Acts 2: 43 says it: "Everyone was filled with awe". Awe of what, you might ask? I would guess they were in awe of what all was going on around them regarding this new group of Christ's followers..........you know, the church folks.
Yeah I know, some of the awe was motivated by the miracles that were taking place. But that wasn't the only reason. These new converts were down-sizing and giving "to anyone as he had need". It doesn't take a miracle to do that, but it for sure takes some faith. They also got together and praised God EVERY DAY (but we choose to use Acts 20:7......how convenient of us) . And they were impacting their community, because it says in verse 47 "and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved". It doesn't take a rocket scientist or someone like George Barna who does research on church growth for us to see that our churches today aren't exactly "adding to their number daily". Shoot, we aren't adding YEARLY! At least here in the States we aren't. I know that on some foreign mission fields they are, and may God continue to bless the work of missionaries, and I hope they continue to introduce the Gospel to lost souls all over the world. But let's get back to us.
Why aren't we impacting our communities? Why aren't we reaching lost, hurting, pitiful people? I agree with Dave Stone, who said that if we want to be an Acts 2 church, we better be willing to be Acts 1 people of prayer. Acts 1:14 says "they all joined together CONSTANTLY in prayer". Sadly, we aren't known for being praying people. We aren't the ones with kneeling benches in our churches. We used to have what we called "prayer meetings", but I think we did more preaching and discussing and singing than we did actually praying. Going back to chapter 2, when Luke is describing these new Christians, one of the things he says they were devoted to in verse 42 is prayer. So I would gladly agree with Dave.......we need to be praying people. As Rick Atchley asked, what are we praying for that is SO BIG that ONLY GOD CAN DO IT?
There are probably other factors also, but I want to mention one possibility as far as explaning why our communities are not in "awe" of us. To me, it's the big white elephant in the middle of the room nobody wants to address. So here goes. Could it be that these believers were trying to emulate Christ, instead of trying to restore something? Besides prayer, look at the other things Luke says they were devoted to........"the apostles teaching, fellowship, and breaking of bread". Is that what we have a passion about? Are we DEVOTED to those things? Maybe so. But is that the ONLY things we are devoted to? I think we have spent a ton of devotion in trying to "restore the first century church". As one of our Harding board members, Jerry Morgan, asked a few months ago in a powerful sermon, "where did we get the idea we are called to restore the church"? Can you find that verse for us? Try walking down the street looking backward as you walk. What kind of vision would that produce if you walked that way for very long? Besides, if the church needs restoring, don't you have enough faith to believe God can handle that task? Does that mean we don't need to stop and recalibrate from time to time? Of course we do......and I am thankful for men like Martin Luther, Barton Stone, Alexander Campbell and others who called us to look at ourselves and see if we were being the people God called us to be. They were men of vision, seeing where we were headed if we continued down the path we were on. But a machine that spends all of it's time and energy on recalibrating will never produce anything!
Isaiah said it well when he said "remember not the former things". He said that in reference to what the children of Israel had done........and by the way, he was talking about the GOOD things in Israel's past! He was telling them to look ahead instead of looking backwards. He does encourage them to "remember the former things" in other parts of his writings, but those former things have to do with what GOD had done.
So here is my suggestion. If we want to impact our communities, to the point that they are in awe of what God is doing, we might want to consider focusing on being Christ-like as a higher priority than restoring the New Testament church. But do you see the irony in that statement? If we were about the business of being Jesus to everybody in our community, we WOULD BE THE FIRST CENTURY CHURCH!! :) Instead of focusing on the early church, I want to focus on what THEY were focusing on.........Jesus Christ. Anyway, isn't that what we are called to do in Scripture? I can't find any passages directing us to restore some earlier church. I long for the day when we are known for being a church that is like Christ, instead of being known for being part of a "restoration movement".
If our time, energy, resources, and wisdom are spent on the goal of restoring the PRACTICES of the worship service of the first century church, we will never convert the world to Christ. Looking back won't get it done. Living the way of the cross will. And it's love will bring out the "AWE" in our communities.
I end with the way I started, by asking a question............when is the last time your community was in awe of your church?