What does the church do?

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

(Acts 2:42 NIV)

In the last post, we considered what the mission of our church is. Based on Matthew 28:19-20 our mission can be summarized as: Making disciples of Jesus in Rochdale. But what do we actually do?

As we saw last time, the power of the church is the power of Jesus and in the book of Acts this is explicit in the giving of the Spirit to the Christians for the mission (Acts 1:8). However, it’s not a mission completed by a set of lone-ranger Christians. The point is that it is communal. It is the mission for the church.

One of the things that becomes very evident in the book of Acts is that Christians meet together in churches and churches carry out the mission. In Acts 2:42 we read of four key things that the Christians met to do. This wasn’t a take it or leave it thing for them. They “devoted themselves” to these things!

1. Teaching

Teaching is the bedrock of the whole thing. If we are to be disciples then we need to be taught to obey everything Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:19). At the start, this was the apostles teaching them the message of Jesus and how it related to the Old Testament. For us, we access this apostolic teaching in the Bible, i.e. we listen to God as we listen to the Bible and teachers help us to understand and apply that word.

We have a record of what Jesus taught and what he wanted the apostles to teach in the New Testament. We know that both Jesus and the apostles rested that teaching on the Old Testament. So we can say with Paul:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness

(2 Timothy 3:16 NIV)

Disciples need to know what to believe and how that affect show they live.

This teaching isn’t just for building up disciples, but it is also training and equipping for reaching out to make more disciples. We see that those equipped with ministry based on Scripture, including evangelists, are to equip the whole church for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). It is this teaching that will helps know how to speak the gospel to others and be ready with an answer to questions unbelievers ask us (Colossians 4:6; 1 Peter 3:15)

Every week at REC, on Sundays and at our mid-week growth group we’re committed to looking a the Bible together as we look to understand the gospel more deeply and be equipped to live it out and share it more faithfully.

2. Fellowship

Fellowship here seem to speak of a shared life of love and care for one another in the church. Luke describes this relationship in an amazing way a little later in Acts:

All the believers were one in heart and mind.

(Acts 4:32a NIV)

In Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:32 we read of how the early Christians used their resources to help each other, so that no-one in the church was in need, which is an expression of that relationship. We see that pattern throughout Scripture. The church is to be a united team who work together and care for each other. So much so, that the world will see we are different. As Jesus taught his disciples:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

(John 13:34-35 NIV)

At REC we want to be a church that is committed to each other

3. Meals

There is a little bit of debate about what “the breaking of bread” means in Acts 2:42. It seems likely to refer to community meals – the church community ate together – but also possibly points to the sharing of the community meal that Jesus instituted (the Lord’s Supper – see e.g. Luke 22:19-20) to remind us of his death for our sins. The New Testament certainly encourages us to do both.

So at REC we deepen our fellowship both by sharing meals together from time-to-time and we regularly share the Lord’s Supper together, so we can remind each other of the truth of the gospel and encourage each other.

4. Prayer

As Christians we should be devoted to prayer. Jesus taught his disciples to pray (e.g. Luke 11:1-13). Throughout the New Testament, when Christians meet, they pray (e.g. Acts 4:23-31; Acts 12:5, 12). Prayer expresses our dependence on God and allows us to speak our praise and thanks to to him (we might do this in song as well as using songs to encourage each other as well, e.g. Ephesians 5:19-20).

At REC we give time on Sundays and midweek to pray together. We share things we’d like others to pray for. We commit to pray ourselves for one another and we try to pray four our witness and outreach to those around us who don’t know Jesus (Paul ask specifically for this kind of prayer in Colossians 4:3-4 and we know we need it too!).

Each of these four things resources the church. They help us to be disciples making disciples together. We’re in this together and so we do these things together.