I find myself in a quandary: I thoroughly believe in gathering together as believers. Scripture seems to describe two different venues for this: “Temple” (Sunday Morning Church would be our equivalent) and “breaking bread from house to house”.
We have lost the second one for the most part. Oh, I know: There are small groups, Wednesday Night gatherings…but gathering just to be with each other doesn’t really happen.
I have tried to have gatherings in my home, but very few people engage…
Sunday Morning Church is largely uninspired and, quite frankly, boring for me.
So, here’s my thought. Below is a survey. I would like to hear about your desires and experiences:
1. What works for you?
a. “Just let me go to Church on Sunday Morning; don’t bother me the rest of the week.”
b. “I would thoroughly enjoy a small gathering where people really get to know me and I get to know them.”
c. “Sunday Morning gathering is richer when I have had contact with believers during the week.”
d. “I would rather meet with people who don’t go to the same Church as I do for my small group.”
e. “I want my small roup or midweek service to be with those who go to the same Church as I.”
2. Church is:
c. An institution.
3. Church should be:
a. run by clergy only.
b. A place where all believers use and strengthen their gifts.
c. Elder run.
d. Forget all that; just gather and have fun.
4. What makes “successful” Church gatherings to you?
a. A good sermon.
b. Beautiful music.
c. Rowdy, upbeat worship.
d. Good coffee and cookies afterward.
e. Good fellowship hour.
5. Do you have questions or comments?
If I were allowed to preach a sermon, it would be this:
“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.
And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;
and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,
praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day.”
Acts 2:42-47 (NASB)
The question I want to raise is this: What one thing can you do to reach beyond your own front door?
I have often heard this passage in Acts used to describe communes, but I don’t think that is what it is about. There are a few points to make that clear:
perhaps the strongest is verse 46:
“Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,…”
Here are some other versions:
…and breaking bread in their several homes, they shared their foodin joy and simplicity of heart (Complete Jewish Version)
They were joyful and humble as they ate at each other’s homes and shared their food. (God’s Word Version)
Almost all versions refer to eating together in each other’s homes. That means they had their own places, just as we do.
Another thing I often hear people say is that sharing all things in common is communal in that none of us should own anything. I think we can simplify this to something we can do:
If someone gives me 40 pounds of apples; then I give some to a neighbor and some more to a person at Church, I am sharing. I still have all the apples I need; so do two other people.
Okay, time to turn up the heat!
I am coming to believe that the Western model of Church with Sunday Morning gathering as the main gig is backward. Moreover, it fosters isolation.
What happens is, people go to Church, try to shut others out as they worship, shake some hands, visit a little; then go away for the rest of the week. The result: We don’t really know each other.
We have lost the part of Church that has to do with relationship: Sharing meals at each other’s homes; giving and receiving so that no one has a need.
We have to spend real time with people in order to know that they have a need in the first place!
Psalm 133:1 brings up a fascinating point! It says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to DWELL in unity.”
The word for “dwell” is “Yashab” (Strong’s Number: 3427)
It means, “To live, abide, sit, inhabit or remain.”
This same word is used in
Psalm 4:8 “you make me dwell in safety.”
Psalm 23:6 “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Psalm 24:1 “…the earth and all who dwell in it.”
There are plenty of other verses, but you get the idea.
In our passage from Acts, there are at least three indications that the believers were in close relationship:, other than the one I have already mentioned
Verse 42 begins, “They were continually devoting themselves….”
Verse 44 “and all those who believed were together…”
Verse 46 “They went to the temple together” (They already knew each other)
Contrast all of this to our over-busy, isolated lives.
Away from Sunday Morning gatherings, we keep to ourselves, maybe extending our attention to a closest friend – if we even have one; perhaps we talk to adult children once in a while… We don’t know what the other people who were at Church with us are doing, what their needs, gifts, dreams and struggles are. We don’t know our neighbors’ names, let alone what they do or how they think and feel.
So how do we get from this isolated, impoverished state to the biblical ideal?
The same way we move into the other things of God: One step at a time
If you are one to go about your week completely apart from other believers, what could you do that would be simple enough? maybe call someone with whom you often visit on Sunday Morning? Start saying, “Hello” to a neighbor?
Just find one thing; then when that is working, add to it.
Yes, you are soooo busy! You and every other person you know.
I think busy-ness is one of Satan’s favorite traps: If he can get us to be so occupied, we don’t have time to connect with others, he gets a huge victory – the old “Divide and Conquer.”
You’re unsure, uncomfortable or afraid.
Understandable: I’m calling you to change.
But consider this: If you keep doing the same things in the same way with the same attitudes and the same people, what will you have?
Change is uncomfortable: It involves risk, having to learn and find out, falling down sometimes. But then comes the sweet success!
You might even find that you are less busy because a friend or neighbor can do something for you that you would have had to add to your already overloaded schedule.
You might find that a 10 minute phone call cheers you up so much, you get twice as much done.
Ask Holy Spirit to guide and help you; then reach beyond your own front door.
“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,…” (Acts 2:46)
Since the late 1990’s, my observation has been that the Church “goes to temple” in the form of Sunday Morning gatherings, and possibly a midweek service of some kind.
We have lost the practice of breaking bread from house to house, however, and we need it back.
One big reason for knowing the needs of others was that these people were spending real time together and building close relationships.
This fit their culture well: The family structure at that time was the clan family, which included people who were related biologically or through marriage, friends, servants and strangers who attached themselves to a particular clan. That is why Mary and Joseph could be in caravan for three days before they realized Jesus was not with
them. As far as they knew, he was with Uncle Caleb or cousin Nathan and their friends. (see Luke 2:43-46)
The church is described in a few different ways now:
Family, community, fellowship…
One challenge with calling the Church “family” is that it does not fit our cultural norm, which makes this description a little hard to embrace.
Church as community might feel more comfortable, but it fails to call us to the deeper levels of relationship we need.
Fellowship is only one aspect of Church, making it a bit incomplete.
So, how do we become more relational? How do we move from being “Temple only” to believers who really engage with each other?
I will add comments to explore these and other questions. Meanwhile, I would love to hear from you.
What is “Church” to you?
Do you have ideas about how we can begin to “break bread each day?”
I have a couple of suggestions:
*One is to begin with relationships that make more sense to us. For me, that might be my neighborhood. For someone else, that might be a group of friends.
*Small groups might try being less structured, even if that is once a month.
*If only a couple of believers begin to meet and share; they might be able to invite others.