Yesterday, on Pentecost day, I had the honour to preach in my dear house church Mosaik. We’re always outside in the park during the summer, and this Sunday we had som English speaking visitors – so for the first time in a year I preached in English. And since a friend of mine recorded it all, it’s now available for you guys!
I started with talking about the Pentecostal language miracle, when one is able to speak existing languages that one hasn’t studies, and gave some testimonies about when this has happened in modern times. This was also what my last blog post was about. Then, I talked about how Peter, in his Pentecostal sermon in Acts chapter 2, really emphasises miracles when he talks about Jesus. He presents the Messiah by saying “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22). Then he goes on with “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. (vv. 32-33). Thus, Peter proves that Jesus is the Messiah by pointing at His miraculous ministry, His resurrection and the miracles His Spirit does.
The people “were cut to the heart” (v. 37) when they heard this and asked Peter what they should do, and he answered “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (v. 38). 3000 people did so, and suddenly the apostolic league of disciples had become a mega church – but not in the modern sense, since they lacked a church building. They were a charismatic, evangelistic house church movement that spread rapidly, as Luke famously portrays:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
In this passage, I find seven ingredients of what a church is: worship, apostolic teaching, loving community, prayer, miracles, activism and evangelism. This is my definition of church, I don’t think we need to do anything else than this. I made a little illustration to show how I think they relate to each other:
Quite a lot of times, our church services and even our view of the Christian life in general is restricted to the four top boxes. I visited a conference where the speaker was describing his church meetings: ”Sometimes we worship, then we read the Word, then we pray. Other times we pray, worship and read the Word. And sometimes we even read the Word, pray and worship – but we always do these three things.” That basically describes 90 % of the church services I’ve been to. The apostolic, biblical church was different – instead of having one major service a week, they both met in the homes and in the Temple courts. And the latter wasn’t just for joining the Jewish prayer, but they healed the sick and preached the Gospel there (Acts 5:12, 20).
Since the biblical church didn’t own any buildings, they saved tons of money that they could give to the poor (Acts 6:1-8). In fact, they had everything in common so that there wasn’t any rich nor poor (4:32-35). Many miracles happened (2:43). People were saved everyday (2:47). Signs and wonders was combined with peace, justice and evangelism, and it was just as central to church as worship, Scripture reading and prayer.
The top four boxes in my illustration is when the church is “breathing in”, receiving power from God. The bottom three is when it breathes out. We need both to breath in and out in order to prevent sudden death. We need to go back to our Biblical roots and practice community of goods, sell our church buildings and evangelize everyday in the power of the Holy Spirit!