I’ve always been drawn to the book of Acts. Apart from some of Paul’s wonderful theological reflection in his letters, the book of Acts would have to be my most read part of Scripture. As a preacher, teacher and Church leader, it’s not hard to work out why. Our roots, our origin and our purpose as a Church are all there in this wonderful, but confronting narrative. I say wonderful because it’s simply awesome to move from the gospels where we learn all about Jesus – Who He is, why He came and to sit under all that teaching from Him about the Kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven. Then the book of Acts is like Scene 2 in a play when everything in Scene 1 now makes sense and all that Jesus taught, modeled and achieved in His life, death and resurrection now plays out on the stage before us. It is truly wonderful.
But it’s incredibly confronting too – so much so that sections of the Church today don’t spend much time in this book at all anymore because it places a spotlight on the huge differences between the modern Church and the early Church and those differences cannot be explained away by culture or geography. The truth is, we have drifted so far from the book of Acts that parts of our Church barely compare to how we began.
This wonderful miracle we call ‘the Church’ began as a loosely structured, dynamic community of called-out brothers and sisters who were led daily by the Holy Spirit to fulfil the mission of Jesus Christ. That Church then moved to Greece and became a philosophy. It moved to Italy and became an institution. It moved to Europe and became a culture. It then moved to America and became a business. We have been struggling to break free from those mission-killing yokes ever since!
Until the book of Acts once again becomes a commentary on today’s Church, we are just dancing in the dark pretending we are making a difference. Now all of that only happened because those first disciples did as they were told by Jesus and we read what that was in the opening few verses in the book of Acts. Just before Jesus left them in the flesh for good, this is what He said: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
He had spent over three years training these people – 24hrs a day – 7 days a week. They had seen it all. They knew exactly what to do. They were primed and ready to move out and save the world as Jesus had shown them. But Jesus said, “No. Not yet. It doesn’t matter what you know; it doesn’t matter what you’ve learned; it doesn’t matter how many hours or years of experience you have; my mission will not be accomplished by you. It can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit working in you and through you. So WAIT. Don’t go anywhere until you have the power you need from on high … then, and only then, will all your good intentions and training and knowledge mean anything or achieve anything.”
I wonder at times what would happen if we were ever brave enough to press the reset button on our Church. You know how modern technology can get out of whack and start to run amuck – particularly modems and computers and the best way to fix that is to switch them off entirely. Then wait – with nothing at all happening – no activity, no work, no struggling, no frustration – just wait … and then switch on the power. And to our amazement – everything works again – they was it was designed to work.
What if we heard the warning of Jesus again and decided to shut down all our Church programs and activities for a season and just wait and pray for as long as it takes – days, weeks, months – until the Holy Spirit finally holds the reigns of His Church again firmly in His hands and that power from on high once again is poured out upon God’s people – especially His leaders. I wonder.
Maybe one day we will be brave enough to press that reset button. But until then, we still have a daily choice to let the Holy Spirit guide our thoughts, decisions and actions and so let’s pray now to that end.