Our latest message series at Nativity for the Easter season, called “Groundbreaking,” has got me thinking a lot about what the Early Church did and looked like. This message, by the way, is all about how Jesus’ resurrection changed the face of history, and how deeply that resonated with the Apostles and the first Christ followers. The growth of the church at that time was incredible, unprecedented; both faithful and fruitful.
What amazes me is the culture it created. Reading through the book of Acts, the Apostles and first disciples seemed unstoppable on many levels. How do we get our churches to feel like that? Here are just four ways I see that our Church today can build an “Acts” culture.
Devoted to Prayer
Acts 1:14 “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer.”
Peter and the apostles knew that if they were going to be effective they were going to have to be dependent upon God. Through prayer, they made God the undisputed leader over their lives. They knew they had been given a huge task of making disciples of all nations, but no clear idea what shape that was yet to take, so they offered their ministry to God in prayer.
The Right People
Acts 1:20-22 “Let another take his office.’ So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
With Judas’ betrayal and death, the apostles had one less on the team than needed. Obviously, the people on the team make a big difference when it comes to church culture. The Apostles needed someone who could help the team accomplish their mission to make disciples. Peter clearly set out the requirements for the replacement and the steps they will take to identify the right person, as well as the basic job description (“become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1.22). Peter brought the right people around him to accomplish the mission.
Acts 2:14 “But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them…”
When it came to their message, first and foremost, Peter and the Apostles preached. Peter’s first public action, after receiving the Holy Spirit was to boldly preach the Word of God. Peter’s message is the first recorded sermon in the history of the church. What was the result of Peter’s bold preaching? A church culture that changed hearts and lives.
Perseverance through Conflict
Acts 15:6-7 “The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “My brothers.”
Facing opposition and dealing with conflict are inevitable if you are in the position of leadership. But healthy conflict always has to potential to create healthy church culture. The Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 represents the first significant debate in Christian Church history. In the midst of conflict and persecution Peter demonstrated great boldness and courage and he persevered. And it’s no accident that the Church actually emerged more unified than ever with a clearer mission and identity. As a result, he grew as a leader and the church grew spiritually and in numbers.