Most folks don’t think about their health – until they lose it. It’s easy to think of good health as the absence of health problems. But we know better. Good health requires active choices and habits on our part. Good health isn’t just an accident.
Church health is not an accident, either. Healthy churches require proactive choices and habits to become and stay that way. While there is no biblical outline, description, or prescription for what constitutes a healthy church, it seems to me that the Scripture does describe an environment in the church that received God’s blessing.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47 NIV).
Four foundational factors
Of course, 2018 is a different time and place than first-century Palestine; but even so, there are principles we can glean from this passage that might be helpful:
- They were devoted to the apostles’ teaching. They listened to those who had been with Jesus and knew Him first-hand. A lot of voices clamor for attention these days, including many who claim to be speaking the real truth, but who are really campaigning for acceptance for their version of truth. When churches get off track theologically, health immediately suffers.
- They were devoted to fellowship. They loved being together! They went out of their way to be together, and especially seemed to enjoy opening their homes to one another and eating together. They were unselfish and giving. They did more than just say they loved each other—they proved it by giving tangible gifts.
- They were devoted to the breaking of bread together. Some only see an allusion here to a simple meal, but many see in these words a description of the celebration of the Lord’s supper right in their homes. So precious was the celebration of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that this special meal became a staple part of every meal. I see in this a special focus on the life, person and work of Jesus. He was central to their way of life.
- They were devoted to prayer. Prayer was as natural to them as breathing, and evidently they were praying a lot. So important was it to them to stay close to the heart of God that they devoted themselves to these frequent conversations with the Almighty.
What I like most about this passage is the blessing found in the last sentence: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being save.” Because the early church was about the business of staying devoted to true teaching, fellowship, celebration of Jesus, and to prayer, the Lord deemed them to be a safe place where He could bring in new people.
Could it be that the Lord is willing to be our evangelist if we will model the choices and habits of the early church? Wouldn’t that just turn our world upside down?
—Mic Thurber is ministerial director for the Mid-America Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists located in Lincoln, Nebraska.