Updated: Mar 24, 2022
During lockdown when most, if not all, activities went online, I began to read one of my new books. A friend of mine had read it recently and highly recommended it to me. Another book! I said. I have so many that still sit patiently waiting to be read. However I started to begin reading this book written by Gavin and Anne Calver called 'Unleashed'.
I had only read the introduction pages and I was hooked, yes, yes and yes - this is the kind of movement I want to be part of, not a church building but of people coming on the move for God.
I stopped reading and turned to my wife and said, what if we start a book club and begin with 'Unleashed', and invite anyone and everyone to join in. So that's what we did, and the journey has been incredible. We have loved every minute of meeting online on a Monday evening and discussing the chapters together.
Each chapter encouraged the reader to compare and contrast how the early church developed to where they are, helping us to see what Christ's church should look like today, and helping us to see how the churches we attend can become like the first church, developing the gifts of the Holy Spirit. "Unleashing" these gifts in each of us for the benefit of the community as church is a community not a building.
Some of us in the group are not readers, sitting there with a book in hand, so we used audio books and videos, learning by listening or watching. At the end of each chapter were questions and challenges helping us to think and act on what we'd read. The challenge was often yes, but how? helping us to think about putting those things into practice! When Jesus says love your neighbour as yourself, how well do we do this? well? not so well?
There is a current movement within the church using the hashtag #lovewhereyouare. Love our neighbours and love where we are.That means; our community, noisy neighbours, the youth, the drunk, EVERYONE! It would be easy to simple sit back and ignore people and not bother. The message of Christianity is one of faith, hope and love.
The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for. ―Fyodor Dostoyevsky
What are you living for? For those in the early church who themselves experienced opposition, persecution and ridicule, it was to live a life filled by the Holy Spirit. They devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching, shared their love in acts of kindness and worship and communicated the good news of Jesus to transform the communities around them. We are called to the same.
Our book club was made up of many different people from all sorts of backgrounds coming together to share in our stories, thoughts, disagreements and passions. A wonderful and enlightening experience. Within the group we encouraged attentive listening to each other, taking time to hear the other persons history, pain and joy, healing and life giving moments.
The book allowed me to express what was on my heart and hopefully through the weekly zoom meetings verbalise this to encouraged others "let's be part of a church where all generations are working, loving and serving so well together that the number of souls being saved is doubling every week"
It is evident how the early church, through the gifts of the holy spirit, developed and grew. This should be a blue print for today's church. All of us need to play our part. We all have our front lines, and our story to tell. Real stories of how Jesus has touched our lives, hopefully helping others to see that miracles still occur today. Jesus wants to give us a life of abundance (not necessarily wealth and possessions). Relational connections are the key, one to one conversations, friendships that have no price tag.
The book reminded me of doing life together. The devotion to the Apostles teaching is essentially reading the bible. Fellowship with one another, mixing, mingling, getting to know people and building a relationship. The early church broke bread together, sharing a communal meal, sharing stories as they ate (not watching the TV with the family in silence). They broke bread together to remember Jesus. Jesus took a loaf of bread and broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” The breaking of bread at that first communion table has been re-enacted down through the centuries as a way of remembering that first celebration of both His sacrifice on the cross and the institution of the New Covenant in His blood. And finally praying together, confession, praise and petition.
The definition for devoted is 'very loving and loyal'. There was an incredible love and commitment to one another, a kind of radical embracing, endless, faithful and consistent love that could have only been imparted from Jesus himself. (adapted from the book).
It is this love that we long to see authentically lived out again today, impacting lives all around us as it did then in the early church.