What would it look like...

Kari and I had a good weekend at Pine Cove as a part of a leadership retreat for a church in Palestine, TX. The primary speaker for the weekend was Gary Brandenburg, pastor of Fellowship Bible Church Dallas, whom I've mentioned before.

He spoke primarily from Acts 2 this weekend, about the activity of the early church, and did a tremendous job.

As you're probably aware, Acts 2:42 says the early church gathered in homes and "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." They shared everything in common with each other, and the passage records that "the Lord added to their number daily those who are being saved."

Many pastors I know point to these activities and say that they are the secret of church growth. If churches will study the Bible, fellowship together, and break bread together, they say, the church will grow.

The problem is, it doesn't work.

I know a lot of dying churches today that are committed to "teaching the Bible." I know a lot of churches today that could be characterized as "fellowshipping" churches - holy huddles of people who ought to just close their doors. And I know of a lot of churches that break bread together, but won't be able to pay the bills in five years.

Acts 2:42 isn't just a checklist of behaviors that cause churches to grow... even spiritually. There is more to this passage than a list of behaviors. Acts 2 records a general climate that the early church cultivated with the outside world. Verse 47 says the church "enjoyed the favor of all the people."

And yet they were different.

The church didn't become the culture. It didn't bow to the culture, but it attracted the culture. There was something about those people.

The church in America certainly doesn't "enjoy the favor of all the people." Why not? Perhaps because we've lost the identity of what makes us unique - and it isn't found in our list of rules. For too long the church has taken a negative view of what sets us apart: we don't drink, smoke, or chew, or run with girls who do.

But you can't define who you are by simply defining what you're against.

The Church has the greatest message in the world, but the world can't get past us to hear the message. That's a problem.

I'm not arguing for a loosey-goosey type of church, or a church that is soft on morality. But what would it look like to find a church that was agressive in showing the world what we are for before we gave them a the list of things we're against? What would it look like to find a church that lived out grace, as the church in Acts 2 did? What would it look like to find a church who modeled selfless sacrifice for others, as the church in Acts 2 did? What would it look like to be a church that had such a selfless passion for the good news that we proclaimed it as good news rather than something else?

What would that kind of church look like? If you find that church, let me know, because I want to be their pastor.