Article written for New Creation Christian Community, Jesus Army’s community organisation.
I’ve never viewed Pentecost as a mistake.
The first time I read the remarkable account in Acts 2 of how the Holy Spirit filled Jesus’ disciples with miraculous power so that they could speak other languages; how Peter’s passionate sermon resulted in 3,000 receiving Jesus; how all the disciples then had everything in common so that nobody had to be poor – I knew that this was good. In fact, it was awesome. Luke’s point isn’t that this is a tragic event that shouldn’t be repeated, he’s describing the best church ever!
I realised that a lot of miracles are better than a few miracles, that a lot of saved people are better than a few saved people, and that no economic inequality is better than existing economic inequality. I realised that if I were to claim that we don’t “need to” make our churches look like Jerusalem, I would in fact be arguing that our churches don’t need to be as good as they should.
It would be like saying that a fire extinguisher doesn’t need to extinguish fire, or that a surgeon doesn’t need to save the lives of the patients he or she is caring for.
The Jerusalem church in Acts 2 wasn’t a bizarre, irrelevant cult in the middle of nowhere that we can safely ignore as followers of Jesus. It was the first church, led by apostles that Jesus Himself had chosen and it is the church from which all other churches come from. It’s the biblical original. I realised that it would be foolish not to view the Jerusalem church as normative and authoritative.
After all, I knew that the apostles had so much authority that their teachings and writings are regarded as God’s word. The Holy Spirit that was working in and through them had so much control that when Peter or John grabbed a pen and wrote a letter, it became holy scripture.
If their words then had this highest level of God-given authority, what about their actions? Shouldn’t their charismatic ministry, bold evangelism and community of goods be divinely inspired as well?
Luke surely makes a connection between apostolic teaching and the practice of the Jerusalem church in his Acts account:
“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.” (Acts 2:42-45)
It wasn’t as if the apostles simply made all these practices up on the spot. All they did was to continue to do the things Jesus had taught them. He trained them to heal the sick and cast out demons (Luke 9:1). He preached publicly and told them to do the same:
“Proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’” (Matthew 10:7). And they shared money (John 13:29). The only difference in Acts 2 is that now Jesus is with them through His Spirit rather than in His bodily, incarnational form.
So Pentecost isn’t a mistake. Refusing to pray and work for our churches today to look like Pentecost, is. It’s a shame that so few contemporary churches in the Western world have the biblical level of miracles, public evangelism and community of goods. But God has put a passion in my heart to see apostolic churches the norm, not the exception.
That’s why I joined the charismatic movement nine years ago and have eagerly prayed for revival and miracles. That’s also why I joined an evangelistic house church six years ago and have spent thousands of hours on the streets leading people to the Lord. As great as that have been, there has been a lack of community of goods.
Community of goods is sadly one of the hardest things to find in Western churches today. It’s easy to find lots of non-biblical, wacky and unnecessary stuff, but to find something that the bible actually talks about and describes – nobody being poor due to shared economy – you have to pray and search a lot.
Thankfully, I found the Jesus Army. I was so relieved to see that the common sharing is complete just like in biblical times, not just partial or limited. And I was thrilled to discover that the radical community life is combined with charismatic spirituality, evangelism and a bible-believing faith. This was the Jerusalem church transplanted into 21st century Europe.
I’m doing a training year primarily to get a fuller understanding of how community and shared economics work. I’m doing it to learn more about the Jesus Army, to create and nurture relationships and to be inspired. I also want to inspire, to contribute with the gifts and insights God has given me and to help the church to keep its God-given vision of being a New Testament community of believers in today’s needy world.