Early Church lessons for 21st Century Christians
I’m currently reading the Book of Acts, which provides great insight into the birth and early development of the Church.
Since its miraculous beginnings on the day of Pentecost, in the holy city of Jerusalem, the Church has grown into a worldwide organisation that transforms lives, impacts culture, and provides support to society’s vulnerable, needy and disadvantaged.
The message shared by the Church is a simple one: Jesus died for the sins of humankind, and people need to repent, be baptised and become disciples.
If you get a chance to read through Acts, it will become apparent that the members of the early Church believed unswervingly in the message they preached, lived it wholeheartedly, and were prepared to die for their faith.
There are pockets of the 21st century Church that look like the church depicted in Acts, but if we are honest, living in a capitalist, materialistic, media-driven society can obscure the beauty and authenticity of the Gospel – as does the individualism that pervades much of the western world, and which has caused many Christians to think about the Church in terms of ‘I’ as opposed to ‘we’.
Whilst we can’t go back in time to the birth of the early Church, there is much that the 21st century Church can learn from it.
We live in an age of atheism, scepticism, cynicism and agnosticism yet, as believers, it’s important that we fight our way through the philosophical fog that exists, and clear it, so that we are able to convey the beauty and simplicity of the Gospel message.
If we want to see more people become Christians, we have to be people of faith who pray and believe our prayers will be answered – just like the early Church, who believed in the power of prayer. They also demonstrated love practically, by sharing their possessions, opening their homes, and eating meals together. We must attempt to do the same.
If we want our churches to be the dynamic catalysts for transformation and renewal that God wants them to be, then let’s follow the template laid down by the first generation of believers, taking special note of the words the Apostle John wrote in 1 John 2: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”
Love for the world means enmity against God; it is the enemy of spreading the Gospel. The reasons the early Church was so successful is because the believers eschewed the world to embrace the Kingdom of God. 21st century Christians must do likewise if we want to see the re-enactment of the book of Acts.
Confound the critics and pursue your calling
During the course of my Christian journey, I have encountered too many people who have allowed critics to stop them from fulfilling their God-given purpose.
Criticism isn’t pleasant and, even if true and constructive, it is more often negative and prompted by the devil. No one should allow criticism to cause them to stop pursuing their goals, particularly any God-given goals.
There are huge swathes of people living in regret because they gave up a pastorate, or stepped down from leading a ministry, or stopped playing a prominent role in the church due to negative criticism. They have come to their senses and realised they should have continued in their calling – despite the critics.
So, if you are facing criticism, never quit. Don’t allow the critics to succeed in derailing you. If you are walking in your purpose, stay at your post until God tells you it’s time to go. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted or diverted.
If criticism is discouraging you, there are steps you can take to overcome it. Pray to God for strength. Encourage your spirit through reading His Word. Get some cheerleaders on your side, and keep on keeping on.
God wants you to fulfil your assignment, so when you feel like giving up and giving in to your critics, remember the Author and Finisher of your faith, who wants you to complete your task, and to finish strong.
Let’s do something!
If you are a leader, or have any level of influence within your church, I would implore you to organise youth activities that not only spiritually empower our youth, but also help them deal with the challenges of being Black and young in British society.
At the time of writing, over 10 people – the majority teenagers – have been stabbed to death in London. These spate of killings serve as a reminder of the challenges our young people face.
It’s important we do all we can to make our communities safe for our young people – whatever is necessary.
It could include running a youth club; organising life skills classes; hosting a youth outreach; providing mediation between warring gangs, or counselling for troubled youth.
There’s so much we can do for our young people to make a positive impact in their lives and to make their world safer, but in order to do so, we must be intentional about it.