AUTHENTIC - WEEK 4: Authentic Community
Authenticity requires Community!
The specific environment or ecosystem in which the seed of God’s Word in your heart that’s honest and good and wants to grow is authentic community. It’s authentic community. Notice the form that it takes is a small group. The group could be three people, four people, ten people, but that’s just the form, that’s the container.
The early church developed and grew from a deep Authentic Community. If you were to walk through the book of Acts you would find story after story of people gathering together in community to become more Authentic. As a matter of a fact it is impossible to become a genuine Authentic Christian on your own!
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS (Acts 2:42-47, Hebrews 10:23-25)
1. Who were your group of friends when you were a kid? How did you spend your time?
2. Whenever you are in need of someone else’s help, do you know who you would turn to?
3. Why that person? What is it about them or your relationship with them that leads you to count on them in a time of need?
4. Imagine our church had a 3,000 member increase in one day. What would some of the logistical and relational challenges be?
5. Why was belonging to a community of believers so important to these first Christians? What made these believers want to get together?
Would people outside of our church say we model the characteristics of the Acts 2 church? Where do we excel, and where might there be room for improvement? What can our group do to help?
What are some of the unique challenges we face as a church to engaging deeply with each other? What could each of us do to make our church a closer community?
2:41 The Jerusalem church experienced tremendous numerical growth in those early days. Jesus’ followers numbered about 120 in Acts 1:15, but about three thousand souls were added after Peter’s sermon. The new Christians had accepted Peter’s word and were baptized.
2:42 Luke reported four distinctive practices or activities in the Jerusalem church. First, they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. Eventually, the church experienced persecution, and some church leaders left Jerusalem. The original apostles, however, continued to minister in this church (8:1). Reviewing the sermons and teaching reported in the opening chapters of Acts reveals the major doctrinal themes important to the early church. The apostles could report their own experiences with Jesus during his earthly ministry as well as explaining Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Biblically-based preaching and teaching are still fundamental to church life. Second, the church experienced fellowship. Fellowship translates the Greek word koinonia, and means “participation” or “sharing.” Third, they shared the breaking of bread. Although some Bible students think this could be sharing a common meal, many scholars believe this is Luke’s way of referring to the Lord’s Supper. The disciples had celebrated a meal with Jesus in the upper room in Jerusalem. Fourth, the church devoted themselves to prayers. The early Christian movement was bathed in prayer. Jesus’ disciples had asked Him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). Jesus had established Himself as a consistent prayer, so His followers should pray as well.
2:44-45 One of the most amazing characteristics of the Jerusalem church was its sharing its material possessions with the needy. The Christians voluntarily shared with anyone who needed help. As part of their fellowship, the early church practiced a community of goods for a short time. Distribution to members of the faith community took place according to individual need. This practice did not last long, likely because it was logistically difficult and fraught with potential abuse (see ch. 4-6).
Later, Luke noted that these church members were “of one heart and soul” (4:32). No one remained needy for long because the church responded quickly and generously to need. The money was brought to the apostles, who were in charge of the distribution (4:34-35). Luke highlighted the role of Barnabas in this generosity (4:36-37), but he also noted the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira, who lied about their actions (5:1-10).
2:46 Although these believers understood Jesus to be the fulfillment of the Jewish hope for the Messiah (2:36), the members of the Jerusalem church were primarily Jewish in background. They still went to the temple complex. They would not participate in the sacrificial system any longer, since Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for their sins. They may have wanted to demonstrate the continuity between their Jewish heritage and their new faith in Christ. Also, they may have found opportunities to witness to their Jewish friends and relatives.
Besides gathering together in the temple complex, these Christians broke bread from house to house. Quite likely this means they gathered regularly in houses for worship and the Lord’s Supper. Christians did not typically build church buildings in the early centuries, so they met in homes. When they gathered in homes, these disciples expressed gratitude for their shared meals. These gatherings were marked by a simplicity or “sincerity” of heart. They did not need to put on airs; they genuinely worshiped God.
2:47 One result of the early church’s worship and witness was having favor with all the people. In these early days the people of Jerusalem were generally open to the Christians. Later on, the Jewish leaders tried to restrict their public preaching (4:1-22).
The early church was an evangelizing church. Luke recounted that every day the Lord added to those who were being saved. He did not say how this took place, but it appears that evangelism took place primarily through the gathering of Christians in the temple and in individual houses. The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ were at the heart of early Christian preaching, which called for immediate response from anyone who listened. Such enormous numerical growth eventually attracted the attention of the Jewish leaders.