The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders
among the people.
And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Portico.
No one dared join them,
even though they were highly regarded by the people.
Nevertheless, more and more men and women
were added to their number.
The Church described in the Acts of the Apostles was a dangerous Church, just read the story.
The apostles were hounded by the authorities, hauled before judges, forbidden to speak about Jesus and imprisoned (and killed). It was also a dangerous Church for the religious leaders and civil authorities, the status quo over which they held sway was being challenged (and eventually changed). The Church was a dangerous, powerful force in the world.
Author and Pastor Erwin McManus writes:
At some point, the Church became a refuge from the world,
rather than a force for the world.
I think this is true, and the basic problem for the Church today (however you want to define Church: the Universal Church, Christians collectively, denominations, dioceses, local parishes).
Many Church communities have become full of comfortable consumers who are there for refuge from the world, rather than powerful contributors who want to change the world. The Church has lost much of its influence and ability to lead people in society not only because of institutional sins (shameful as they have been). As the Church retreats from the world into its comfortable and secure refuge it loses influence. Its not engaged, its not relevant, its not convincing to anyone about anything.
The world needs the Church, especially in its local, basic, neighborhood expression, where the boots hit the ground. The world needs the Church because the Church is the hope of the world.
Look at the Acts of the Apostles, the story of the gathering community of the Church in the days and weeks immediately following Easter Sunday. The Church that is described there wasn’t a building or a place, the Church wasn’t a monument or a museum, it was a movement. And in the the story of Acts we read how that movement gained momentum. amazing momentum. Just the title of the book gives us the basic insight. Its not the “Knowledge and theology of the Apostles” or the “Rules and laws of the Apostles” its their “Acts.” They did something, something happened.
Acts 5 describes how the Church was meeting out in public, a very dangerous situation. There were people who “would not dare join them” and there were “more and more men and women added to their number.” In other words, there were people too afraid of the danger and risk of the church, there were people who were offended that the church community was so different and unexpected, so challenging to the status quo. And then there were also people who were attracted for the same reason.
Same for us, if we’re going to be anything like the early Church described in Acts, if we’re going to insist on doing something more than serving the status quo, if we’re going to follow where God is asking us to go, we will offend people, we will anger some people. A lot of Church people, Pastors and Church staffs, don’t understand this and when it happens they are surprised and hurt (by the way, people will also be offended even if your Church is doing nothing at all, it just goes with working with the public). But, the Church will also grow and grow strong when we are following where God is asking us to go, when we are going where he is blessing (whatever the risk, regardless of the dangers).