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Ten Vital Signs Of A Healthy Church. Acts 2/42-47

 

Dr. Luke was obviously impressed with the dynamic birth of the Christian Church. What he wrote about it in the early chapters of the book of Acts indicates something of the impact it had upon him. Down through the years from then until now, Christians have similarly been impressed. They have been both challenged and encouraged by the account of this 'miracle birth'. Especially has this been the case when they read Luke's outline of the life and practice of that infant Church recorded in Acts 2/42-47.

 

I want to suggest that those verses provide us with something of a role model against which we might compare ourselves. The immediate danger in doing this is that we might feel inferior or a failure to such a degree that we become discouraged to the point of giving up. As you might guess, that is the exact opposite outcome to the one I intend.

 

My intention is one of encouragement, not to make people feel like failures - to 'beat up on them' by emphasising what we are not doing. Rather, to read it and apply it in a way that stirs hope and expectation. Look at what God did with a mixed group of 'ordinary people'! If He did it then, He can still do it now.

 

I have arbitrarily identified 10 key aspects of the dynamic life of that Early Church. Instead of writing at length about each aspect, I have chosen to make brief notes or comments with the hope that you will further explore each of the 10 dimensions.

 

So then, here are what I believe to be 10 vital signs of a healthy Church - regardless of size, location or culture.

 

[1] BIBLICAL TEACHING(v.42)

a. Jesus said, "...teach them to obey everything I have commanded you..." (Matt.28/20) - and so the Apostles did that & passed on all they had learned.

b. The centrality, supremacy & authority of God's Word were foundational to the growth & maturity of Church

c. Healthy Churches have long since submitted themselves to God's Word in teaching and obeying that Word

 

[2] QUALITY FELLOWSHIP (v.42)

a. "Koinonia" - an ordinary, everyday word in Greek but given an extraordinary meaning & significance by Church

b. Individualism, isolationism, separatism could not survive in the climate of mutual interdependence

 

[3] BREAKING OF BREAD (v.42)

a. The focus of fellowship was the Lord's Supper - a constant reminder of the death & resurrection of Jesus

b. Without the Easter event, there is no Christianity - they maintained that emphasis & realisation

 

[4] STEADFAST PRAYER (42)

a. What was recorded in Acts 1/14 continued to be a vital part of their life and ministry together

b. These people knew how to release heaven's resources through prayer - they breathed the atmosphere of prayer c. Prayer was the first resource, not the last resort.

 

[5] SUPERNATURAL AWARENESS (v.43)

a. They were naturally supernatural - they experienced a powerful God-consciousness that generated a keen sense of awe & fear.

b. The presence & power of God was manifest among them - they expected God to work among them.

c. Despite the abuse & extravagant claims in some circles today, there needs to be a greater expectation and experience of the miraculous among us

 

[6] AUTHENTIC COMMUNITY (v.44)

a. "Togetherness" was not just theory or doctrine - it was pulsating reality. This reality was expressed in deed & action

b. These people belonged to each other (Romans 12/5)"Ownership" had to do with relationships, not possessions.

c. Our world of alienation & isolation cries out for this kind of community - the Church is meant to be the model.

 

[7] EXTRAVAGENT GENEROSITY (v.45)

a. A radical attitude to possessions emerged. It was outrageous, extravagant, impractical, dangerous...but real!

b. Personal possessions became Kingdom resources - see 4/32 - true unity & community flows in generosity

c. Again, our world is obsessed with getting - the Church was committed to giving - and giving sacrificially resulting in great joy among them.

 

[8] GENUINE HOSPITALITY(v.46)

a. In our de-personalised world, the power of hospitality (an open heart & an open home) provides the Church with a wonderful opportunity to affirm the value of every human being.

b. Acts 5/42 - they met in a large group (Temple) and in small groups (house to house) - NB: "daily"

c. NB: This was no "flash in the pan" - they were not caught up in hype or emotion - "continued"

 

[9] GRATEFUL PRAISE(v.47)

a. There is something magnetic & attractive about a people who are thankful & express it

b. Vitality in public worship is important for spiritual health & it is a sure sign of the Spirit (Eph.5/19,20)

 

[10] SPONTANEOUS EVANGELISM (v.47)

a. This ought not to surprise us - we should be surprised if this outcome was NOT mentioned!

b. Effective evangelism is the spontaneous overflow of a healthy life. That's true of individuals and of churches.

c. When believers live together in authentic, consistent, powerful community, people are saved.

 

The exciting reality in all the above is this; the same Holy Spirit who birthed the EarlyChurch is present and powerful in our midst today. What He brought to reality then He can still do now.

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