It is imperative that every true Christ follower understands what is important to God. Then alter their lifestyle to practice what God Almighty specifies is the way to focus and fulfill His will. From the very first day the church was formed God was clear.
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 NKJV
They Gathered to Glorify God and We Do Not Have The Right To Do Things Differently!
Our weekly Sunday gatherings must be a composite of the elements that the early church devoted themselves to. The first day the Holy Spirit descended upon the church 3000 brand new believers were born again. The Apostles immediately focused on their spiritual growth as recorded in Acts 2:42.
They would not stop gathering together to teach the commands of Christ to the church; they persisted in fellowship by lovingly encouraging, testifying, exhorting, and building up each other in the faith. They faithfully had communion together examining themselves for moral and spiritual purity and clearing their consciences by admitting their sins and being cleansed through the shed blood of Jesus who died for mankind’s sins.
Also, they strengthened one another through confessing their faults one to another. And then the Apostles led the church with loud voices, crying to God for His mighty acts through prayer.
When the church was formed they did not have anything that our modern day church considers essential. There were no choirs, pews, Sunday Schools, youth groups, etc. Jesus Christ formed, organized, and empowered His church from the outset.
Just like the cells of our human bodies, each Christian still has his or her function to perform within the unified local church, but they need mutual edification and support from each other, and the spiritual cleansing of God’s Word by faithful shepherds [pastor]. From the beginning, the church needed discipline and organization to send out approved members by the church “body” to serve and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Therefore we must practice Christianity as God instructs us to in the Bible. Every Christian is a member of the body of Christ and gifted and called by Jesus Christ, the head, to fulfill his or her purpose. When we gather on Sunday mornings we meet as taught in Acts and 1 Corinthians 14. Like a four legged table, our church gathering stands on all four elements of spiritual growth: the proclamation of the apostles’ doctrine [teaching], fellowship [public testimonies, exhortations, and confessions], breaking of bread [the communion/love feast], and group prayer.
I highly suggest churches to deviate from traditional church services by preaching the Word of God first. James 1:14 has clear application for the House of God, “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak.” The power of God’s Word is “as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27 (KJV) Therefore if you hear God’s Word first, before singing hymns and spiritual songs, people can keep from making promises to God they may not mean.
The reason is simple, we are warned “not to be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few” [Ecclesiastes 5:2]. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and we need to hear His perspective on life. We need to learn from His vast wisdom. He does not need to hear us. We need to humble ourselves, rethink our application of truth, and repent and change our lifestyle.
This practice is in obedience to Acts 2:42 and basic biblical principles.
Next, to be “doers of the Word” and not just hearers of sermons a local church can respond to God’s Word and have fellow believers take the responsibility of fellowship. We know that there are over twenty “one another” commands given in the New Testament for believers to practice when they come together.
For example, we are told to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching” [Hebrews 10:25]. Any church that is serious about obedience, spiritual growth, and outreach must practice all the “one another” commands. Testimonies and confessions following a sermon provide powerful interaction of the “one another” commands. This always results in the true spirit of love inside the church.
And this is important after our hearts are cleansed and relationships mended and strengthened through the “one another” interaction of fellowship, we are ready for breaking bread together. We finalize our spiritual examinations, confess and repent of any sin God reveals, and have intimate communion with the Father while we remember the Lord’s most sacred act, the sacrifice of His life for our sin.
Refreshed and revived we are ready to shout out our praises to God. Most churches use music to try and prepare their people for the message. But, I have noticed that God’s word releases the saints to glorify God. True praise comes as a result of God’s Word working in us. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” [Colossians 3:16]
Finally if a local church practices prayer and crying out at the end of the church gathering God blesses. Paul emphasizes the importance of the kind of prayer that moves heaven. “In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.” 1 Timothy 2:8 (NLT)
“‘God opposes the proud but favors the humble.’ So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.” 1 Peter 5:5-6 (NLT) When Christians lift their voices together as instructed throughout the scripture it forces everyone into humble pleadings and cries to God. Only churches who forget their pride and shout out together for help will be heard. Sincere supplications [intense begging] are heard by our Heavenly Father and He is answers the cries of His church.
Biblical Churches Disciple Christians on Purpose
According to Christ’s great commission every church that actually follows Jesus focuses, works at, and majors on teaching Christ followers to actually live the way Christ demands. Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT) is clear, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Again like Acts 2 illustrates big group and small groups are essential to solidifying the local church in loves and purpose. “They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” Acts 2:46-47 (NLT) Christians who refuse to follow this formula are not blessed by God.
Biblical Churches Love The World and Reach Out and Make Disciples
Mature believers spread out into their world and practice good works expressing love to their neighbors which leads to conversations and invitations to Christ. Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
The Seven Practices of a Biblical Church
1/ The power of true leadership: God values holiness and obedience which means all leadership is carefully examined by God’s standard of character and moral purity.
2/ The power of conversion: God values His Law which convicts and converts through driving people to Christ for forgiveness. The Biblical church demands proof of life change and obedience through discipleship.
3/ The power of God’s Word: God values truth and the commands of Christ are foundational to a Christian’s lifestyle.
4/ The power of fellowship: God values love and true friendship so “one another” commands are practiced as normal Christian ministry.
5/ The power of communion: God values His Son and His sacrifice so discerning the Lord’s Body and spiritual examination are done often.
6/ The power of prayer: God values mankind so as a House of Prayer Christians cry to God for help for one another and the salvation of neighbors and friends.
7/ The power of service: God values servanthood so the work of loving neighbors through good works is non-optional as commanded by Christ.