Time is a precious commodity for us. We each get 24 hours in a day to spend on things like sleep, eating, working, playing, entertainment, studying, ect. Unfortunately for most of us, we’re overbooked on time. We have to rush here and there to get to the next big event on our schedule.
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
No Time For That
We all know Jesus last and great commandment He gave to us, but who has time for all that? Make disciples, baptize, and teach them to observe all that Jesus commands us to do. We send preachers and counselors to school for these things so we can wash our hands of the responsibility of the great commission, but what do we see? Preachers, Pastors, Teachers, Counselors, are all so busy maintaining the church clubhouse that there’s just no time for this stuff. You’ll get a gospel invitation on Sundays to possibly pick up a few converts, but then what happens? Nothing. Each week people come in for an hour or two and then go back to their normal lives and how much of what was said on Sunday impacts their lives? The homeless shelter is only marginally better in that you get a nice half hour sermon every day that you come in, but after that you go back to your normal dysfunctional life and not much of what was said impacts anything.
What was the first church doing?
Now before I dive into the first church, I realize that something special was happening for the first time, but I also recognize that we have deviated from that first century church to our detriment.
1.The filling of the Holy Spirit
Acts 2:1-13. The first believers received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Because they knew very little about what was to come with the church age, the filling of the Holy Spirit, or the New Testament Bible, we had a special occurrence where the coming of the Holy Spirit could be heard like the wind, it could be seen similarly as tongues of fire could be seen and it could be experienced with the speaking of tongues. How did the people respond though is what I want to direct your attention to. The people didn’t enroll in college, they didn’t go home and watch the ballgame, they didn’t go to work, what they did is start to speak. What do you think they spoke about? No doubt they spoke about the gospel, what had happened to them, how the work of Jesus impacted their lives, and how others needed to repent of their sins and follow Jesus.
Nobody could understand what was going on with these believers. Some people marveled that they could understand these uneducated farmers and fishermen from Galilee in their own languages, but others mocked them assuming they were probably drunk. However, Peter, becoming bold through the power of the Holy Spirit, stood up and preached his first sermon which probably only lasted 10 minutes. He told them how it made no sense that people would suppose that they were drunk since it was only the third hour or 9am, and that what they were witnessing was the fulfillment of the Prophet Joel…
Acts 2:17-21 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Peter went on to explain that Jesus was the fulfillment of the kingdom of David and that he sits on God’s right hand now, this very Jesus that we had just crucified.
The crowd immediately was cut to the heart, or they knew of their guilt before a holy God and they wanted to know right then and there “what must we do” to be saved? It says that Peter instructed them to repent and be baptized for forgiveness of sins and they will receive this gift of the Holy Spirit as well.
In addition to receiving the Holy Spirit and Preaching it shows that the early church were devoted to fellowship. They didn’t just enjoy fellowship, or have occasional fellowship, but that they were devoted to fellowship. This devotion was based around some central key points.
The apostles teaching
Breaking of Bread
And because of these key things that they were devoted to, it says that “awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Why is there no awe in our churches, no wonders or signs being done, no favor with all the people and we don’t see numbers added day by day to those being saved? Because we don’t have time for any of that. Who’s going to the church house day by day other than the janitor? We can’t hardly sit still for an hour let alone going every day. Who’s selling their possessions and belongings to help out others with needs in the church? We can’t hardly bear to part with 10% of our new income. Who’s breaking bread in their homes together?
4.Praying for boldness
After Peter and John had to testify to recent healings before the council, it says regarding the council, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished.” In the face of adversity and the threat of persecution, the new believers did not back down, but instead they prayed to God for boldness to continue preaching.
5.Devoted to Missionary Church Planting
Much of the rest of the book of Acts shows different missionary journeys where the gospel is taken and new groups of believers join together as a church.
With much of the western world enjoying religious freedom and churches abounding, we must look at the dynamics of how people react to the church model as it’s been for the past 500 years. Come to the church building, sing a few songs, listen to a monologue, respond to an altar call, go home, repeat on Sunday night and come back on Wednesday to pray. Do you see that model in the first century church? We see some bits of it with prayer, with preaching, with singing, but we never see a time constraint on church.
The Gospel, The Church, Discipleship
So many times we compartmentalize each facet of the Christian life that they end up being disjointed. Discipleship is nothing more that learning about the ways of God and His church. This discipleship starts with the learning and responding to the gospel and continues with learning about and living within the parameters of the Church universal and practicing within the parameters of the Church local. In order to do this correctly, we have to stop thinking about church as something we do and start living in the reality that the church is something that we are. There is no time constraint on living life because it happens as we go, all the time, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.
The 21st Century Church model breaks discipleship
The modern church says come and see, come and consume, and then go away. Discipleship says come with me and lets go and lets be. Discipleship can’t happen when we hold people at arms length, or only have one hour for them, or have to set up a meeting for next week during office hours. Discipleship can’t happen when we are so busy making ourselves happy and comfortable in this life that we forget this is only a preparation for our ruler-ship with Jesus in the kingdom.
If I were to tell you that tomorrow you would get a million dollars, I bet it would change the way you lived for the rest of today wouldn’t it? If I were to tell you that next month you would get a million dollars, it would change the way you lived for the rest of this month wouldn’t it? Even if I were to tell you that next year you would get a million dollars, I know it would change the way you live the rest of this year. Why is it that even though you know the promises that you will rule and reign with Christ in the Kingdom and that God will shower us with love and grace for all eternity to the extent that the Bible says "no eye has seen nor ear heard of the wonders that God will bestow upon us", that somehow those great riches do not cause us to live differently for the rest of this portion of our life?
The Discipleship Center breaks the lines defined by time
What if time wasn’t the issue? What if there was a way to bring a disciple into your world without the concern over time? What if a disciple went to work with you all day, ate meals with you at every meal, was taught by you when teachable moments came up, and at night they went home with you and the next day we continue on like this, day after day and at the end of a season, they are able to go and make disciples in a similar fashion?
That’s the whole point of The Discipleship Center. We take people who have not been able to integrate into society because they’ve spent their whole life avoiding confrontation by being anti-social, by acting out in abnormal ways, by turning to drugs or alcohol, we take them away from everything that is distracting and a normal part of their dysfunctional life and we bring them to a place where there is peace, where work makes sense, where the bible is taught in tandem with their work, where there is biblical counseling at an individual level and at a group level. Every day is a day of learning to work within parameters set so when the program is over they will have a better understanding of what it is to work for someone and work with others and how to process issues that come up every day in a biblical way. Most importantly though is that we want to introduce them to the God who is over every day to them so they might be saved and learn to follow Jesus and bring his message of peace and salvation to others.