Thursday, August 19, 2004

community power

When one looks at Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37 it seems clear that the power and authority displayed by the apostles not only stemmed from being filled with the Spirit but also from the community in which they participated.

Acts 2:42-47
42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 4:32-37
32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. 36Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.

This makes me wonder about the power and authority of our church leaders today. We often admire the "super-pastor" who has the ability to move the masses down the aisle, or heal people on TV, or establish gi-normous churches. We attribute their success to great spiritual discipline or great intimacy with God. We assume that their "filling" of the Spirit is over an above our own. And there may be some truth somewhere in that.

But I see another truth emerge from the passages which I have quoted above. I see the truth of the community power. I see that the apostles had a community which genuinely showed and lived love. They enjoyed each other. They had teachable spirits. They were willing to give up "private" possessions for the sake of the community. They considered others better than themselves. And because of this, the surrounding community was in "awe." There was no one in need, and no one left out. All were welcome there.

I imagine that if I told people to look at a community like that, a community of which I was a part, and then told them that Jesus was the reason for this kind of living, that many would be added to our number as well. I am no "super-apostle," but that kind of a community can turn my grandmother into a Billy Graham. That kind of community makes preaching simple. It makes inviting people to church an afterthought. People will invite themselves.

We pastor-type-people often wish we had more spiritual authority. We beat ourselves up over not being more disciplined, more loving, better communicators and more creative. Sometimes we pastor-type-people think its all depending on us. "If I were just more obedient, this church would be on fire for Christ." And no doubt, there is some truth to that.

But its easy to forget that most of the power and authority wielded by the apostles did not originate as much with personal piety as with communal love. The Spirit moved because the community lived as it should.


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