If you are around Mercy Hill for any period of time you're going to hear me say, "We're not interested in building a church, we're interested in being the church." That phrase to many might seem like a simple tag line or platitude but from our perspective it is not, this for me is a governing value. See, I have been around the American church enough to know that when we get fixated on "building the church", (usually this refers to more people, more money and a bigger building) we lose sight of the very purpose of church. This is why I think we need to turn our focus to "being" the church. So the big question is what does it mean to BE the church?
Fortunately for us I believe the bible provides the big answer to this big question. When we look at the inception of the church as described in Acts 2 we see a beautiful picture of the primary elements that make up a properly functioning church:
42And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.46And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
When you look at this passage there are five essential elements that provide a pretty good test for whether we are being the church:
1. Devotion to sound doctrinal teaching. (v. 42a)
2. Deep communal fellowship (v. 42b, v. 46)
3. Generous giving and benelovance (v. 44, v. 45, v. 46b)
4. Powerful devotional experience (v.42c, v. 43, v. 47a)
5. Growth through evanglism (v. 47b)
When each of these elements are in proper balance and evidenced in the church we begin to operate powerfully as the church was meant to function. Unfortunately, we often time become focused on one or two of the elements at the detriment of the others and returning back to balance will allow us to BE the church.
Over the next couple of weeks I am going to go through these elements to give us a better understanding of how this should be playing out in the local community.