In his book, Never Call Them Jerks, Arthur Boers asks the question, “Are churches particularly vulnerable to intense conflict and difficult behaviour?” Sadly his conclusion is yes, and his book explores some of the reasons why and what we can do about it. Thankfully, we don’t have to be prisoners to conflict and difficult behaviour but anticipate healthy relationships.
In the early chapters of the book of Acts, Luke describes the birth of the church which has been a role model for churches ever since. It can serve as an encouragement to us of what can happen with a mixed group of ‘ordinary people’!
I recently read a list of 10 points of a ‘healthy’ church, drawing on Luke’s description of the early church in Acts 2:42-47.
- Teaching (v.42) In the last chapter of Matthew gospel Jesus says to the disciples to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Throughout Acts we see the disciples passing on Jesus’ teaching and this forms a foundation to the growth and maturity of the Church.
- Quality Fellowship (v.42) ‘Koinonia’ is the Greek word we translate ‘fellowship’. It is a special quality of relationship that is quite removed from the individualism, isolationism, separatism we find in our society today.
- Breaking of Bread (v.42) This can mean either sharing meals together or the Lord’s Supper. This was the focus of their fellowship and a constantreminder of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
- Prayer (v. 42) and also in
Acts 1:14, Luke describes how prayer was a vital partof life for the early disciples. It was their “first resource, not the last resort.”
- Supernatural Awareness (v.43) God was at work in their midst which left keen sense of awe of the presence and power of God and an expectation of what he would continue to do.
- Authentic Community (v.44) They were together, not just in theory and not just on Sunday, but in the day-to-day experience of community. Care for each other’s spiritual, emotional and physical needs cannot not be done at a distance with only infrequent contact.
- Extravagant Generosity (v.45)They had a radical attitude to possessions which was outrageous, extravagant, impractical, and dangerous by our standards in a world obsessed by getting. Their generosity sprung from the great joy they experienced in community.
- Genuine Hospitality (v.46) They opened their homes to each other whichwas an extension of their fellowship and generosity. Such hospitality of an open heart and an open home gives value of every human being and reflects the very heart of God.
- Grateful Praise (v.47)Thanks, acknowledgement and worship of God as creator and redeemer is the centre and heart of their life and helped keep all things in perspective, and is a sure sign of the work of the Spirit of God in their midst.
- Evangelism (v.47) Not surprisingly their life was infectious and others joined their community. This is the outcome and overflow of a healthy church life. When believers live together in authentic, consistent, powerful community, people are saved.
The exciting church reality Luke describes is available to us today as we live a life of discipleship. What happened then Jesus can bring to reality in and through us now.
Stephen L Baxter