It's been a little while since I've actually had time to write something over here ... School, work, family. Sometime these worlds collide and something has to come off the list! I'm in the midst of prep for finals, final paper writing, all of these things to wrap up my first year of MDiv studies. It's been a good year, but there've been quite a few hurdles to overcome in terms of making it all work together and be in full-time ministry.
We're in the midst of our preaching series on Acts right now, where we'll be until Pentecost Sunday. This Sunday's reading comes right after Peter's Pentecost sermon, Peter preaching for conversion of the multitudes in Jerusalem to the Good News of Jesus Christ. 3,000 would be baptized into the new faith, knowing that their lives would need to be completely different in light of their profession. That they would be the first church, the first community of believers.
What were their membership vows? It wasn't really written down in that way. No specific talk of prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. But all of those things do happen. Our reading for this week, comes at the end of Acts 2:
The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. All the believers were united and shared everything. They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved. [CEB]
They were devoted to Jesus, devoted to one another. They at together, shared so that everyone had enough. They praised God, they prayed. And the Lord went to work with them, bringing new people into this fold of radicals daily.
It just strikes me that numbers weren't their focus. A holy life of praise, prayer, and community was. And in living that way, numbers came.
When the Methodist movement got off the ground, there was a desire to be known as a People of the Holy Spirit. People that would listen to God's call and then go a do. To go forward with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit into the world in love. Numbers weren't the specific focus, but numbers came. Numbers that spanned continents, and still do.
But, it would seem that the focus has shifted. There's less focus on a holy life, and more on the numbers. People want to talk about biblical faithfulness and what that looks like all day. I wonder, however, if the church looked back to the model of the original church as spelled out in the Book of Acts, I wonder what would happen? If all people just ended up in the same pot together.
I'm just riffing here. I save outlines and bullet points for sermons and papers. But I go to classes that feel like small groups, and I attend small group studies that feel like sermons. Because numbers aren't the focus, finding our faithfulness to God's call to the community is. It's not something that can be set apart in the busyness ... It's a constant pursuit.