I’ve been guilty of it.
I used to look at the New Testament, specifically Acts 2, as THE pattern for how to do church. Within that I’d pull out the concept of small groups, for example, and say, “You see…the Bible says that they met in homes and in the temple courts…and the church grew! Therefore if we begin to meet in small groups and have this ‘two-winged’ concept of church (small group and large group experience) then the church will grow.” The kicker for me was always vv 46-47 where it says:
“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” -Acts 2:46-47
So, I would teach, “If we do the same thing we can see that kind of crazy growth!!!”
Here’s what I’m learning: Acts is an example of how God worked through the church in that time.
And here’s the main idea: God is always at work doing a new thing. He rarely moves in the same way. Have you ever wondered why? Because then we’d figure out the formula and we could take the credit for conjuring up God and making things happen. Can we learn principles from the NT on how to do church? I think so. Is it THE pattern? I don’t think so.
Here’s what I do know, though: as we rely upon God and seek Him, He will tell us “where” to go and “how” to go. Just like the Israelites in the desert who followed the cloud of God’s presence, so we too are to remain looking for the evidence of God’s presence and movement. When He says go we pick up the stakes in the ground. When He says stop…we plant them in the ground.
So I would stop looking for that magical blueprint that will perfectly reveal to you how to do and grow your church. Instead focus on leaning and listening to God and learning to “be” the church. I think that’s the real pattern that we see in the Bible and the New Testament.
[image by Joe Shlabotnik]