All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need- Acts 2:44-45
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few years then you know that this is the toughest economy in many of our lifetime’s. Everyday I’m met by people in dire situations- from senior citizens with no heat to single mom’s with no ability to provide for their kids in the coming months. People are losing their jobs, life savings and homes and more people are impoverished than at any other time in recent history. I hear the pain in the voices of fellow employees who watch their families struggle to eat or to keep their utilities on in their homes. I also recogize there are many still unscathed personally by this recession/ depression-though there are few that are untouched by it.
What is our response to it as Christians? Are we to sell our possessions to help those in need? Or, is that too extreme?
“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” Acts 2:41
So, what happened after 3,000 people were added? Did they start a building campaign to house everyone? Did they start looking for volunteers for a children’s area? Or, did they start planning for the next Pentecost the next year to see if God would repeat the success of this year’s “Pentecost revival”? No, they didn’t do any of these things. They instead met together, devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles, shared in communion with each other, saw miraculous signs and wonders and sold their possessions to make sure no one was in need.
What does it really matter if we have a million dollar building if the people down the street can’t pay their bills? Is this what we are called to-building kingdoms and temples for our “idols”? Is this what the passage means “to whom much is given, much is required?” I believe that passage in James says “Now this is true religion- build a structure that has everything you could ever dream of and justify it by saying you’re being relevant”. Actually, it says “true religion is to take care of widows and orphans”.
Do you understand that this winter the only time some people will have heat is when they come to Church? Do you understand that there are people in your community that the only time they will have a warm meal is at a Church pitch-in? Do you understand that for some the only time they will not be alone is on Sunday mornings?
I understand the good that comes from big megachurches and little megachurch wannabe’s. But, I also struggle with the reality that these churches (the bride of Christ) have multi-million dollar budgets and it could get very scary on judgment day when we are held accountable for what we did with that money. Is God going to really care that we had stadium seating or had awesome THX surround sound? While the family down the street lost their house? Is it really going to matter that we have the best programs when the poverty rate is skyrocketing and we’ve surrendered our rightful place to the government?
Just imagine (because that’s all it will be) if every Church made a decision this weekend- they sold their buildings, people met in homes, parks, wherever and gave all that money to impactful ministry. I know this will never happen- it’s “pie in the sky so why even talk about it” kind of jibberish. But, just imagine what would happen in this situation. This would mean instant revival- both economically and spiritually. It would instantly create trillions of dollars available to help people pay bills, save their homes, buy food, clothing and other necessities. It would allow us to really address poverty in America and to allow missionaries to travel to foreign countries. People called to ministry would still do it- but there would also be many who would walk away without the paycheck. Did God ever intend for the Church to shape into something so organized, predictable and sterile?
But, instead, most Churches will continue to collect their offerings, expand their buildings, pay their bills and be “good citizens” in the community. Sadly, most of us will give a couple bucks in the plate and allow the professionals to do the work of “ministry” while we sit waiting to be entertained by the professional musicians and professionally edited videos. We might get to volunteer and do something simple and call it serving- but it’s not tapping into the spiritual gifts we have been given to do “miraculous signs and wonders”.
I’ve heard a lot about being an “Acts 2” kind of church but the reality is that it’s hard to copy just the exterior actions of a group of people and do it long term. We see the things they did in Acts 2 and many of us long for that kind of connection and ministry- there’s something there for everyone whether it’s the miraculous signs and wonders, selfless giving, lack of materialism, teaching, prayer or just the food. But, there was also a deeper connection they had with each other and that was their common experience.
9/11 is coming up this week. We can talk about that day throughout the year and it maybe doesn’t mean as much as when the day is upon us. But to hear the stories from that day, to hear the speeches again and to see the images of the twin towers can still bring tears of pain to many of us. But, it also swells a national pride in us that united us against something that sought to destroy our way of life and to leave us fearful and paralyzed. We rose up as a nation and joined hands and proclaimed that we would not cower in fear. We were united by an experience that future generations will read about but not understand the tears in our eyes when we describe that day.
The Church in Acts 2 is much the same- the people experienced something powerful and unique. 3,000 people were baptized and had their lives transformed. Luke, the writer of Acts, is not writing a church structure manual but rather just explaining what happened to that particular group of people. I think in order for us to have that kind of community and impact then we must share a common experience- something powerful and transformative. It must be an experience that elevates our thinking beyond ourselves and helps clarify what is important and eternal. It is an experience that comes from something outside of ourselves and that we don’t manufacture or force. It is a movement of God that shakes us to our foundations and puts a reverential awe in our souls. In the past these were called “Awakenings” and we are long overdue for one in our time.
Awake my soul…