All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity — all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. (NLT)
These first gatherings of what we now call “church” would have been pretty intoxicating. Signs and wonders occurred. Material needs were taken care of. They were not seen as weirdos or hypocritical finger pointers but were viewed favourable by those outside their number. And besides, lots of people got converted so there was a constant freshening going on in their fellowship and much evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, what went wrong? While there are many churches throughout the two thirds world that may be enjoying such experiences, the overall picture is not universally encouraging. We have the same gospel and the same Holy Spirit. We have at least in some place’s great leaders, sophisticated technology, and enviable facilities. So why aren’t people being added to our fellowship daily?
The answer given can be that this is in fact happening in some places. Agreed, but in lots of places it isn’t happening. Another response is that we are not doing things as well as they did: no signs and wonders, little or no communal sharing. Our communal life is not any sort of distinctive witness to the community at large. Some truth in that.
Then again, some argue that God gave the first church a sort of “jet propulsion” of the Holy Spirit to get them off the launch pad. That is a bit dubious: why would a God who wants all to be saved withdraw or dilute his power after such a dynamic start? It is not as if he gives us an initial push then leaves us on our own.
Worthwhile issue to be pondering. But beware of jumping to quick conclusions. The easy answer may be wrong answer!