The Future Face of the North American Church, part two

Posted: March 4, 2010 in On Being Apostolic
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Simplicity.

That’s the first thing I notice about the primitive church in Acts, and I marvel at it.  I marvel at their simplicity of experience, simplicity of presentation, simplicity of operation, and the simplicity of their structure.  It’s so diametrically opposite the complexity of the church in her present state.  In all the ways that the early church was simple, we’re complex…and we revel in that complexity, as if it spoke to sophistication and advancement.

The original apostolic/Pentecostal experience is a model of spiritual simplicity.  “And when the day of Pentecost as fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and if filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Remarkable!  They were all baptized with the Spirit with little of the accoutrements that we usually consider necessary to such a demonstration.  No large meeting…just 120 people.  No megachurch or convention centre…just an upper room.  No marathon preaching, no emotionally fraught singing…just mostly prayer.  No plea, no invitation, no altar call…just sitting there, being filled with the Holy Spirit.

And it never seems to get much more complex than that throughout the rest of Acts.  People gathered, people prayed, people received.

Their presentation of the Gospel was equally as simple.  At Pentecost, Peter stood and preached briefly, explaining what those gathered were witnessing, acknowledging the knowledge and experience of his audience.  He talked about Jesus in the context of his listeners knowledge.  When they were convicted and asked what to do, he told them with simplicity.

From what’s written in Acts 2, the entire message couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes.

Imagine that.

Their operation was simple.  They met needs where they found them, and many believed the Gospel because of it.  They prayed for the sick, and they were healed.  Miracles were done by their hands, and all in everyday venues.  They sold personal possessions in order to minister to the very real needs of their brothers and sisters.  They gathered daily, ate together, received teaching, and prayed.

And their structure was simple.  The apostles taught, and the word spread.  Since signs and wonders were done by their hands there wasn’t much question as to who was in charge.  They only expanded the structure when the apostles’ focus was being taken from the ministry of the Word.  Then, they brought on a few guys whose entire role was practical service.

It’s all too simple…too simple by far.  But simplicity is perfect, and it works…especially when you’ve no other motive than to spread the message of Jesus and to truly serve others.  There were no buildings to maintain, no programs to develop and feed, no six-figure salaries to pay to the top clergyman…all of which immediately thrust a most non-apostolic complexity upon us.

“But the times demand this complexity,” many insist.  Do they?  I doubt it.  The times don’t demand complexity at all.  If anything, the times are crying out for the manifestation of a truly apostolic life.  I can tell you who demands all of our complexity, all of our stuff, all of our business with things that have nothing to do with our calling; we do.

That’s right, we do.  You see, true apostolic simplicity is only possible when there is actual power manifested.  Most of what we do would prove to be utterly unnecessary if we actually manifested the power of God.  But we don’t.  We substitute hype, energy, and charisma for power.  As well, if we were actually concerned about the needs of our brothers and sisters enough to help in real ways…well…you can imagine the difference that would make.  Remember that the early church’s first foray into structural development was centred around this very thing.

And please, don’t start spouting your conservative political/economic nonsense about “hand up not a hand out”.  I wonder how so many believers ever confused right wing populism with apostolicity?  It puzzles me.

A restoration of simplicity; that’s part of the real future of the North American apostolic movement.  It’s happening now in some places, among some ministries.  And it’s going to spread.  While the current-model “apostolic” church will never truly embrace it because of their vested interest in the status quo, some will.  Some are.  And it will quietly grow in strength until it is the face of the true apostolic church.

Stay tuned for part three.

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