Today we hear a lot about church planting. It is a great topic and noble ambition to plant a church in a new or different area to try to reach people for God. Thinking about the whole topic led me to a question. What if God planted a church, what are things he would do? Of course, when you raise that question it quickly leads you to consider Acts chapter two when God did first plant the church that was to spread through the whole world. That church was in God’s plan from the foundation of the earth and its purpose was to demonstrate to the powers and authorities in the heavenly realms the multi-colored wisdom of God. That first church started with lots of amazing things. The Holy Spirit came upon the apostles who were gathered in prayer and there were tongues of fire rising from each of them. They all began to speak in languages they didn’t know, glorifying God. People heard the great noise and gathered to find out what was going on. Peter stood with the others and began to preach to them about Jesus. He pointed to the fact that Jesus had come into the world to bring us salvation but by God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, he was crucified, but God didn’t leave him in the grave. Death couldn’t hold him, so three days later he was raised as Lord and Savior.
When the people were cut to their heart on realizing they had been involved in putting to death the Savior they cried out to Peter and the other apostles, “Men and brothers, what shall we do?” Peter told them to repent and for all of them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit for the promise was for them, for their children and for all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call. Three thousand of them were baptized that day. But it was what happened then that really involved the planting of a church. In Acts 2:42 it says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” In the following verses and chapters Luke described how these four things were dominate in their lives and actions.
Suppose you wanted to plant a church today in a different section of Little Rock, what are some things you would do to assure the success of this new church? What would you want the people to devote themselves to doing so that it might be, both what would reach people and please God? The problem so often when we think about planting a church, is that we tend to think more about what will bring people in, than what would please God and that is the reverse of what should be the case. Being popular with people has never been an assurance that it is what God wants. The truth is, the church that is pleasing to God will always be one that is devoted to the apostles teaching, to fellowship, to breaking bread and to prayer. These stand as the heart of the church and the heart of God’s plan for the church.
What does it mean to be devoted to something? One can certainly be involved in something without being devoted to it. Go to visit any school in the area and look into the classrooms. You will see lots of young people in class. Some will be studying and trying to understand what the teacher is sharing with them. But there won’t be many who are really devoted to what is being taught. Actually, it is rare to find the teacher that is totally devoted to the class and to the teaching that are being paid to do. Too often it is a job and one goes through it to fulfill the obligations of the job. But a devoted teacher who pours their whole being into the subject and the students is an entirely different breed and is one that will bless every student that is privileged to be in their class.
Or choose any work place that employees a large number of people. Go among the workers and watch their behavior, listening to their conversations and ask, how many of these workers are really devoted to the things this company is trying to accomplish? There are tons of workers on jobs all over the place. But finding the devoted worker who has given themselves completely to the mission of their company instead of just being there to do what they have to do to get paid at the end of the week is challenging. Every employer would love to find that devoted worker who gives themselves fully to the goals of the company. Usually we settle for workers who will do the job.
Lots of churches do the four things that Luke mentions in Acts 2:42, but that doesn’t mean they are totally devoted to it. It can just as easily or likely much more so, to walk through the motions and get the job done without any of the passion that we ought to have. Notice, the text doesn’t say that God made them devoted to these things. It says they devoted themselves to them. Being totally sold out to a cause or mission for God is a choice we have to make. Think about what you are really devoted to in your relationship with God.
I want to think about each of these four things that Luke says the first church was devoted to separately in the next few articles. I hope you will join me in each of the studies.