“And all who believed were together and had all things in common,” Act 2:44
In our world of high connectivity, there is a loneliness that is unprecedented. Through social media and cyber-communication, we can connect to a lot of people. We know a lot of people a little well, and true intimacy scares the heck of out us. We can only feel fulfilled by fostering more than Facebook-level friendships. We need to feel known, seen and loved. We need to belong. The early Acts church can help us grow into a community that meets these heart needs.
Acts 2:41-46 lays out a beautiful picture of, what we would call today, community. These few verses describe people eating together, sharing, traveling from home to home, and “doing life together.” I don’t know about you, but I long for that complete expression of a spiritual family. I’ve experienced parts of that at various times in my life and nothing compares. I enjoy some parts of it now at True Life. But, I want more! I felt that the Holy Spirit was revealing several keys from His early church that will help me, and us, grow together in holistic community.
For the Acts church, community wasn’t a spiritual gift, it was built in partnership with the Holy Spirit. A friend can be a gift from God, but community is something we produce in partnership with Him and each other. The first key that emerged as I read was to include Holy Spirit in building community. The Holy Spirit was always present in the early Church. It’s strange to me how quickly we forget to include the Holy Spirit in our pursuit of friendship. We pursue Him when asking who to date, or where to work, but we, for some reason, don’t always do that when it comes to non-romantic or “ministerial” relationships. But, God wants to be involved in the fun parts of your life, too. He made the relational needs in your life and wants to help you meet them. Partnering with God in building community looks as simple as asking Him who to befriend, and for the first step to connecting. Get practical with God!
Another thing that you see in the second Acts passage, is that there was relational reciprocation. Verse 45 says, “they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” The coolest part of this passage is who does the distributing. It isn’t the disciples or the leaders. The preceding verse defines “they” in the passage as “all.” Which means that “all” were providing for “alls” needs. That means even those in need provided for other folk’s needs. We all have something to give. Maybe initiating a connection is your “something” to give. Maybe creating a beautiful space in your home so that people feel peace in your home is “something” to give. Pray about it! What do you have that’s part of meeting others needs?
The next step is also surprisingly practical. The first Christians went to church. That may seem weird to you - it did to me, at first. Why would attending a sermon and communal worship, where you aren’t necessarily talking to your neighbors, make a difference in relationships? But intentional, organized gathering is an unavoidable part of the Act’s church schedule. In verse 42 it says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching,” in verse 44, “all who believed were together,” and in verse 46, “day by day, attending the temple together.” The second key I’m sharing with you is that you can’t skip church (frequently - I’m not talking about sickness, vacations or an occasional sleep-in-Sunday) and build a healthy, Christian community. There’s a whole lot more that I could (and that I’d love to!) say about the importance of attending church for the sake of relationships, but I’ll leave you with this: There is something deeply bonding about the simple act of congregating together. And, hearing what God is saying to the family creates safety and purpose for the whole and individual. So, if you want to grow in community, the first step - only the first, but an unskippable one - is to value the family gathering.
The last key I lifted from this loaded, buffet of a passage is that our attitude toward community is vital for growth in this area. Gratitude and joy charged the atmosphere surrounding early believers. Verse 46 says, “they received their food with glad and generous hearts” and people were “praising God.” One of the challenges I’m sensing for True Life in this next season will be to shift mindsets about community. “Received” and “praising” are verbs. They aren’t emotional responses, they are choices. We decide gratefulness, and choose joy. Did you know that you can tell yourself to be glad? If you don’t know how to do that, come to Steve Backlund’s conference next month! He will tell you all about deciding joy.
The Acts church is just one example of what is possible with a spirit-led community, but it’s a great place to start! The Lord added to His people’s numbers daily because they had something great to join. Every need was met and signs and wonders happened constantly. They also had favor with all people. I don’t know about you, but that’s fruit I’d love to see more of in my own life. A healthy community is one that even the youngest member brings a contribution to, and is one that honors itself with a joyful, grateful heart and positive self-talk. God’s desires for our church to house strong friends. I believe by applying these simple tools, we can also grow in the health and honor of the Acts 2 church.