Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shepherding with the Word

And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. -Acts 2:40-42

Luke gives us one of the earliest records of the life in the early church that I think speaks toward the practice, structure, and ministry of it.  Evangelicals often talk of getting back to Acts, so let me continue to think about it some with you.

Holy Spirit just fell, Peter just preached, 3000 people just believed and were baptized, turning from their wickedness.  And so they bought some property outside of Jerusalem, abandoned the slums and poor, hired a staff, took out a loan from the lenders, began to build a building that would house their worship services and ministries, invented Sunday School, hymnals, budgets, and committees (because how else are they supposed to deal with, care for, and disciple 3000 members, right?).

Ok, so if that was not how it was done (and obviously, it was not), how'd they do it?  Luke gives us four ways in one verse.  Just one for today--the Word.  It says that they (the church) devoted themselves to the doctrine of the apostles.  These were teachings given by the apostles, obviously passed down through the church, and the church devoted, persisted, attached itself to.  They studied them and the Old Testament, and they did what it said. Jesus said a disciple is made when he is taught to obey all the things which I have taught you (Matt 28:20).

I have had discussions with several people in the last few weeks that made me wonder if we know what we believe and why.  A baptist pastor intend on teaching the biblical narrative as a whole over three years in Sunday School to adults and children; a Sunday School teacher who wasn't prepared for class, great lesson, but not sure he could take the material and put it into practice; another pastor who wants to equip his people to engage cults doctrinally and thus light a passion for evangelism in general; a former baptist turned Church of Christ then baptist again; and a baptist wrestling with Church of Christ doctrine and looming debate because of a pending engagement; a former baptist turned Church of God; a former baptist turned Catholic. Do we know what we believe and why? We are not in the Word.  We rely on others to spoon feed us. We are not willing to do the hard work of thinking.  Not only will it protect from error, but it will shepherd, and God and the early church new that.

The early church was shepherded by men who taught in homes sound doctrine, and by the way, this is listed first. The men were there with the OT and the apostolic teaching, but it was the Word that shepherded through the Spirit of God and the community of the people in the homes of the people (more to come on that later) that helped care for all 3000 new believers and make disciples. Needs were not even unmet until Acts 6:1 when the church approached 5000 believers, and even then only seven deacons were chosen to ensure needs were being met.  Why?  The church was being the church.  Why?  The Word was doing the shepherding.

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