The Church in Action
David has a joke book that he used to keep in the van. When we would be riding somewhere, he’d pick it up and start reading it out loud. One of the jokes asked, “What is the sharpest tool in the Bible?” The answer? “The axe of the apostles.”
Have you ever thought about how much we learn about the church from the Acts of the Apostles? It is the record of the disciples taking the gospel into the uttermost parts of the world. Along the way, they established churches in the cities. We read how they “appointed elders for them in every church” (Acts 14:23) and that “on the first day of the week, the disciples gathered together to break bread” (Acts 20:7).
But this same book also reveals a people whose work in the kingdom was not restricted to the days where they came together to worship. The church in Acts was a church in action. And it remains a model for every church of every generation. Like the church we read about in Acts, we must be a church in action.
The church in action practices daily discipleship. “And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:46-47). After 3,000 were baptized on the day of Pentecost, they continued “day by day.” “Day by day” they were encouraged. “Day by day” they practiced their discipleship.
Action leads to repetition. As a preacher, I hear the comments all the time that “preachers only work one or two days a week.” But for some Christians, that appears to be the case. Jesus demands that every disciple “deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). That takes more than Sunday and Wednesday religion.
The church in action gives all to any member. “For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need” (Acts 4:34-35). Notice the words “all” and “any.” They did not do so for “some” and a “few.” There were no distinctions. If they were part of the family and needed something, they were taken care of.
Every member ought to be worthy of whatever you have to give. We would do that for Jesus. Let us practice that same level of service to our brothers and sisters, “even the least of them” (Matthew 25:40). When you do that, you give to Him who gave all.
The church in action surrounds in times of distress. The church is not immune to tragedy and difficult circumstances. But we are armed with one another to hold together. When Peter went to Joppa after hearing of the death of Dorcas, a disciple there, he found all the widows weeping, “showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them” (Acts 9:39). While the world retreats, the church in action surrounds.
How could we ever make it through some difficulty without the help of one another? We are charged to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). That means we see what needs there are and try to fulfill them to the best of our ability. If it takes just being there and holding their hand. If it takes writing a card and saying, “I understand.” If it takes remembering not just the day of but in the weeks and months to follow. We have the arm of the Lord. And we have the embrace of His people to surround us.
The church in action prays and stays together. In Acts 12, Herod “had James the brother of John put to death with a sword” (12:2). While James was not the first martyr for the cause, he was the first of the apostles to be killed. And he was a close friend of Jesus. That could have easily caused the early disciples to abandon the cause altogether. Instead, when they heard that Peter, too, had been imprisoned, “prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (12:5). The word “fervent” can also be translated “continuous” or “earnest.” They continued to rely upon Him who had overcome death.
What will be our next response to tribulation? If the “fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16), can you imagine what the prayers of people who pray together can do? No matter the difficulty, we must show our dependence on our Father who hears and cares for us. Such will give us the strength we need to stay and fight together.
What was the result of the church in action? “The word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied” (12:24). When we follow this same pattern, growth is the inevitable reaction.