Ever since I can remember growing up I have heard that the book of Acts is the model for the church. A lot of people say (correctly) that we are a 21st century church in a 21st century world and that means there are going to be some differences between the church we read about in Acts and the church of today. That is fair. I do think, though, that there is so much in Acts that we really do need to take notice of and emulate.
When I read Acts I read about the church away from the assembly. They are out there on a mission. They are seeking lost people and intentionally reaching them with the Gospel. They are prayerful about their direction and focus. They are relying on God in so many ways and for so many reasons. It is really pretty humbling. When I have heard people express the sentiment about us being like that church it worries me just a little bit because it is often implied that we are already there when the reality is we still have much to learn from their example.
Here are a few areas that I think they had right that are still helpful today
How much has the book of Acts shaped the one thing that stands out the most in the book of Acts? Our mission. If we are that church we read about in Acts, are we sending people out to reach lost people? I don’t mean sending checks (that is important and essential to many good works continuing). I means people…do the people who attend know they are a part of a mission, what that mission is and how they contribute to it?
Do we share their boldness and zeal? They took on the world. They spoke with kings. They upset the status quo and had meetings with rulers and authorities and found themselves in conversations with prominent people because what they were up to was significant enough to get them in trouble with certain groups.
Dependence on God
Do we mirror their full out dependence on God for direction? These guys trusted God. They didn’t always get it right but it always came back to what God wanted and trying to be pleasing to God through fulfilling the work He gave them to do. I am afraid there are some Christians who have learned to depend on doctrine rather than God. Again, doctrine is important, even essential but we must always remember who the doctrine points us to.
Imitation & Maturity
The point here is that being a church like that is more than form. It is about our heart. It is about our view of God. It is about our mission and our attitude. It is more than imitation. We can imitate someone else all day but it doesn’t mean a whole lot until we make it our own and grow to maturity. Strict imitation can be a real sign of immaturity and can reflect a real lack of dependence on God in favor of a dependence on form.