The years of the early church were a time of extreme growth, but also internal resistance. Believers met in homes, modelling community in a pure and powerful way. But Christians become settled and comfortable. The disruption of the early church came in the form of persecution, forcing believers out of the temple courts and out onto the Roman roads to other nations.
Today, lockdown has forced us out of church venues and into our neighbourhoods and the digital space. Instead we can invite neighbours in and 'enjoy the favour of all the people' as they see the Kingdom of God expressed through radical relationships, generosity and the power of God within our community.
Daily Bible Reading Notes
These notes were written by Helen Morris, who is a good friend of Open Heaven and was part of the family for many years. Helen is the BA course leader at Moorlands College, has completed her doctoral studies in the area of contemporary ecclesiology and is a fantastic Bible teacher.
On Sunday we celebrated Pentecost; the day Jesus' followers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in different tongues. However, the Holy Spirit didn't just come that day. It continues to dwell among us, and fill those who believe and receive Him. The Holy Spirit opens up new possibilities and has the power to change the patterns of our life, even in 2020. In this talk Rich unpacks four areas in which the Holy Spirit can do this transformational work, and invites you to receive the Holy Spirit today.
Our mission statement as a church is to 'make disciples who establish heaven on earth'. Through this teaching series we are learning about the ways in which the early church did this. In Acts 1:8 we find out the power of the Holy Spirit enabled the early followers to be witnesses of Jesus Christ. Yet it was the persecution of the church, scattering them far and wide, which led them to be 'witnesses to the end of the earth'. The gift of the Holy Spirit combined with the practical limitations of the day forced them to fulfil their mission. However the mission is not over. The baton has simply been handed on to us. We have the same gift of the Holy Spirit and have now been scattered in much the same way. Perhaps this is a moment of acceleration for our mission.
Resurrection is a persistent and predominant theme running throughout the Book of Acts. It’s inescapable. The apostles come back time and time again to the resurrection of Jesus. It’s as if it is the most prominent thing on their mind. In this passage Peter explains the coming of the Holy Spirit through the resurrection of Jesus, retelling His story in the process. Imagine you had been there, living and following Jesus, witnessing his incredible life and ministry, weeping with the other believers over his death when suddenly he is once again alive. Of course you would tell and retell that story over and over again.
The realities of living in community are often a little messy. Bringing together various personality types and opinions into one group doesn't come without its challenges. Yet this is the kind of group Jesus chose to spend His time with. He intentionally brought together 12 disciples with different backgrounds and over time He reformed and reordered their ideas by giving them a Kingdom perspective. There is a gap between the messy reality and the ideal of community, and discipleship happens in the middle. Are you prepared to open yourself up to discipleship today?
For the early church community wasn't just about attending the same event every week. Being in community meant being in each other's lives throughout the week, sharing thoughts and possessions, being available and accessible, and supporting one another practically and in prayer. However, this model is not meant to be exclusive. As churches met in homes, others were invited in to experience the warmth and generosity of community. Multiplication was the goal, and still is today.