I’m a sucker for chocolate brownies—not the cakey, flaky kind. I love the fudgy, desnse chocolate brownies that require you to wash your hands after you have one. (Or two, or six.)
My 4-yr old daughter often helps me mix the ingredients. I explain to her that when you combine flour, sugar, cocoa, oil, eggs, water, etc. and then apply heat, it results in the perfect brownie for us to eat. It’s hard for a child to understand the idea of ingredients and a how a recipe works. They understand that the brownies look delicious and tastes delicious but how flour, eggs, and oil combine to make something so great is a mystery to them.
Whether you bake or not—we all love recipes. We love having a set list of guidelines that tell us what to do in order to get a desired result.
I think it is dangerous when Christians apply the Acts 2 “recipe” in order to get a desirable and effective church result. In Acts 2 we see a community with these characteristics:
- Devoted to teaching
- Committed to fellowship, gathering, being together
- Braking bread, eating together
- Passionate in prayer
- Generous in giving to each other, sharing everything
- Joyful in worship and praise
These are all important elements of a vibrant, healthy, Spirit-filled community, but they are not ingredients for church—they are the result of a community who believes deeply in the Gospel.
We have it completely backwards when we try to apply these elements as ingredients for “doing church.” If we structure our community this way and filter people into these types of ministies we will not get disciples who walk and talk and look like Jesus. We will get Christians who think God expects us apply principles to our lives and merely wants us to follow guidelines. This is a burdensome and exhausting approach.
I am not down-playing these elements, but simply saying that in and of themselves they hold no power to change us or transform us. Only the Gospel has that power. The Gospel is the only ingredient. A true Acts 2 community is not possible without a deep belief and experience with the grace of the Gospel.
A community that is drunk-on-grace and who walks sure-footed on a Gospel foundation is a community who looks and acts and operates like an Acts 2 community. They look and taste delicious.
If you feel stuck in a system of ingredients or struggling with a recipe that isn’t working—don’t try harder, don’t strategize better, don’t plan more efficiently. Try a new recipe, one which has a true sanctifying power. Preach the gospel, teach the Gospel, and proclaim the Gospel and you will get communities who can’t help but meet together, pray together, worship with passion, give generously, and radically change the world.
You won’t be radically different unless you radically apply the one true ingredient. Believing in the Gospel at a deep, deep level makes all the difference.