Reading the accounts of the early church from the book of Acts provides for us the BASICS that need to be a part of the life and work of the church. Fast-forward 2000+ years and we see all sorts of churches. Each church has a different personality and expresses itself in a variety of ways. It makes no difference what the building looks like, whether the pastor wears a black robe or blue jeans, or whether the church is traditional or contemporary. The important thing is that the church is biblical.
Some have said biblical churches must have at least four things in common – learning, fellowship, worship, and prayer. I was taught the five functions of the church are evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, and worship. In recent years, I have emphasize these things and concentrated on the necessity of bathing the efforts of the church in prayer.
Let me share a little about those things that are essential in the biblical, New Testament that we strive to become:
Evangelism: Yes, we cannot ignore the responsibility of the church to reach the lost of all nations. We claim we want to become an Acts 1: 8 church. If that is true, we - the individual members of the local church – need to be personally engaged in reaching our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost.
Discipleship/Learning: The apostles were set aside as teachers in the early church because they had walked with Jesus and because he had commanded them to make disciples. God still calls out and equips people to teach others about Christ. When we “walk with Jesus,” we learn from Him and He commands us to “make disciples” as well.
Fellowship: I am not talking about the “fellowship meal” we are good at in the modern church. God did not design the Christian life to be a lone, solitary venture. He wants us to encourage one another, enjoy one another, and build wholesome relationships with other Christians. As we grow in Christ, we develop a stronger bond/love for one another and are willing to demonstrate that love in a deeper/sacrificial manner.
Ministry: Linked to that fellowship that grows for others from our love for God, we commit our lives to serving one another/others (ministry). The early church considered nothing their own and shared with one another as they had need. Out of our love for others, we also minister to the temporal needs of others. There is a desire to minister to the temporal needs of lost people in an effort to share the Gospel with those around us (near and far) that are without Christ.
Worship: “The breaking of bread” probably referred to the Lord's Supper. The early church met regularly for the purpose of worshiping and remembering Christ's death and resurrection. In other words, they gathered to remind themselves why they existed. The more we learn of God and His love, the more we want to express our gratitude—praise Him for His provision---declare our love towards Him. We desire to gather with others to declare our adoration and praise.
Prayer: I have listed the “Five Functions of the Church.” These functions MUST BE bathed in prayer. Prayer was the lifeline of the first church. It remains the lifeline for the church today! If your church is not a praying church, you will not know what Christ wants you to do. John Hagee once stated, “a prayerless church is a powerless church.” There is much truth in that characterization of a non-praying church. Truth is, there is too much at stake for us to think we can survive without prayer.
When you loo at the churches around you, don’t become distracted by the differences in structure, location, style of worship, etc. The scriptures declare continuously what is really important for us to be obedient to the call of God to BE His church! Among the scriptures you might want to read and meditate upon include: Acts 2; Acts 17: 10-12; Colossians 1: 3 – 8; Ephesians 4 – 6, etc.
What is the “model New Testament Church?” Look to the Bible as your guide and strive to BE the Christ-follower His is calling us to become.