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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Is Acts 2 Utopian?

One of the favorite passages from the book of Acts is the second chapter, specifically the last verses which describes what the church was.

So what was that early church like? Following the coming of the Holy Spirit, it says that people were amazed and filled with awe at all that was happening in through the followers of Jesus. It says that the believers were in harmony with each other, holding everything in common, even selling what they had so that "each person's need was met." Followers followed a daily discipline of prayer and worship. They came together for common meals and joy was the mark of the church.

Is that a description of the 21st century church? Your church? The church at its best? Have you experienced in this regard?

We'd all like to be a part of a church like Acts 2, but it's a utopia unless we are also living and doing what what those first followers were doing. Did you know that the word utopia means 'no place'? Acts 2 is a utopia unless we are living like those early followers. We all want to go to an Acts 2 church but without us there's no there there! It doesn't exist as an ideal place; it's a place that we're called to create. We need to make Acts 2 incarnational, in and through us. It will be less than perfect and less than fully Acts 2 but it needs to be our simple model of what it means to be church.

Acts 2 is a mirror to hold up to what we are as the church today. At our best, where do we demonstrate this palpable sense of God's presence through awe and wonder in our daily living? Where and how do we seek to live in harmony? Where and how are we willing to give for the good of all, much less even sell what we have to make sure that there is an elimination of poverty in our communities? Where have we become intentional as individuals as well as a congregations to follow a daily discipline of prayer, worship and study?

When you break it down--this description of a seemingly utopian community--there are practices that make an Acts 2 church; a real, flesh-and-blood community of faith in any place and time. So the question is: what are we as individuals--clergy and laity--willing to do and be willing to change in our lives to be an Acts 2 church?

Yes, I want to be a part of an Acts 2 church, but it doesn't just happen; it happens because the Spirit changes me to be an Acts 2 church. Where do we see this Acts 2 church lived out that gives us all inspiration to allow the Spirit to change us?

I look forward to your insights! WDYT?


Steven Manskar said...

Thanks for your reflections on Acts 2. Another way of thinking about the passage you highlight here (Acts 2:43-47) is that it provides five marks, or practices, of a missional church: proclamation, worship, teaching, service, and fellowship.

The Holy Spirit equips and empowers the people to participate in God's mission in the world when we practice and participate in these five essential practices.

Anonymous said...

It was just this year I noticed the parallelism between Luke 2 and Acts 2.
Luke 2, all the world should be enrolled. Acts 2, people from all nations are in Jerusalem.
Luke 2, the Son of God is sent as a part of the mission to bring salvation to the world. Acts 2, the Holy Spirit is sent as a part of the mission to bring salvation to the world.
Luke 2, going to the temple faithful people are carrying out the practices of faith. Acts 2, the faith practices encompass daily life in the home.
Joel Xavier, Trimont (sometime I'll figure out the Google account and lose that annonymous tag.)

Lausten North said...

Years ago, a friend encouraged me to meet with him and others on a regular basis. We took turns bringing food and readings or music from whatever sources we wanted. I have since moved away, but I think it is still going on.

It might not be a utopia where everyone is fed and all problems are solved, but it is a beautiful thing just the same.

Anonymous said...

Oh that we could all live like the Acts 2 Christians. But we have to live in the real world. I only know that since I pray regularly and do devotions and belong to small groups that uplift and challenge me I am a more contented person. I hope it shows in my behavior with other humanity. Let's strive for peace and harmony but let's not get critical on the journey. Each one has to take their own path to get where they are going. We can only attend to ours and set an example if we are role models for others. Thanks for letting me share.

Debra Jene Collum said...

The 2011 prayers for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity have been prepared by Palestinian Christians, who chose as a theme Acts 2:42, 'They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.'"

Prayers, background material and beautiful artwork can be found at or the World Council of Churches website.

Gary Korsgaden said...

Gary Korsgaden comments: The Sunday worship experience is a soul recharge then as I progress through the week daily meditation of the scriptures keeps the spirit strong in my heart to help me face
the every day challenges of life. Striving to be a "out of the box thinker" can at times be extremely scary in today's world. But I feel so strongly, that God calls us to be focused on the bigger picture reaching out to others and accepting the change necessary to be an effective 21st century church.

Debra Jene Collum said...

Here are some thoughts about what it means to be the church that I gleaned from a UCC devotional site. These thoughts helped me in thinking about the different people who sit in my pews, attend meetings and populate my ministry.

Excerpt from Acts 1:1-5

“In the first book…I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles…”

Reflection by Quinn G. Caldwell

At some point, Disciples turn into Apostles.

In today’s passage, Jesus evolves the Disciples into Apostles, readying them to be sent out with a message (see that word “post” in “apostle”? Just like the mail!). I for one am glad they let it happen; if they had chosen not to change, Christianity would have died when they did.

What stage of Christian evolution are you in? Do you go to church, try to live a good life, and leave it at that? Or do you talk with other people about it as well?

For the sake of everyone else in the break room who doesn’t know how sweet faith can be, isn’t it time to stand up to that loud atheist/fundamentalist/whatever at work?

Or do what one member of my church does: she periodically sets her Facebook status to something like, “Can’t wait for church tomorrow! Anybody want to go with and then get brunch after?” You’d be surprised how many take her up on it. Or you could just be sure your FB profile lists your religion and a link to your church. Or you could write a letter to the editor—explicitly as a Christian—on an issue of the day. Or…well, you get the point: be creative.

Do you think Christianity—or your flavor of it—matters enough to be kept alive, or are you happy to let it die with you? If the latter, then enjoy your discipleship. If the former, it’s time to evolve.


God, grant me the Holy Spirit so that I might be strong for the sharing of your Word. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Does "idealism" have "no place" in ministry?
Ideals and utopia seem to be at the heart of the call in Christian Ministry. Aren't we called to help create a future and a reality that currently doesn't exist? If we're "idealistic" or "utopian" we're not satisfied with what is. And, therefore, we work to help God create what God is working to perfect through us.
Glen Holland