“Is my home group a church?” you may ask. “We don’t have a pastor and we are only a few families that meet together.”
“Does time of day and day of the week have to do with if we should call this a church? Can a church meet on a Tuesday night and still be a church?” Again, good questions.
It is important to answer these. What is it that makes a church a church? A great place to find answers is to look at the early church described in Acts.
In Part 2, we looked at five of the functions of the early church from the passage below. We will now take a look at the remaining five. These are church essentials if we desire to be like the New Testament church.
41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Acts 2:41-26 NIV
GENEROUS & SACRIFICIAL GIVING
Generosity is one of the characteristics of revival. When God is at work, our natural response of gratitude and love is to give! In the early church, extreme giving was seen. People sold what they had to meet the needs of others. There was a lot more than “tithing” happening in this New Testament church. Sadly, what we often see in developing nations is a hesitancy to train new believers to give. We sometimes don’t even give new believers the opportunity to obey Jesus in this way, because we fail to take offerings. We are afraid to offend them, or we think they are too poor to give. This is a big mistake! It hinders the growth of both the individual the church.
CARING FOR EACH OTHER
Not only in this passage but in many other passages in the New Testament, we clearly see that disciples of Jesus loved and served each other. They noticed one another’s needs and took action to help. Whether it was food, protection, housing, encouragement or prayer, we see them reaching out to one another in love. How well is your church doing at helping the members to care for each other? Are you as the leader doing all the caring? Trying to meet all the needs? Part of the church functioning is when its members spontaneously serve each other. A church that functions well will notice needs and respond.
This one seems obvious! The New Testament church met together often, even daily! Many churches are meeting together less and less. What does that say about the presence of life in the church? Or the busyness of people’s lives? A church is much more than another “service” with songs and preaching. I’m not advocating that we increase the number of times we do that. Churches that function well, are life-giving. People actually want to meet together often, because they are receiving life when they gather. How life-giving are your times of meeting together?
Prayer was a vital part of the New Testament church. They gathered often to pray and prayed often when they gathered. Many churches pray to open and close the service but that is about the extent of their prayer as a body. Look for ways to incorporate prayer into your church life. Encourage disciples to make prayer a part of their daily lives and rhythms. Consider hosting a special prayer emphasis during particular times of the year for increased time in corporate prayer.
Yes, this too is part of church life. Yeah!! It builds relationship when we eat together. The New Testament church shared meals regularly. In many cultures, to eat together indicates equality and acceptance. In Hindu society, certain castes and classes do not eat together. As we come to Christ, we are united as one. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor master, male nor female, we are one body (Gal. 3:28). Eating together is a powerful symbol of the unity and love we share because of Christ.
What if we don’t do all these ten things? Are we a Church?
If you are doing many or most, then yes! This is not a list of things you have to do to qualify as a church. It’s also not an exhaustive list! There are many other scriptures that could be considered. These characteristics of the church in Acts Chapter Two are good to keep in mind though.
Which of these church essentials could you include a bit more? Perhaps you see some gaps in your church function. Don’t feel bad! Take steps to start including those things more in the future.
Let’s Be the Church!