What can you tell me about the New Testament Church?
It seems like a simple question but lately it’s been bouncing around in my brain.
There’s not a lot I can tell you about the style of the worship services. I don’t know if musical instruments were used or if they had a song leader. I don’t know if someone stood up and gave announcements about the ladies’ bake sale or the men’s ministry tailgate fellowship time. I don’t know if the “ushers will now wait on you for tithes and offerings.”
I know they gathered in homes and that larger meetings took place in synagogues and courtyards. I know they were focused on Jesus and the scriptures. I know they were interactive. I know they remembered the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Yeah, a lot of people get worked up about things and say, “That’s not in the bible so I don’t support it!” I’ve heard it about youth ministry. I’ve heard it about drums and amps. I wonder what life would look like if we only did stuff that was directly included in the bible? We would have walked to work this morning, for one thing. It’s interesting to me how we pick an choose our stands and call them “biblical.” But I digress …
Something that I am sure is indeed biblical is that the New Testament church was continuously growing and going. The church took Jesus’ words seriously and talked about the Good News. When He said, “Go and make disciples” they didn’t retreat into huddles to talk about all the possible outcomes of His directive. The New Testament church knew its primary job and actively sent people out. The New Testament church knew that the goal was to have every person hear and respond.
Let’s put on our corporate hats for a second since we Americans tend to like to say, “Well, in the business world …”
In the New Testament church no one was worried about “noncompete clauses” and if one city was too close to another. Instead, it was more of a saturation model – kind of like Starbucks with a goal of a store in every neighborhood. The New Testament church was focused. Go and Grow. Simple.
Can you be a New Testament church and not be focused on reaching others? I think you can be a comfy gathering, an educated community and even a great arm for social justice but, without a constant current moving you toward spreading the news of Jesus Christ, I think you lose the identifying mark and direction of the early church.
I remember the old Sunday School song about my little light. “Hide it under a bushel?No! I’m going to let it shine!” I wonder if we should change the words to “Hide it in my comfy church?No! I’m going to let it shine.”
Being a New Testament church has a cost. When we send people, we lose people we love. When we intentionally send out leaders, our body has to raise up new leaders. When we support them in a new work we have less money for our coffee and donuts. Is that enough reason to keep us from advancing and building the Kingdom?
I notice that Jesus never said, “If you can afford it and your individual church is full and you can handle the loss of some leadership folks, then go and make disciples.” Jesus just told us to be about it and to do it.
A New Testament church is committed to reaching others no matter what. It seems simple to me.
I had a man tell me, not so long ago, that missions applied to places overseas and not here in the United States because, according to him, all of America has heard the message of Jesus. In our community of 360,000 people it is estimated that 80% don’t attend any church. I’m not a math whiz but by my calculations that means at least 288,000 are not in any type of dicipleship community. Do we just give up on them? I don’t think so!
The job description is clear … always going … always telling … always growing.