In preaching through the Acts of the Apostles in 2010, I was deeply impressed with chapter four. I've spent a lot of time in chapter two, so I was unprepared for the impact of how the story continues in chapter four.
A few things that I noticed:
* Jesus' life and words and work resulted in political, economic, cultural and religious leaders to conspire against him.
* the prayer of the apostles in response to the threats included a request for the ability to speak God's word with great boldness.
* the prayer also included the request for God to stretch out his hand against those who conspired (and those who didn't) to heal and perform signs and wonders in the name of Jesus.
* this kind of praying and attitude and activity resulted in a church filled with the Holy Spirit.
* it also resulted in a church one in heart and mind, demonstrated through generosity and grace.
* there seemed to be a connection between the bold preaching of Jesus' resurrection and the great work of making sure there were no more needy people in the community.
Acts 4:27 "Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
Reflecting on these ideas for many months now has shaped my perspective of how I see Anchor, and what I am working on for the future:
* I am helping build a church that helps anyone in the congregation with any kind of need. I want us to figure out how to help families in need to get the help they need, so that they are no longer needy. This means aligning our leaders and resources and ideas around activities that perpetually put us in relationship with families in need, as well as wisdom on how to help people become no longer needy.
* I am helping build a church that boldly proclaims the resurrection of Jesus - which means that the preacher and the congregation understands the resurrection of Jesus. We can't proclaim what we don't grasp. If we don't know what it means for us, how can we help others get it?
* I am helping build a church that expects God to stretch out his hand to heal and perform signs and wonders in the name of Jesus, particularly those who aren't for Jesus yet. The church's ability to bring healing in the name of Jesus to the brokenness of our community is crucial, especially a community that is suspicious and cynical towards the church.
* I am building a church that continually relies on the Holy Spirit for wisdom and courage; wisdom to discern the next right thing to do in any situation anywhere, and the courage to act. This is in regard to the every day occurrences of our life at home and work and school. It's also for those activities that highlight why Jesus came: to bring good news to the poor, to free the oppressed, bring light to the blind.
* I am building a church where members seek to better understand the political, economic, cultural, and religious forces at work in our community and react in the name of Jesus. Jesus was conspired against because he spoke truth to power, because he insisted on the power of love against the power of security. Jesus was fruitful because he wasn't afraid to see life as it really was, he was able to help people see life as it really is, and act accordingly.
This is what I am helping build. The vision of Acts 4 has clarified my focus of what Anchor can look like. A church that is a helpful group of Jesus-followers. Helpful to the needy, helpful to those in need of healing, helpful to those looking to be generous, helpful to those in need of grace, helpful to those in need of truth, helpful to those in need of resurrection, helpful to those who want to love.