Is it appropriate to attempt to be an “Acts Church” today by using the book of Acts as a guide?
Yes and No… let me explain. Certainly the ten points I outlined in the last post will be a great resource to follow and I support the use of them. In fact our churches won’t be too successful without doing those 10 things. So yes, I say we should follow the guide and do our best to carry it out. We need to keep in mind however the differences in culture and their community compared to ours. Without intense study of the culture in Jerusalem at that time in history it would be impossible to understand the vast differences. The response to leadership was different and some things done today were completely forbidden. There was also specific revelation occurring from God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The early converts were praying like we can’t even imagine and God was responding. I believe this issue of prayer is one of our problems but that is another subject. The early church was almost completely a made up of Jewish people before it spread to the Gentiles. (Officially in Acts 15) Our community is much more diverse. Things were done much different back then compared to now and the world mindset was different. I remember a guy saying to me, “Ok, that was the church for then but I want to experience our church for now.” We can be an Acts church but must modify for our contemporary times. It would be impossible to do everything exactly as the Apostles did in the early church.
Secondly I think there is more that God wants us to follow and the Bible provides it. I think if we add Ephesians to the Acts Church we have a winner of a blueprint to work from. We must not exclude the teachings of Timothy, Titus and others.
We know that the primary job of the Church is the ‘Great Commission’ of Matthew 28:16-20) which theoretically is a three part process. One is to make disciples, second is to baptize them, and third we must, “teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” The Church leaders must see to it that disciples are being made. It is their our principle responsibility.
How are disciples made? They are created through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Everyone does not do the same job in the process. Some disciple, some evangelize, some teach, etc… No need to feel guilt if you can’t do everything well. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)
A major part of the blueprint for Church today is Ephesians 4:10-16. The main function of the church leaders is to equip the saints for the work of service. And every Christian is a saint, just call me Saint Frank. Church leaders are to be intimately involved in equipping each and every saint. The body of Christ is built up through the process of equipping. So the purpose of leaders is to equip Christians for ministry and not to replace them. The purpose of equipping members for service is so the body can be built up and the ‘Unity of the Body’ can only be achieved through every Christian ministering and supplying the body. When each individual is functioning properly the body builds itself up in love and unity. It will be self-perpetuating because God guaranteed it. The bottom line is that Churches will grow when we as Christians use our Spiritual Gifts in service to the body of Christ.
We need to be careful because looking at other churches through the ages and how other people are doing things has led to decline in Christianity. Churches that are dying are usually mired in tradition or off the path and unwilling to change. We need to be looking at scripture and reading scripture. We need to also be on our knees in prayer. God’s word has all the answers and it is not only in the book of Acts. Albeit Acts is a great place to be and I don’t want to diminish its importance.
The basic point we must remember is that with a guide or not, the church is built up on disciples that are willing to take up their cross and die for the Lord if need be. (Matthew 16:24)
I think I will close with a thought on this church leadership issue: We will all stand before God some day and answer to Him. Many Church Leaders will stand before God and be asked what they were told to do and if they completed it. Many won’t know what He is talking about and won’t be able to say they obeyed. He will ask if they warned the disciples about their accountability for their instructions in the Word. Not many leaders are reading the Word of God any more. The wrath of God will be visited upon disobedient disciples, and will be visited upon negligent church leaders because it is their responsibility to, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:28-30) Church leadership comes with an awesome responsibility. Woe to those who scatter my sheep.
Blessings for your day through Christ,
1 Stephen Parker, Church Growth Crisis: The Decline of Christianity in America (Oklahoma City, OK: Forever Family Publications, 2011).