When I read the Acts of the Apostles I am constantly reminded that the early Church exhibited five basic attributes that are missing today in most declining congregations. But when I see these five attributes alive and well in a congregation, that church is almost always growing and reaching out to the lost. Here are the five secrets that made the early Church such a powerful dynamo.
- Life is meant to be given away. The early Church existed as if life itself wasn’t as important as spreading the Good News. I wrote about this attribute in my 199o book, The Church Growth Handbook, which I wanted to call The Everwidening Circle (the publisher thought otherwise).
- The Church existed to pass on the Good News. I get the sense today that far too many church members are just members who expect to be cared for. But it’s impossible to read the Scriptures and not see the early Church’s passion for sharing the Good News.
- The Church was an incubator for the new believer. I’ve read some research that shows it took four years of being in a church before you could become a member. Before achieving membership, a person had to prove him or herself worthy of being part of God’s church. Believer and non-believer worshipped together. What would happen in your church if your people came to worship with the hope of sharing the space with people who did not yet believe?
- Grumbling was not tolerated. Oh, you can be sure there was conflict in the early Church – lots of it. But when it reared its ugly head it was quickly held accountable to a higher standard of behavior. The early church understood that it was an incubator of non-believers and new believers and as such needed to be a community based on trust rather than rules. It’s almost fun reading Paul’s blistering letters telling the conflicted church to get rid of the troublemakers. And what can we say about Acts 4-5, where the troublemakers were actually struck down dead? Now, I’m not advocating killing someone, but I am encouraging pastors and church boards to show troublemakers the door. They don’t belong in the church because they drive the non-believer away.
- The early church doggedly relied on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The early church didn’t see the limitations most churches think they see today. Two of my favorite sayings are, ” you never know what’s impossible until you go beyond what is possible,” and, “if it’s possible, you don’t need God.” One of the reasons the church is so weak today is because it never taps into the power of the Holy Spirit. When a church attempts the impossible it has to rely on God, so it is more likely to experience God than when it stays within the bounds of what is humanly possible.
Well, there you have a portion of my reading of the Acts of the Apostles. If you haven’t read it lately, it’s worth another read.
Question: What is one attribute of the early Church that you would most like to see today’s Church adopt? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.
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