“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Then Jesus was taken up into the sky and disappeared in the clouds. Even after He was out of sight, the disciples stood looking at the sky. Can you imagine the emotions that crashed like waves in their spirits? Disbelief and shock. Awe and wonder. Sadness. Excitement. Anticipation. And a whole lot of “What in the world just happened and what was Jesus talking about?!”
The answer started to come a few days later. At Pentecost God poured out the Holy Spirit on the disciples and surrounding crowds. In an awe-inspiring display of natural and supernatural power, eyes were opened, spirits were filled and the Church was born.
It grew exponentially—3,000, 5,000, 10,000 and upward. As the disciples navigated through inevitable conflicts and growing pains, it seems they imprinted Jesus’ final words upon their hearts:
“Be my witnesses...go and make disciples of all nations ...baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ...teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)This became their mission statement. The place they returned to to regain perspective when things got fuzzy or overwhelming or stirred up.
As a result, in the early days of the Church, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” (Acts 4:32, 33)
The early church—the bride of Christ—was Spirit-led and -filled, passionate, active, generous, bold and unified. One body with many members, personalities, talents and cultures. Joined by one common goal.
What’s happened since then? How did we go from one to over 33,000 different denominations?! We’ve fought, fractured and fled over every conceivable reason. And in the last few centuries churches and church-goers have become increasingly insular: My denomination. My church. My pastor. My ministry. My Bible study. My way of interpreting.
But what would it look like if we set aside our preferences and focused less on form and invested more in function? If we stepped outside our barriers to spend less time inside our churches and more time outside them? If we stopped doing church and started being the church? What if every church put Jesus' instructions first and foremost in their hearts? Be filled with the Holy Spirit…Go…Be my witnesses…Make disciples…Baptize…Teach…Feed my sheep…Love your neighbor.
What would our churches look like?
This weekend I got to see the answer for myself.
...To be continued tomorrow