Over the past 2,000 years the world has certainly been changed by the presence of the Church. From the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended and Peter stood up with the eleven Apostles, preached the first sermon and three thousand in Israel believed, the Church has been on the move and literally has gone into all of the world.
Over the same time the Church has also changed. While the teachings of Jesus remain the cornerstone, the culture has changed. While many of us hope that our local church looks something like the early church, a reading of the Book of Acts in chapter 4 beginning with verse 32 tells us what the early church culture was like:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. A sense of awe came over everyone, and the apostles performed many wonders and signs
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they shared with anyone who was in need.
With one accord they continued to meet daily in the temple courts and to break bread from house to house, sharing their meals with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Some of the words in these five verses should give us pause: teaching, fellowship, break-bread, prayer, selling possessions, meeting daily, house-to-house, sincerity-of-heart, Lord-added-daily-those-being saved.
I embrace the local church. Like Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, I believe that the local church is hope of the world. Together, we cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit to bring people to the cross, to share the gospel of reconciliation and to wait for the coming restoration when the Lord returns for His Bride.
We are more successful in this mission when we return to that early church culture of a devotion to teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer. When we do, truly a sense of awe will come over everyone.