As the Book of Acts recounts, the New Testament Church is both a normative and descriptive account that exemplifies a model for contemporary congregations.
Here are 8 essential elements that the contemporary church must adopt for the missionary movement.
1. Weneed collective seasons for insight and reflection before a movement is properly born (Acts 1).
Acts 1 shows how 120 followers of Jesus spent 10 days together in prayer, comparing scriptures, and making leadership decisions. This ensured that the foundation of the nascent movement would be secure. Their goal was to work for unity in understanding and preaching the Good News of the Messiah.
Without this period of waiting on God and reflecting, the massive and spontaneous addition of 3,000 people after Peter’s first sermon could have resulted in chaos and destroyed the movement. The contemporary church must take sufficient time each season to wait on God in prayer and biblical reflection in order to be ready for the gospel movement.
2. TheThe growing Church devoted itself to the essentials of the faith (Acts 2:42).
Acts 2:42 says that immediately after the day of Pentecost, believers devoted themselves to the doctrine of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. The converted visitors to Jerusalem abandoned their plans to return to their homeland so that they could sit under the teaching of the apostles.
This apostolic doctrine shaped their social gatherings, their communal meals and their collective prayer. Without it, the activities of the Church would have been based on subjective experiences and opinions of gatherers. The contemporary church must also establish believers in the first principles of the faith if they are to experience a prolific evangelistic movement.
3.Ethical standards of holiness must be maintained (Acts 5:1-11).
Acts 5:1-12 relays the story of the judgment on Ananias and Sapphira.
This illustrates how the standard of holiness and the fear of the Lord must be maintained to ensure the health of the Church. If God had allowed them to continue lying, manipulating and deceptively receiving honor by giving gifts (which amounts to dirty politics), it would have spread like yeast and eventually corrupted the Church.
It is no coincidence that God began to perform extraordinary miracles as soon as this couple was removed from the Church (Acts 5:12-14). The contemporary church must understand that we limit God’s ability to work through us whenever we allow unbiblical standards to permeate our church.
4. Impartial care and compassion for all (Acts 6:1-7).
Almost immediately after the birth of the Jesus movement, ethnic bigotry and prejudice arose. This happened when Greek-speaking widows were neglected during food distribution. Peter had enough wisdom to appoint 7 upright and wise men to oversee this ministry, which would meet the needs of every widow, spread the Word of God and multiply the number of disciples. The contemporary Church must understand the principle that there is a strategic challenge to overcome before every great move of God.
5. Faith isn’t worth believing if it isn’t worth dying for (Acts 7).
Stephen’s martyrdom, as recorded in Acts 7:54-60, demonstrates an amazing pattern for us to follow in the contemporary church. God cannot bless an evangelical movement if the saints are unwilling to lay down their lives to advance His kingdom. Even Paul said he was always given over to death so that the life of Christ could be manifested through him (2 Corinthians 4:11).
A contemporary church filled with people who come together only to meet their felt needs will never advance the gospel. Jesus said we would have power after the Spirit comes upon us to be His witnesses. The word witness comes from the word martyr. Therefore, a faithful witness overcomes the enemy when he will not shrink from death (Revelation 12:11).
6. The Church must function during persecution (Acts 7:58-8:8).
The early Church did not skip a beat but continued to thrive after mass persecution broke out against them. Even though they were forced from their homes and lost everything, their spirit was to spread the gospel! Wherever they were scattered, they preached the Word. This resulted in the planting of major churches in the cities of Samaria and Antioch and resulted in the conversion of their main antagonist, Saul, and becoming the greatest of the apostles.
Perhaps Saul would not have respected them enough to join their movement if they had shrunk back from persecution. The contemporary church must also persevere in the midst of persecution (similar to the powerful evangelical movement we see today through the persecuted churches in Iran, China and India).
7. TheThe Church must embrace all ethnic peoples (Acts 10:1-48).
Although Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples of all nations, the early church initially focused only on reaching the Jewish people (Matthew 28:19). It took persecution for them to preach to the Samaritans, and it took a vision of Jesus for Peter to preach the Word to the Gentiles. Even the apostles found it difficult to think outside of their ethnic and social comfort zone, which illustrates how difficult it is to overcome ethnic bias.
Consequently, the contemporary Church must be open to all, without distinction of skin color and cultural origin, if they wish to experience a true evangelical movement.
8. Church leaders should engage in fasting and prayer for divine strategy (Acts 13:1-2).
Instead of getting bogged down in church committees and endless deliberations, the elders of the church in Antioch spent ample time serving the Lord and fasting. Giving God the space to work on them triggered a divine strategy that changed the whole world. The contemporary church must also prioritize seeking the Lord and waiting for the strategic Spirit to enlighten our hearts so that we can work for the things God commands instead of asking God to bless our agendas.
Dr. Joseph Mattera is an internationally renowned author, consultant, and theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence culture. He is the founding pastor of Resurrection Church and leads several organizations, including the US Coalition of Apostolic Leaders and the Christ Covenant Coalition.