Or so the saying goes.
Sure would be tempting, though.
Seems everyone I know has an “imperfect church” story — and that’s putting it gently. Some pastors and leaders have felt abused and unappreciated, either by church members or others further up the hierarchy. Church members in turn complain of pastoral abuses of power and authority, as well as the hypocrisy, rudeness, and just plain cluelessness of their supposedly loving brothers and sisters.
Then, against that sullied background, we read this:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47, NRSV)
I’ve heard this description referred to in glowing terms as “the Acts 2 church,” an example of the deepest kind of fellowship and unity, made possible only by the Spirit of God. Compared to what we’ve experienced, it may sound idyllic; we wonder if it’s actually possible that such a church might still exist.
Where did we lose our way? And how long did the Acts 2 church last?
I’d say about three chapters. More or less. By the time we get to Acts 5 and 6, we’ve got problems already. That, however, is another story for another time.
I’m not saying that the so-called Acts 2 church was a short-term, one-shot deal, impossible in today’s world. But we need to get our focus in the right place. As I suggested in the previous post, the early believers knew themselves to be wrapped up in something miraculous, transcendent, and new. It changed everything about how they looked at the world and each other. Me gave way to us. Mine gave way to ours.
They didn’t have a church building to worry about. They met together every day in the temple courts, possibly in the covered area known as Solomon’s Portico or Colonnade (as suggested by chapter 3). They ate together in each other’s homes. Note that this fact alone suggests that they didn’t sell everything — they simply sold what they needed to sell in order to meet each other’s needs.
And why? Because they had become family to one another, under one Father, with Jesus as the firstborn Son.
Let’s be honest. Even if we were to find an Acts 2 church, would we be ready to let mine become ours? That’s part of the problem we’ll see when we get to Acts 5. The gladness and sincerity which fueled the generosity of the early believers can’t be manufactured. It comes from a transformed imagination, from the freedom of spirit that comes from knowing oneself to be fully in the grip of grace and adopted into the family of a loving God.
And it’s that kind of glad worship and generosity that makes people on the outside want to check out what’s going on inside.
Many people have gone looking for their dream church and found themselves in the middle of a nightmare. So forget looking for the perfect church. We already serve a perfect God of perfect love and grace.
We just need to help each other grasp, celebrate, and embody that truth.