalem vision, we are not going to envision a commune. We are not going to envision church control of our property or communal gathering of our goods. But we will envision members caring so much for each other that they sacrifice personally to care for each other. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a group that cared for each other like that?

(Make sure you come back next week as we wrap up this look at the Jerusalem Vision noticing that they were not problem free but committed to overcoming problems.)

*Yes, that is an associate link. I thought you might be interested in doing your own research on Isms sometime. Enjoy.

The Jerusalem Church (Part 8): The Vision–A Family, Not Corporation

(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Thursdays is my day to talk about God’s way for our congregations. Right now I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the eighth post in the series. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)

Close-knit Family, not a Corporation

Jerusalem by mharrsch 300x225 The Jerusalem Church (Part 8): The Vision  A Family, Not Corporation

As we learn about the Jerusalem church, we will discover that they understood the principles of delegation and division of labor. As we start talking about that, many people will miss the point. We may use catch phrases that are common in the business world because there are many parallels. We may talk about mission statements, goals, plans, budgets. Even this series is talking about having a vision for the congregation. But Jesus didn’t die to establish a corporation. Jesus died to establish a community. He died to establish a close-knit family.

Consider Acts 2:42-47. Here were people that had all things in commong. They were selling their possessions and giving to each other. They were assembling in the temple every day and they were meeting in smaller groups from house to house every day. They praised God together. They ate together. They cared for each other.

Consider Acts 4:32-37. The brethren were of one heart and one soul. They were united in their care and concern for each other. They did not have a needy person among them because they took care of each other. Some even went to the extreme of selling land and houses and giving the proceeds to the needy among them.

Does this sound like a cold corporation? No. This wasn’t about ledger sheets, budgets, programs, plans, and bottom lines. This was about community and family. The Christians were finding a family as they met from house to house with each other. They were finding a family as they assembled with the entire congregation. They were finding the kind of support we ought to have in our families. But they were finding it sometimes from strangers who only knew that they were family in Christ.

It is amazing that this can be said of 3000 people who quickly became 5000 and potentially 10,000.

If we want to be what the Jerusalem church was, we will remove any visions of corporation and replace them with a vision of community and close-knit family. That is the great blessing God would have for us in His church.

(Make sure you come back next week as we learn that the Jerusalem vision is not Communism but sacrificing for the good of the congregation.)

The Jerusalem Church (Part 7): The Vision–Getting the Workers Needed

(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Thursdays is my day to talk about God’s way for our congregations. Right now I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the seventh post in the series. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)

Getting the Workers Needed

Jerusalem by mharrsch 300x225 The Jerusalem Church (Part 7): The Vision  Getting the Workers Needed

Once again it is too easy to get trapped in numbers. As we learn more and more about the Jerusalem church, I’m going to repeatedly come back to the fact that the Jerusalem church had 12 full-time workers, 12 evangelists if you will. Someone might mistakenly think that means to really arrive at being a congregation, the vision is to have 12 evangelists or workers. But that isn’t the point at all. The Jerusalem vision is simply to have the workers that are needed.

As we learned last week, the vision is not to have enough hired hands to do the work, but to have all hands working. And yet, while all hands are working, a congregation will still need fulltime workers, those who have completely devoted their lives to the work of the Lord within the congregation. This goes along with Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 4:11-12. While every hand is to be working, God has established certain roles to equip the saints to accomplish their work. These are fulltime workers. The scripture even shows that they can be supported by the congregation to fulfill their work (I Corinthians 9:9).

Antioch had the same idea about multiple workers. According to Acts 13:1, the Antioch church had 5 fulltime teachers. But again, the issue isn’t about the exact number. This is not saying that Antioch was on its way to accomplishing the Jerusalem vision, but hadn’t quite made it yet because it didn’t have as many workers. They were accomplishing the vision because they had the workers needed.

This vision was exemplified by Barnabas in Acts 11:25. Barnabas saw the need for another worker. He went and got him and brought him back to Antioch. To fulfill the Jerusalem vision, each congregation needs to work on having the workers needed.

Let’s face it. Our society has changed over the past fifty years. The work that can be accomplished by an evangelist, a handful of elders and few volunteers has diminished. More women are working. Men are working more hours. Families are involved in more extra-curriculars. There is simply less volunteer time. Yes, everyone of us must work in the church. But, as the pace of our society has increased, so has our need for fulltime workers to train and equip workers and organize and implement the work.

Of course, few of us really have a problem with trying to claim we ought to have 12 full-time workers. Most of us simply can’t imagine having more than one, at most two. The thing we need to see here is that the work for these men is more than preaching a sermon on Sunday. Paul taught from house to house according to Acts 20:20. Can you imagine if more Christians recognized they needed more teaching time than a few congregational assemblies a week and opened their homes for teaching, inviting others in from the congregation and the community, how much work would there be?

What work is really needed? How many workers will that take? To be like Jerusalem, a congregation better get the workers otherwise it will limit its ability to grow.

(Come back next Thursday to learn about the Jerusalem vision of being a closer knit family.)

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