THE DEVOTED CHURCH

What does the devoted church look like? You’ll probably want to begin with the Book of Acts.

Luke said, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers … And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42,46-47).

Too many churches today don’t look anything like the church in the Book of Acts. You’d be surprised how many don’t even want to.

Why is it the contemporary church looks so different from the first century church? The contemporary church has proven we can draw crowds. What we haven’t proven is if we can consistently produce dynamic disciples who resemble those faithful followers of the first century church and have the impact they had.

The first church was filled with disciples who were willing to die for their faith. Today, too many churches cater to the crowd with sugar-coated everything, creating cotton candy Christians who would die if they were asked to serve, sacrifice or, God forbid, tithe.

We’ve unintentionally created a culture of consumers who’ve come to believe church is all about them, their preferences, their comfort, their convenience and when we don’t hit their target they complain, criticize or cut out for another church that will be “all about them, their preferences, their comfort, their” … well, you get the idea.

Serving, sacrifice and submission to spiritual authority are considered outdated and outrageous even to suggest. Share your faith? “Why? I’ll just text them someone’s podcast, blog or website.” Recommend they spend time in the Word every morning and have a quiet time? “Nah, I’ll just post the ‘verse of the day’ on my Facebook page. By the way, did you see I got more than 50 ‘likes?’”

What about having a personal prayer life? “That’s so yesterday. I just scroll through all my friends on social media and click the praying hands icon. People really appreciate that, you know.”

We need to reverse the process like JESUS did. He told people the cost right up front (See: Luke 9:57-62). The old saying is true, “What you win them with, you win them to.” We can hand out all the Krispy Kreme Doughnuts we want, and they are very good and very popular. Just know that’s not what you do if you’re trying to produce Olympic champions.

We need to “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 2:1-4), not just the fun and feel good stuff. Paul told the Ephesian elders, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27).

We need to raise the standard and demand nothing less than full surrender. Like JESUS did and still does (Luke 9:23).

In short, we need to be devoted to Him and to His Church. Not just one hour on one day of the week, but sold out and surrendered to Him 24/7. We ought to spend time with Him every day in His Word and in prayer. Preferably in the morning as we begin the day looking forward. Not at the end of the day looking back. We ought to give Him every day and live for Him in every way we can. We ought to be in a small group where we do and share life with other Christians who are doing their best to devote themselves to putting JESUS first.

We ought to look forward to every opportunity to worship as the highlight of our week and come pumped up, prayed up and prepared to give more than we receive. Coming early and encouraging everyone we can as we walk in and take our place, leading, loving and serving by example, so anyone who sees us will know, “This is really important to them.” Always being willing to listen to someone’s need, pray for someone’s hurt or celebrate someone’s blessing.

We never give just to help the church meet and exceed its budget. But we should give so generously the budget is met and exceeded every week so there are more than enough resources to fund every dream and vision God gives us.

Every time we leave the church we ought to resemble a winning football team boarding a bus to go play an out-of-town game. Knowing wherever we go we’re going to give it all we’ve got, do our job and support the rest of the team so we can win. In fact, it ought to resemble Acts 5:42, “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.”

Honestly, if someone wants to know what a devoted church looks like, they really shouldn’t have to look back at the first century church in the Book of Acts. All they should need to do is look at you and me.

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