COLUMN: Their numbers were being added to daily

Published 6:00 am Sunday, June 18, 2023

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How do you capture the beginning and the progression of a movement? How do you measure its possibilities? In her article on this part of the book of Acts, commentary writer Susan Johnson used the American Revolution, and our twentieth-century Civil Rights movement, as examples. For that matter our denominational affiliate, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, began similarly. 

Where did these movements truly begin? Does any one person know and do any two people agree? What exactly came together to explain how they happened? Could that effort be recaptured and tried again somewhere else to the same results?

Another valid question about movements might be to ask, “Has any of the above examples truly ended?” Movements have a degree of explainability, but they also defy complete explanation.

Our text today in Acts 2: 42-47 talks about another movement, this time in the New Testament. It began, in some ways, at Pentecost. Or did it? The early Church was the result, but just as much, the movement has spun itself off and manifested in so many ways. 

There’s not one magic answer for why God blessed the New Testament church. There’s no obvious one thing we could try to do in our churches of today that would coerce God into opening up the windows of heaven and pouring out a blessing so large that we could not receive it.

No incantation is found within this text that we can all learn to say. One that will somehow “divine” God’s blessing upon us. Some of us may think we have the solution that will fill the place up again. Or the foolproof idea that would bring a younger demographic our way.

We search this scripture to see what happened in the first century because obviously something mighty did happen. Reality is, there is no sure bet. Here is the even trickier news I’ve been delivering now for decades. That if you did have a sure bet, that strategy or gimmick might not be something you would be happy enough with to stick around.

The fact that Acts chapter two doesn’t have any one sure answer is not the part that scares me. That’s not it at all. What keeps me awake some nights is this, I genuinely wonder if all of us in our churches would be willing to come back to life a little bit if we truly want God to do something new among us?

The scary thing is that some of us approach church in a casual way that suggests that we are interested, but only from a distance. Would members who voice concern about their church actually plug back in and do some of the healthy things that might give the Holy Spirit something more to work with here?

In Acts 2, it could appear that there were in fact five answers or efforts they were investing in. They’re depicted right in this week’s scripture. On the surface of it, though, they’re not going to sound like much that’s new.

So, here we go with the five things. The early church of Acts 2 was engaging regularly in fellowship. They were active and committed to gathering every Sabbath for worship. They showed up and submitted themselves for discipleship or teaching. They involved themselves in mission causes and benevolence. Finally, they effectively engaged in evangelism by being the best church they possibly could be.

This early church had the goodwill of all the people. They didn’t necessarily have to talk a good game because it was so obvious they were actually in the game. They looked after each other and saw beyond themselves.

Yes, the Holy Spirit came to rest upon them. It stirred them. But the faithful people of our story were engaging in a way of life so compelling, other people around them wanted in on it. Churches who do that will have others become interested in them. 

No, none of this is about worship style or particular music. Because if everyone wanted to be a part of one style of church then there would only be one church. Variety will remain important for as long as there is a church. Fads come and they go.

This is about the Holy Spirit blessing and guiding good people. This is about people doing their part and not waiting on God or their pastors to work a heroic miracle. This is about the people wanting a church as badly as God does. Will the church of today give God something powerful to work with?

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.