Today, we begin a new message series entitled “Church Without Walls.” In the current crisis, we’re learning how to function as a church family without being able to meet in person. We are learning how to be a church without walls for a season. In countries under persecution in the world, they also are often not able to meet in designated church buildings. Yet, the underground church in places like China and Iran is reported to be growing rapidly. Meeting in small home meetings or virtually. There’s certainly nothing wrong with utilizing buildings to facilitate church ministry and I’m looking forward to the time when we can meet together again. Yet, in this season, we must continue to move forward as a church family as a church without walls. I believe that some of the lessons that we’re learning now will be helpful when we begin to meet together again.
In this series, Church Without Walls, we’re going to be studying the early church in the book of Acts. This church came into being in a culture that was hostile to Christianity. Neither the Roman government, nor the Jewish religion was friendly to the new Christians. So, this early church was often persecuted. They didn’t have church buildings, but met in homes and outdoors, yet they saw explosive growth as thousands were saved. I believe that in this season, God is preparing us for the future. We are learning how to grow without the building and to connect virtually in different ways. Many of the things that we are learning will help us when we can meet again to continue to reach out to those who cannot always attend the physical meetings.
You’ll notice in the series image a forest of strong trees reaching up to the sun. This image reminds me of the verse speaking of a righteous person in …
Psalm 1:3 (ESV) He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
These trees are obviously not in a building, but they are not isolated, growing together as they prosper under God’s heaven.
Today’s message is entitled “Healthy Church.” We’re going to be looking at how the early church functioned and what caused it to be so healthy. A healthy church is one that is growing spiritually and numerically and accomplishing the mission that God has for it. As we study the early church, we’re going to learn how they impacted their society, even though much of it was hostile. We’ll learn how they were able to meet people’s needs with supernatural power and saw many saved and added to the church.
Acts 2:44-45 (ESV) And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
The first thing that we see by the second chapter of Acts is that the church family met together regularly. There was a unity among the people that led them to help one another out in practical ways. Physical needs were met, relational needs were provided for. A healthy church is made up of believers who are growing in both their relationship with God and with their church community.
In the present crisis, each of us needs to continue to contribute to the ongoing ministry of the church through giving of tithes and offerings by online donations or mailing in checks to the church. As we are faithful in doing our part to meet the needs of our church family, God will continue to bless us in every way. A key part of growing in community is …
Acts 2:42 (ESV) And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
The first things mentioned in this section is that they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching. The apostle’s teaching consisted of the believers learning God’s Word together. God had raised up teachers and pastors in the early church to train up the believers and He still does that today. Although each believer should be studying God’s Word on the their own, you cannot grow spiritually without being taught by those gifted by God. Notice that this verse describes the believers as not just listening to the teaching. They were devoting themselves to the leader’s teaching. They learned God’s Word together and then worked at applying the lessons to their lives. In the course of the home meetings in which the apostles taught, there was also fellowship, communion and prayer, which we’ll talk about more as we go on. Fellowship in a healthy church involves …
Acts 2:46-47 (ESV) And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Now, we must remember that Acts 2 is very early in the formation of the church when they were still allowed to meet in the temple area. Soon that would be forbidden and then they would meet solely in homes or outside. The believers ate together and worshipped together. No worship band, no sound system, no special lighting. The Scripture notes that they had glad and generous hearts that were filled with praise to God. God blessed this kind of healthy church and every day, more people were saved and added to their number. How did that happen? It says at this time that they had favor with people outside of the church family. They were spreading the good news of Jesus and others were giving their lives to the Lord. They were growing together in community.
In the current crisis, continuing to grow in community in our church family is important for each person. However, it will require change for each one of us from the ways that we did it before. Every Sunday morning at 10 am, the Sunday message will go out live on Facebook, YouTube and our website. We are also looking at another platform as well and will let you know when that becomes available. The Sunday message outline and study guide will be available by Saturday. Each of those links is available on the frontpage of our website, lifechurchstlouis.org.
How can we continue to build relationships between one another? We have multiple opportunities to connect with one another through Zoom video conferencing during the week, including small group Bible studies of different kinds. We even have a Trivia night on Saturday at 7 pm just for fun. I believe that each person should take advantage of these opportunities to connect at least once a week with our church family. All you need is a smart phone or computer to take part. At the appropriate time, just clink the link to the meeting on the front page of our website and the video conference will start. It’s very easy, even if you’ve never done it before. After the Sunday message at 10:30 am, we have a Sunday Connect group with Zoom video conferencing to chat with one another, just like we did in the church building. Check out the options for our Zoom video meetings on our website. The next characteristic of a Healthy Church is that it …
Acts 4:24 (ESV) And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,
Not only does a healthy church build relationships with one another, they build relationships with God together. In Acts 4, we read of a crisis the early church encountered when they were persecuted for their faith. Their response to the crisis was to pray together acknowledging that God was in control and would guide them through the difficulty. The believers could have only prayed alone, but they chose to gather together for prayer, as Jesus instructed. When they prayed, they …
Acts 4:29-30 (ESV) And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
It is interesting that their prayer did not ask God to end the crisis of persecution. They simply prayed that in the midst of the crisis, God would empower them to do two things. They first asked that they would continue to spread the Gospel with boldness, despite the persecution. Secondly, they asked for God’s power to be manifest through them to meet the needs of people for healing and miracles. We learn in the next verse that they were praying according to God’s will because they …
Acts 4:31 (ESV) And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
As the believers prayed together, God’s Spirit showed up, shaking the place and filling everyone anew with the Holy Spirit. Even though these people had been baptized and filled with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, they needed continual fillings of the Spirit in order to accomplish God’s purpose. This filling of the Spirit enabled them to continue to speak God’s Word boldly, just as they had prayed.
So, we see that praying together is essential for a healthy church and for healthy believers. Jesus promised that where two or three gather to pray in His name, He is there in a special way. I believe that there are prayers that God will not answer until you pray them together with other believers. Just before the crisis hit, we had established a new Seek God meeting for prayer on Wednesdays at 7 pm. We are continuing this service with Zoom video conferencing on every Wednesday except the first Wednesday of the month. Again, the link is available on our website to simply click.
In this meeting, we give opportunity for people to pray or to present their prayer request. We encourage everyone to pray but no one will be required to pray aloud, you can simply listen to the other prayers and pray along silently if you wish. A healthy church full of healthy believers prays together and …
Acts 5:12 (ESV) Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico.
You recall that back in Acts 4, the early church prayed for God to heal and signs and wonders to be formed. Now those prayers were being answered. When the church prayed, they had faith and expected God to move in power. A healthy church does not only grow in community and pray together, they expect God to move outside of the current church family. The signs and wonders in this verse were done among the people, referring to people outside the church, that is unbelievers. A health church prays and prepares for God to move in two areas. They …
Acts 5:14 (ESV) And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,
Even in the midst of persecution and crisis, the church grew and people were saved and added to the church. We see as we study the whole book of Acts that sometimes many people were added to the church in an area and other times and places, not so many. Yet, the early church and every healthy church needs to expect God to move in the lives of people who aren’t believers or who aren’t connected to a healthy church.
How were these new believers reached? They were reached by people sharing the Gospel, inviting people to their meetings and praying for them. In the same way that we witness today. The early church not only believed for salvations, they also …
Acts 5:16 (ESV) The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
The news began to spread that God was healing people from various afflictions through the prayers of the church. Undoubtedly, the believers were also inviting people that they knew who needed a touch from the Lord. When they came and were prayed for, they were healed. Both those suffering from physical diseases and those from spiritual issues from unclean spirits. God is able to heal people from every problem, as the healthy church prays and reaches out, expecting God to move.
One of the temptations for believers in a time of crisis is to simply try to circle the wagons as it were and just meet with those you know. Yet, times of crisis are some of the best times to reach out to hurting people who are looking for the answers that we have. How can you reach out? Keep in touch with friends and relatives. Check on how they are doing. Ask them how you can pray for them. Share with them what God is doing in your life. Invite them to watch the Sunday messages or to engage in a Zoom meeting from our church. Of course, the best way to invite is to let them know that you will be in that meeting and invite them to join you. Pray and expect God to move in your life and in our church.
The early church was a church without walls in a time of crisis, just like we are in today. Yet, we have technology that allows us to connect in ways that they did not have. In our current season, God is teaching us to rely on Him in new ways. Let’s continue to grow in community, pray together and expect God to move. Each attender at Life Church should be listening weekly to the Sunday message, seeking to apply it to their life. Check our the various Zoom meetings we have on our website lifechurchstlouis.og and make plans to attend at least one each week. If you have any issues with getting connected, reach out and we’ll help you get going with it.
Let’s pray and expect God to move in our lives and in the lives of those we are reaching out to. Let’s join with the church in the book of Acts and ask God for boldness to be witnesses for Jesus and for God to move in power. As we do, God will bless us in the midst of this crisis and prepare us for the next season He has for us as a healthy church.