“Something that God has designed to function as a family has been reduced to an optional weekly meeting. And this has become normal. Expected. How in the world did we get here?” (Francis Chan)
This statement from Francis Chan really stood out to me. This is what a community centered engaged church looks like.
Hebrews 10:24-24 “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up on meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.”
-Jesus based his life in community with other believers and the disciples. He spent time with them in fellowship, He was engaged in their lives, he ate with them, he mentored them, he prayed with them, he disciplined them, he was an example to others, etc.
-Jesus showed them the importance of being engaged: to be occupied with those things that were important in life. To be use our time to do good things, to love God, and to love others.
Acts 1-5 we look at a group of believers who were living in communion with each other and everything they did was centered around the gospel that Christ had taught them through the disciples. The Holy Spirit then came and helped them see what the important things in life were and He empowered the people to live in that manner that would change the world they lived in forever.
Let’s take a look at how they lived a life that was centered upon community and engagement:
1. The people were engaged by: vision, dreams, prophecy, Jesus as Lord and Messiah (ch.2. V. 17-18)
2. They were community centered (Acts 2:42-47)
The people were acting in community:
Devoted, awe, shared, worshipped, met in homes
3. The people’s hearts were pierced by Peter’s words. (Ch. 2.v.37)
-the words that Peter spoke entered their hearts, it stayed with them, and it changed them and how they lived in community. The words were like a fuel and it kept them engaged in the cause. It made them act out what they heard.
4. They offered what they had to the lame man.
-They freely gave, it was a gift. They presented the man with a gift. It was not a gift of precious stones and metals.
-They did not have silver or gold. They were not able to offer riches but they offered what they had to give. What they gave him was more valuable than gold and silver put together; they offered him a new life!
5. They used words that came by the power of the Holy Spirit;
– they were bold in declaring healing over this lame man’s life. They spoke words that made the lame man well.
-the words that were spoken brought harmony, agreement, and peace.
6. They went into the temple together.
-The word “together” means that they were “joined”, in sync, well-balanced.
-The man was healed and he joined Peter and John in the temple. (the place he was not welcome before, the place he could not go to, the place he felt he could not go the way he was) that encounter changed everything for the man.
17. They witnessed the power of a testimony.
-The testimony produces evidence, confirmation, submission, and attestation.
-The crowd was astounded by the healed man. They witnessed firsthand the testimony of this man’s life. The testimony of our lives can help those in our church community and in our community around us.
18. They looked for the right time and the right opportunity to share with others.
-Peter looked for the right opportunity to share about Christ. (Ch.3v.12)
-Are we looking for the right time to mention what Christ has done for us? What is the right opportunity to share with others? It’s very important to look for these “right” times of opportunity. Sometimes the window we get to share is a small one and we don’t want to be caught off guard and miss it. The bible says “we should always be prepared with an answer to those who ask of us”
9. They did good deeds/works/things
-Peter did a “good deed” for the lame man. Ch.4 v.9
-It is so important to do good things for others. The people in our church community are in just as much need at times as those outside. Its important to know what others needs are, then we can come together and help them. And we also need to help those in our community around us: our families, friends, coworkers, etc.
10. They realized that they could reach others.
-Not a tv famous Christian preacher, or famous actor, or those in high positions; but “us” the ones God wants to use to help and reach others.
-v.13 “ they were ordinary men, with no special training in scripture. (anyone can be used by God to reach others)
-they were ‘natural’ and it was not only once in a while but it was in their daily lives.
So how do we be a community centered on engagement?
• v.23-24 they lifted voices together in prayer to God.
• They were devoted to prayer. Peter and John prayed (Chapter 3.v.4)
• They asked God for help. They asked for help when they were afraid, shy, timid. V31 Asked God for boldness, for healing hands, and that wonders and miraculous signs would be done in the name of Jesus.
• Then the Holy Spirit came upon them.
They were filled with the Holy Spirit (ch.1 v.2) instruction through the Holy Spirit.
-the Holy Spirit enables them to speak in other languages (ch.2 v.4): He gives the ability to do something in the supernatural that they could not do in the natural.
• Then they testified powerfully, God’s blessing was upon them, unity, sharing.
• Why were Ananias and Sapphira mentioned in between Acts Chapters 1-5?
They did not display people in an engaged community: they were acting and being totally the opposite of what Christ has pictured His church to be like.
-they were not truthful
-they were not authentic
-they did not do things for others but for themselves
-they valued themselves above others.
• v.17 the disciples were to give a message of Life.
What message is our life giving to others?
Is it a message that brings hope? Healing? Love? Grace? Mercy? Joy? Life?
• v.29 the community of engaged people were obedient to God.
• v. 36 Be careful to present a truthful movement.
• v.38 if God orders something nothing will stop it.
The apostles did everything God asked them to do.
Despite the trials and mistreatment they rejoiced that God counted them worthy .
They were engaged; which means they occupied themselves. They occupied themselves with the instruction from the disciples and from God. They lived and belonged to a community that was completely engaged with loving each other and those in the community around them.
We will look like Paul says, in that “we will consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up on meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.”
This is how we will become a community that is centered on engagement. We will be like Francis Chan said and be a Family. What does a Family look like? A family is engaged fully and is centered upon taking care of and loving those that are a part of this family. And as we know, family is not only blood family, it is those that God places in our lives to be adopted into our families. To make a difference in their lives, to nurture, to help grow, to love beyond measure, to be fully engaged in what concerns them; just like God is concerned for us.
Pastor Julie English