In Acts 2:42–47, the Scripture provides a beautiful and compelling picture of Christian community. This snapshot of the early church offers a template for authentic community that churches should seek to follow. If we would build these traits into the relationships in our congregations, not only would we inspire passion among our people, but also God would honor and bless such powerful community.
1. Full Devotion to Christ and His Cause
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (v. 42)
Halfhearted, semi-devoted people rarely accomplish anything of value. Part of the character of a God-honoring community is full devotion and passion toward the things that matter most. People are uninspired by unworthy causes or by leaders who expect anything less than their very best to achieve mission. We should be a place that reflects full devotion to Christ, to each other and to the causes of Jesus.
2. Anticipation of God’s Supernatural Work
Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. (v. 43)
People want to be a part of something God-sized. In truth, God stands ready to work in and through a willing community who follows Him with faith and courage. Here in Acts 2, people prayed and expected God to answer. We should build a church that thinks about and prays to achieve that which can only be accomplished through God’s supernatural power– trusting Him to do it.
3. A Strong Commitment to One Another
All the believers were together and had everything in common. (v. 44)
A Christ-honoring community displays loyalty, dependability, mutual support, respect, and grace to one another. They are not just unified. They have a strong sense of the priority of unity. They make unity work. They know it takes effort. It means letting go of petty differences and self-centered agendas. It also results from the core culture of the church believing that what we are to one another is as important as what we’re doing together.
4. Generosity in Meeting Needs
They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. (v. 45)
In the course of achieving mission together, needs arise within individuals. People become disheartened. We experience distress. We incur personal hardships. We all have struggles. In biblical community, people are not blind to the needs of others, and they respond by seeking to assist, encourage, and generously meet needs. In biblical community, sincere care and concern takes place between members. And, when meeting needs demands generosity and sacrifice, the Christ-filled community steps up.
5. Laughter and Fellowship
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. (v. 46)
People in healthy Christian community enjoy downtime. They know they must give effort and hard work, but they also spend a measure of time in fellowship and relaxation. They eat together, laugh together, and pursue common interests outside of work or “ministry.” This provides levity to offset the sometimes-difficult work that people are doing, and it also allows them to get to know each other in a context beyond a ministry environment. This reaps the benefit of even greater unity and commitment.
6. A Sense of Shared Destiny from God
. . . praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (v. 47)
Along with the sense of awe that resulted from seeing God answer prayer, those in the first church saw evidence that God was doing something outside their requests or expectations. They saw that God was doing a work of His own and that they were connected to a power beyond them. This was a work that transcended their efforts and connected them to God’s eternal purpose. God was transforming the real lives of people through divine salvation and was bringing them into His church. I imagine that as they witnessed life after life, person after person coming to faith, this created a sense of shared destiny—a feeling that they were being swept along by the current of God’s Holy Spirit for some sovereign purpose and were joined by God himself to his eternal plan.
This final trait of community is one that cannot be manufactured by people. It is in fact a divine result of purpose, love and unity—in other words, a gift of grace. But be sure that, while we cannot produce this sense of shared destiny, we can certainly undermine it or even prevent it from arising. We do this partly by failing to seek to build the kind of authentic community God desires between his children. In truth, Christian community is the receptacle for God’s sovereign and supernatural work. God loves to fill His people with His presence and power when they are one in heart and purpose.