Those last verses, beginning at 42, and going through the end of the chapter, provide me with some of my best teaching material. The writer, Luke, describes the community of Christians that developed in Jerusalem prior to the persecution that eventually scattered them. But in the days before that happened, in the wake of Jesus’ resurrection and the arrival of the promised Holy Spirit, the church began to function as the body of Christ he intended for it to be. And it worked.
If you’re thinking about those Walgreens commercials that start of by showing what a perfect world might look like, and then convince you to shop in their stores because the world isn’t perfect, that’s not really the idea behind the church. Actually, it’s not a perfect world, and there are things which happen in people’s lives that the Christian community of the church is equipped and designed to handle. From the newest, least mature Christians up to those who have followed Jesus for years, the church is a community with specific functions and purposes that, when it works like it is intended, blesses its members and helps them get through the situations that present themselves.
I’ve experienced that on many occasions. In fact, I can look at personal circumstances and see when I’ve needed the strength and community of the church. At those times when I know I haven’t lived up to the faith I proclaim, it is usually because I’ve let some distance come between me and the community of faith. When you’re part of the church, and you are depending on those relationships for your spiritual growth and strength, it involves a whole lot more than just warming a spot on a pew each Sunday. “Sit and listen” isn’t the posture of an active faith. Church isn’t something you “attend” and it is not an event to which you go. It is a community of faith, and there is an active, dynamic spirit involved which changes lives. When I need to be drawn back to Christ, and the Holy Spirit needs to work in my life, that happens when the church functions the way it is designed to function, both for me and for the rest of its members.
That’s why it is important for churches to remain true to their mission and purpose, and the only way to do that is to operate according to the scriptures, and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit as the entire congregation discerns it. If you’re just sitting and listening, it’s not enough.