If you want your church to have the impact of the early church, the book of Acts shows us 8 essential characteristics we need in our congregations —
Supernatural power (Acts 2:3-4) — We don’t just talk about God; we experience Him. This is what makes the Church different from every other organization on the planet. We have the Holy Spirit. Microsoft doesn’t have the Holy Spirit. The United States government doesn’t have the Holy Spirit. The Red Cross doesn’t have the Holy Spirit. No other organization has the power of God in it. God promised His Spirit to help His Church.
Use everybody’s language (Acts 2:4) — This passage isn’t about speaking in tongues. It’s about the gospel being communicated in real languages. People actually heard the early Christians speak in their own languages — whether that was Farsi, Swahili, German, Greek, or whatever. God says from the very first day of the church that the Good News is for everyone. It’s not just for Jews. It’s amazing grace for every race. But the power of Acts isn’t just about the language of your country of origin. It’s also about languages spoken only in particular subcultures — like mothers of preschoolers or people into hip-hop or accountants or truck drivers. God says in His Church, everyone’s language gets used. Are you helping your people use their “language” to reach people with the Good News?
Uses everyone’s gifts (Acts 2:14, 16, 19, 21) — In New Testament times, there weren’t spectators in the Church. There were only contributors — 100 percent participation. Not everyone is called to be a pastor, but everyone is called to serve God. If you want your church to have the impact of the early Church, get everyone involved in the ministry of your church. Make it clear to everyone in the church that passivity isn’t an option. If they want to just sit around and soak up the service of others, let them find another church.
Offer life-changing truth (Acts 2:22-40) – The early Church didn’t offer pop psychology, polite moralisms, or nice-sounding inspiration. We must always offer the truth of the Gospel. God’s Word has the power to change lives. No other message changes lives like the Good News. No other message changes a guy from a wife-beater to being a loving, responsible husband. It’s when the truth of God’s Word gets into us that we change.
In Acts 2, Peter gives the very first Christian sermon, quoting the Old Testament book of Joel. Peter shares the Gospel in this message. Acts 2 says that the early Church devoted itself to the “apostles’ teaching” – the Bible. God’s Word gave the early Church power (For more about helping your church dig into God’s Word, check out 40 Days in the Word).
Provide loving support (Acts 2:42) — The first Church loved and cared for one another. The Bible says in Acts 2:42, “They took part in the fellowship, sharing in the fellowship meals and in praying together.” One translation says, “They were like family to each other.” The Church isn’t a business. It’s not an organization. It’s not a social club. It’s a family. For our churches to experience the power of the early Church, we’ve got to become the family that they were.
Enjoy joyful worship (Acts 2:46) — When the early Church gathered, they celebrated, “praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” We must understand and teach that worship is a celebration. It’s a festival, not a funeral. It’s the party for the kingdom of God. When worship is joyful, people want to be there because people are looking for joy. Do you think if our churches were full of glad hearts, joyful words, and hopeful lives, we’d attract other unbelievers? Sure they would.
Make generous sacrifices (Acts 2:44-45) – The Bible teaches us to make generous sacrifices for the sake of the Gospel. The Christians during the Roman Empire were the most generous people in the empire. In fact, they were famous for their generosity. They literally shared everything – with one another and the poor. The Bible says the early Church “shared everything they had … .” That’s a church worth dying for – which is exactly what first-century Christians did. They’d rather die with gladiators and lions in the Coliseum than renounce their faith and their brothers and sisters in God’s family.
Create exponential growth (Acts 2:47) — When our churches demonstrate the first seven characteristics of the early Church, growth is automatic. People may have looked at the first Christians as weird, but they liked what they were doing. They saw their love for one another, the miracles that took place in their midst, and the joy that was in their lives, and they wanted what the Christians had.
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Saddleback Resources offers a small group Bible study related to these devotionals: The Invisible War-Winning the Battle of Temptation.