Adventures in rubbernecking: The New Testament’s original community group.

Acts 2:42-47

“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” (NLT)

On Saturday, I asked about the successes and failures that we’ve experienced in church-sponsored community groups. You can see that conversation here (comments are now closed).

Now I’ve been chasing after the notion of community through the story of the Early Church and their perception of true community. I’m not one to romanticize them (they were just as messed up as we are), and I understand that some practices in the Bible are merely descriptive, not prescriptive for us today. But I think we would be hard pressed to find an ounce of Acts 2 that is foreign to our current church practices, since the results of Acts 2 birthed the church that we now populate! Take the above passage for example, and allow me to paint from it this picture,

Jesus just rose from the dead, and you can’t do much to contain the adrenaline rush surging through your body. You’re still fresh from grieving over the loss, yet now find your entire life revolving too fast to calculate. You desperately need to process this unusual set of circumstances, so you crash your friend’s house and compare stories well into midnight. Amid mouthfuls of food and wine, you can barely contain your excitement as a few of you recall some Old Testament suggestions that this would all unfold. Every few minutes a fresh, startling announcement causes you all to stop and pray—others break out in song. In another lively corner of the house are a few people who used to hate you, yet are now cordially gathered by the chips and salsa—one must blame the overwhelming effect your friend’s ascension is having on the neighborhood. Your entire block is abuzz. One thing you know; Jesus has risen, and you are in awe.

This is a great story of community—found in my own Bible—and it  has my whole modern-day structure in a snafu because what I know of community falls depressingly short of this.

I want to spend a few days looking at different elements of this passage to see how we might be able to weave our lives together with what the New Testament community lived out. But in the meantime…

What immediately stands out to you about this Pentecost-borne community group? Is it possible to replicate this now? Should we try?

About Lazo

Lazo is the pastor for preaching and vision at Reality SB. He is committed to spreading the value of our union with Christ in Santa Barbara, through the expository preaching of God's Word. You might like these blog posts, 5 Wrong Ways To Comfort Hurting People, or Daisy Love and the Magic Eraser. You can follow Chris on twitter at @LazoChris.

Posted on June 15, 2011, in Church, community and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Hey Chris! I just couldn’t keep silent on this! I find it ironic that you posted this. A few months ago, a book was recommended to me by a friend called, “Pagan Christianity.” That book touches on the subject you bring up. But while that book is a little more extreme than what you’re suggesting here (what you call community, they call church,) I thought it was worth mentioning. While I don’t completely agree with all that is written in the book, it brought great insight into the way we do things, and how some of the things we do should change because they are ineffectual or even non-biblical.
    I love today’s blog! It is confirmation that I am on the right path, and I believe that God wants the Church body to change things drastically before Jesus comes. I believe that our blueprint for how to do things is the BIBLE ITSELF. And yes, we should do things that way! What stands out to me is their PASSION for what Jesus did for them, and their one-on-one RELATIONSHIPS with people. Sitting down and eating with them and talking to them and LISTENING to them! That is basic communication and LOVE.
    Forget all of the bluster and high tech stuff, and just sit and eat and love and learn and speak your heart. ANyways, that’s my opinion. Love ya!

    • Shelle,
      Yes! I’ve read some of Frank Viola. You’re right, he has a more extreme view than I do about church, but as you said, he also has some challenging things to say, and makes me think deeper about traditional things. Thanks for your kind words, sis! And also for the insight into community—I’m glad you got some confirmation. If you’re into relationships, eating, and raw community, I’ll bet you would love this book I recently read, called, A Meal With Jesus, by Tim Chester. I wrote a review here:
      Love ya back!

  2. “One thing you know; Jesus has risen, and you are in awe.”

    I think this is the key to the whole thing. Instead of trying to create a community based on a preconceived notion of what it is supposed to look like, the early church naturally birthed community through the gathering together of people who had this one thing in common. They were gripped by the truth of the risen Lord and were in awe of Him. This commonality broke down walls and social barriers:

    “In another lively corner of the house are a few people who used to hate you, yet are now cordially gathered by the chips and salsa”

    Gospel community is organic, it’s Spirit inspired, it involves testimony, and it is founded on the experiential knowledge of one thing only; the risen Lord.

    • Brandon,
      I think you are on to something when you mentioned that they had one thing in common. When any tribe, club, group, gang, or community is driven by one purpose, it tends to bind them together in unity around that common purpose. But when we’re pulled in different directions by a bunch of scattered ideas (or worse, conflicting ones), there is no sense of unity or motivation. Businesses call this the hedgehog concept—Jesus called it his food (John 4:34).

      I admit, when I set out to start a community group, I often want to tackle EVERYTHING!

  3. Kaleb A. Riley

    Whenever I read this passage I always wonder:

    “what does it look like to be a community of believers who ‘ sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need?'”

    I think you have touched on many different ways that this can happen in that story. We share homes. We share food. We share our lives and open up. I would say that some of our possessions can simply be our own lives. We are not willing to share our lives with people, leaving a sense of pride and stubbornness that does not build community.

    I also see a group of Christ followers, who similar to the video of Soma groups, give more than just a home, such as a garden for the whole community. They share everything in common, not with just believers but those around them as well (chips and salsa).

  4. so good!

    I don’t have anything profound to add, just wanted to say I really enjoyed reading the thread.

    One small tid bit I love is that there’s no mention of what kind of people (race, religion, age, gender, social ranking) were meeting. It’s not necessarily the individuals but what the community as a whole is marked by that brings God glory and makes us stand in awe.

    • Bri, that’s a great point. Community groups have to be centered around some type of common purpose—often it is a life stage, people group, race, age, etc. But not in Acts 2….


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