Monday, May 1, 2017

Acts 2:42-47 NT Church is Missional

KEY TEXT: Acts 2:42-47 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

KEY THOT: Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Church is one of the most-read books on church growth. In his book, Rick Warren spells out the five purposes of the church as fellowship, discipleship, service, evangelism and worship. There are two mis-applications of this book: firstly, churches turn the five purposes into five departments of the church. The end result is each department becoming a silo by itself, competing for manpower and money in the church. Instead of a synergistic flow, the five "departments" develop into five territorialities guarded jealously by five principalities.

The other mis-application of the book is to turn evangelism into a department or program in the church. If we study today's text carefully, evangelism was never mentioned as another "purpose" or function of the church. We have only four activities mentioned: "they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching (discipleship) and fellowship (fellowship), to the breaking of bread (worship) and the prayers (service)." Where is the evangelistic program in the NT church? How did the Lord "added to their number day by day those who were being saved" (v.47)? 

It would be a strange question to ask the NT church because their basic self-identity as a church is missional--outsider-focused. Evangelism was not a "program" or "purpose"--it was who they were and the underlying assumption for everything they did. For them, discipleship, fellowship, worship and service are evangelism--it was never "for members only". Everything was done as a means to "proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). The local church has no evangelism program because the local church is the method, the medium and the message.

In other words, their self-identity is missional, not pastoral. The pastoral church is inwardly-focused, existing for insiders only. But the NT church is missional because it exists primarily for the sake of the kingdom expansion. NT believers see their church as God's kingdom outpost planted in hostile enemy territory to rescue the lost who are still "out there." Everything they did (teaching, equipping, service, prayer, etc.) demonstrated kingdom presence and power in their midst, so that "awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles" (v.43). Because their local church life is kingdom-focused, their ministry was attractive to the outsiders as the church proclaim the kingdom gospel through its "many wonders and signs...done through the apostles".

In a missional church, evangelism is not a program--it's who they are as a church.

The NT church is outsider-focused. Everything was done to demonstrate the kingdom gospel before the world. The presence of signs and wonders suggest that the focus of their preaching and teaching was the kingdom of God, which is the focus of Jesus' Gospel: "he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal" (Luke 9:2). The kingdom of God was the underlying assumption of the local church ministries: teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers. Evangelism was not one of five purposes but its basic presupposition--it motivates everything they did. Their shared life together ("had all things in common"), their meetings at the temple and homes and their hospitality were kingdom meetings where pre-believers are welcome. For this reason, they were "having favour with all the people" (including outsiders).

In contrast, many churches have developed a pastoral mentality: church ministries are for members only. In some churches, even the worship services are "for members only". If you are an outsider, then you are invited to attend the "seeker's service". In the NT church, there was no such demarcation--every meeting is open to "all the people" because that is the reason for having these meetings in the first place: "If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you" (1 Corinthians 14:23-25).

In a missional church, everything is done to proclaim and demonstrate the kingdom of God and therefore everything is evangelism. And this is only possible where the kingdom presence and power are manifested. And when that happens regularly, pre-believers will fall down and worship God and declare that "God is really among you". Outsiders are therefore attracted to Christ in the midst of congregational meetings and easily persuaded to believe and be baptized: "And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47).

In a missional church, there is no evangelistic "program". The local church itself is the medium, the method and the message. Every ministry is missional, not just activties organized by the evangelism "department".

Father, make us a church that demonstrate verbally and non-verbally the presence of Your kingdom in our midst, so that the local church may be the evangelistic medium, method and message. Amen.

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