I’ve been reflecting again on the community life of the first Christians described in Acts 2:42-47. We now stand 2,000 years removed from this first glimpse into the radical social experiment called ‘church’, and we marvel at the quality of their koinonia, or life together.
I wonder what Christians 2,000 years in the future (if the Lord tarries) might think about the church community of the 21st century. What description might they unearth that aptly describes the typical church experience of today?
I decided to rewrite this beloved passage phrase by phrase, trying to capture the experience of many Christians today. As I offer this critique, I am mindful of Bonhoeffer’s warning in his book Life Together to not love our ideal vision of community more than the actual people God has placed us in community with. Still, let this contrast inspire us all to continue striving for the kind of church community God desires for his people!
ACTS 2:42-47 REWRITTEN FOR 21ST CENTURY [See original below]
42 The believers dabbled in the Bible, maybe reading the “Verse of the Day” on their phone app as they rush out the door. They occasionally attended church, putting in their one hour and often avoiding any real fellowship. As for breaking bread, the church offered a quick Wednesday night meal on plastic chairs in the basement for busy families hurrying from after school activities to youth group. They usually only prayed in times of crisis.
43 Boredom and apathy was upon most everyone, because there was nothing supernatural or awe inspiring about the pastor and the church’s ministry.
44 People largely kept their faith life private, in a separate religious box they opened only on Sundays for an hour. 45 The rest of the week they worked hard for their own family’s wellbeing, trying to get ahead, pay their own bills, and attain the American Dream. Some placed a small gift (if any was leftover) in the offering plate on Sunday in an envelope, sealed tightly to keep their financial business private. Some in the church were barely scraping by but nobody knew, and the needy usually felt too ashamed to ask for financial help.
46 Day by day, the believers rarely saw their church friends, as their everyday lives were centered around other people and activities — work functions, kids’ activities, etc. They were too busy and stressed (or embarrassed about their messy house) to have people over for dinner, so they often ate their food alone in the car with tired and weary hearts.
47 They muttered a quick silent prayer as their head hit the pillow, and very few of their coworkers and non-church friends even knew they were Christians. They kept dragging themselves to church each week to put in their obligatory hour; but the church rarely saw any new visitors and there hadn’t been a new convert and baptism in years.
ACTS 2:42-47 ORIGINAL (NIV)
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.
44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.
46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread in homes and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,
47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.