The book of Acts is more than just a fascinating read—indeed, it contains stories, amazing stories, describing a thriving and successful church body. The members of the early church were filled with the Holy Spirit and on fire for the Lord. Their desire? To fulfill the Great Commission. They knew that the Great Commission was exactly that: a commission. It certainly wasn’t the Great Suggestion.
Some 2,000 years have come and gone since then, when thousands were added to the church daily. These kind of results aren’t always immediately obvious today, so why that staggering early success?
It was the behavior of the early church, motivated by the infilling of the Holy Spirit, that encouraged countless others to commit their lives to Christ. The example of the followers of the Way led others to seek both physical and spiritual healing in the name of Jesus Christ.
A CRUCIAL QUESTION
As a modern church, what example are we setting? Does our close relationship with Jesus result in behavior that encourages others to join the church? Do our lives draw others to Christ, persuading them to find healing in His name? If not, what can we do to rekindle the ebbing embers of that first love and effectively witness to this watching world?
Scripture provides several principles that will, if incorporated, transform the church from the inside out.
Walk the talk. We’ve all heard the refrain: “I refuse to go to church with a bunch of hypocrites.” Unfortunately, they won’t be impressed if we glibly remind them that there’s always room for one more. While we can’t expect perfection from anyone, we can strive to intentionally practice what we preach (see Rom. 2:21-24). Just as our positive witness can encourage others to make a decision for Christ, we can just as easily discourage others from joining the church when we neglect to “let love be without hypocrisy” (Rom. 12:9).
Meet the needs. In a world abounding in poverty and need, it can be tempting to follow in the footsteps of the priest and Levite in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and look the other way. But the Scriptures exhort us to be vigilant in meeting needs (see James 2:14-16). How does our faith manifest itself through works? Are we quick to notice the single mother of three who sits on the back pew each Sabbath? Do we offer a box of diapers or a gift card to treat her struggling family to dinner? What about that impossible neighbor whose car broke down? Do we graciously offer him a ride to work? Needs are all around us—some more drastic than others. What can we do to meet those needs and draw others into communion with Christ?
Fulfill the purpose of the body of Christ. The church comprises a diverse group of individuals and is called the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). So if we’re the body of Christ, then we’re His hands and feet. How did Christ use His earthly body to further the kingdom of God? He saw those the world had overlooked, neglected, or ignored and ministered to them. As a church, we have the privilege of ministering to others in the same way.
BE LIKE JESUS
If we intentionally institute these guiding principles and become a beacon of hope to others, imagine the appeal to the outside world.
We’d best be prepared to reap a harvest of blessing!