When I was in high school there were several clubs based on interests students could join. I was part of our Bible club while I was in high school. I enjoyed being part of it until I graduated. I was actually elected president for two years.
Clubs are a great way for people to interact. But for people with like-minded goals and desires a club can only go so far. Jesus has instituted his Church on this earth until he returns. It is much more than a social club.
The Church is not perfect but it is the best place for Christians to gather together. But what makes a church different from a club? You can tell the difference because the Bible has told us what every church must do to be a church.
So what can you expect when you walk into a local church? We are continuing to study how a holy person interacts with other Christians. We have already discussed why it’s important to not be a cowboy Christian and to be part of the Church. But now we want to talk about how the church is different from the world and social clubs. Let’s start with the model for a Christian church from Acts 2:42-47.
“And they were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to breaking bread, and to the prayers. And reverence came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were happening through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had everything in common, and they were selling their properties and possessions and were distributing them to all, to anyone who had need, and every day they devoted themselves with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, sharing food in the exultation and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding those who are being saved every day to them.”Acts 2:42-47 (My Translation)
A Place to Worship
the first mark of the Christian church in the Bible is worshiping the Lord. Christians gathered together first and foremost to worship God and be fed by the leadership. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to prayer. The first thing we think of when I say worship is music.
There was music in the early church. Paul especially quotes part of the hymns and songs early Christians would sing in their services. He talks about hymns, songs, and spiritual songs as part of Christian worship (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Acts 2 talks about praising God together, most likely a reference to the songs and other parts of worship they shared.
Luke mentions the apostles’ teaching. As part of worship this would mean listening to sermons and teaching. It would mean growing in your faith. All too often in Christian churches today the sermon is too fluffy to produce mature Christians.
We must do more than listen to sermons to mature in Christ. There must be solid biblical and doctrinal teaching that goes along with Spirit-filled preaching. But people will hear a sermon before they will enter a place of biblical teaching. Spirit-filled preaching opens the door to further teaching.
Listen to sermons and being taught the Word of God is worship to God. As we use our minds to glorify God we are worshiping his name. He does great things among us, working in our spirits, hearts, and minds.
But that’s not where our worship stops. Luke also mentions that they worshiped by seeing signs and wonders regularly. Unfortunately in our churches today there are few that see God moving in these ways. They do not seek the miracles and healings we see in the Bible.
Rest assured that this is an unhealthy trait in our churches. We should expect to see signs and wonders, gifts of the Spirit in operation, and a fervor for God. You may say that’s not your personality, or that it’s emotionalism, but when the Holy Spirit leads a church in worship he will do these great things among us.
We don’t need churches that are more like social clubs. We need places of worship and the people of God that seek him for everything he has for them. We must begin to seek biblical and Spirit-empowered worship in its forms of preaching, teaching, and signs and wonders. If you are part of a church that is seeking God for these things and experiencing them thank the Lord you have found such a church.
A Place to Fellowship
A second mark of a Christian church is the fellowship of the saints together. Fellowship is not just talking about eating food together. Although they had meals with one another, there was much more to it than just eating.
Fellowship is much more encompassing than that. The word for fellowship in the Bible speaks of having things in common, sharing together. This is why Paul says that there is unity in the Church with everyone sharing one hope, one Lord, one faith, and one baptism (Ephesians 4:5).
Christians share the same worldview, godly values, are part of God’s Kingdom, and are different from the world. We should fit in more with one another than we do with the world. We need to reach out to those in the world and evangelize but we must be separate from the world.
Since we fellowship together and share so much in common, we enjoy different things than the world does. The church must not be a place for potlucks and casual surface conversation alone. We have a deep bond unlike anything in the world.
The book of Acts describes fellowship as the breaking of bread together and the prayers (Acts 2:42). The breaking of bread here may not only refer to eating together, sharing meals, and providing for those who were too poor to have their own food but also to communion.
Throughout Luke and Acts tends to refer to the breaking of bread as a spiritual act rather than just a physical one. The early church had what they called “love feasts.” These were misunderstood by the outside world as perverted in nature. They were nothing of the sort. These were times when the church were gathered together for food but also take communion together.
So there fellowship did not just mean they ate food and talked amongst themselves. They carried out the spiritual nature of the Lord’s Supper together. It was not just a social visit. Jesus was among them as he is among us today when we partake of his table.
Luke describes them as having everything in common (Acts 2:44). These were not surface relationships. Those who were in need were taken care of by those who had more than enough. They shared the property of those who would sell it to give it to brothers and sisters who were in need (Acts 2:45).
In the Greco-Roman world if a Christian rejected the gods of the day they were shunned socially and financially by their neighbors. They were not allowed to buy food and everything they needed in the marketplaces. They had no relationship with their neighbors. So some of them were in the moment they rejected the Roman and other pagan gods and declared Christ as their Lord.
Emperor worship was the main religion celebrated and practiced everywhere in the Roman Empire. People would declare, “Caesar is Lord.” So when a Christian refused to say this mantra he or she was immediately branded as, get this, and atheist.
That’s right. Because Christians did not worship the multiple gods of Rome and only worshiped one God they were labeled atheists, literally, “Not believing in the gods.” So they were rejected by the world around them and were in need of food, clothing, and other needs.
This is why Christian fellowship was so important in the ancient world. And it’s important today. While we live in America and are generally accepted, even though we’re persecuted and hounded by some in our American culture, we still need a warm place to come out of the cold of the dark world around us and fellowship together. We can share in common things that the world knows nothing about.
A Place to Grow
I’ve already touched on this, but through the preaching and teaching of the apostles, attending the temple in Jerusalem together, and the practices of prayer and sharing one another’s possessions, these Christians were growing in maturity in Christ and their faith.
They attended the Temple in Jerusalem for a time. But they also broke bread in their homes, having worship services in their homes. The house church began in the book of Acts and is still a vibrant part of the Church universal today. God moves powerfully among small groups of Christians just as much as he does in larger gatherings.
The Jerusalem Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. We see that Peter and John went to the temple to pray, and this seems to be part of their normal routine during this time (Acts 3:1-10). It may be that they gathered together in the temple to teach one another about Christ because the book of Hebrews clearly teaches that the Temple and much of the practices in the Temple were obsolete because of Jesus’ priesthood and sacrifice.
Preaching and teaching were the primary means for a Christian to grow and mature. But because of the actions of Christians around them they were not only learning head knowledge. They were putting it in their heart. And they were practicing it amongst one another and in the world.
Learning about being generous with your possessions or taking care of one another because of unconditional love is the first step. But then seeing others around you take care of you by giving you their possessions, providing a house for you when you were evicted by the Roman Empire, these actions taught what you learned in your head and put them in your heart.
We must not neglect acting upon the teachings of the Church. It is through the actions we receive and give to others that we make the teachings of Christ concrete in our lives. When we learn what we are supposed to do we must do it with all of our hearts. Our actions are wholly worship unto the Lord.
Because of the way Christians shared life together and worshiped together, they were not only growing spiritually but numerically. When the people in the world so the Christians, how they loved one another, and served one another, they couldn’t help but want to be a part of the Church.
On the first day, the Day of Pentecost when Peter preached to the people who were curious about the baptism in the Holy Spirit and its effects, the church grew by 3000 people. The book of Acts talks about even more numeric growth throughout its pages.
Christians who love Jesus and worship him with all their hearts, not just between the four walls of the church but in the world, have something infectious about them. They are influencers, leading others to Christ by their lifestyle and by their love for God and others.
Sharing your story of how you came to Jesus and what he’s done for you is a lot easier when you live the life of Christ. When you practice what you preach and teach to others, practicing the character and godly traits of holiness, people are interested in what you have to say and how you got that way.
The Church must not only grow in unity in the faith and maturity in Christ but also in numbers as we lead others to the Lord. Evangelism is an outgrowth, a byproduct, of the way we live, our fellowship together, and our worship.
A Place to Serve
Although it is not specifically mentioned in Acts 2, you can tell that the people were serving one another. They served one another through sharing their possessions, teaching one another, and praying with one another. They experienced the signs and wonders of God among them.
We can serve one another in Christian fellowship through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, compassion ministry, and hospitality. The early church demonstrated all of these and more. Jesus taught that we must serve one another and love one another (John 13).
He modeled it for the disciples. You are part of the church, and we need your ministry gifts. We need you to serve in the Church. When you serve others, non-Christians included, you are doing what Jesus taught you to do.
The Church is not just a place to be ministered to, but to minister to others. The Holy Spirit wants to use you in the gifts he has placed in you. There’s nothing greater then the experience of serving others. It keeps us humble but also gives us great joy.
Find a place, and niche, to minister to others. Don’t turn anyone away, but instead serve everyone in need around you. You will learn how to use your gifts in more effective ways. The Holy Spirit cultivates his fruit in you. Seek the Spirit for his gifts and for him to minister through you in special and great ways.
As you can see, the Church is the perfect place for you to grow in Christ and use your gifts to minister to others. The Lord matures you through solid teaching and preaching, as well as seeing it practiced in those around you.
We worship together, pray together, learn together, grow together, and share so much more than the world can understand. The Church is incomparable to a social club. The Holy Spirit moves among us in mighty ways. There is a much closer bond and intimacy among us then in any club.
Enjoy your time together with other saints. Contribute to the Church with every gift of the Spirit you have been given. Grow in Jesus and in unity with other believers. A life lived to serve Jesus and his saints is worthy of the Lord. Leave a comment and describe how you contribute to the Church and are ministered to by the Church.