Early Acts: Nothing Like Themselves
There’s something in us that wants to pull away from community and into isolation—or at least there is in me. And before you totally write me off, imagine that feeling when someone cancels plans and you get to watch Netflix on your couch instead. That’s what I thought. I know I’m not alone in that because there are literally hundreds of Internet memes on this very topic.
As we continue our series on understanding the early church, Herndon Campus Pastor Zach Van Dyke shared that the early church couldn’t wait to get together.
So what’s happened to us?
I’m not going to unpack all of the societal factors that could be causing it, but since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20% to 40%. And there are tons of studies about how loneliness is not only bad for our emotional health, but our physical health as well—many of which are linked in this New York Times article (where one of their actual recommendations is that religious people “should be encouraged to continue regular attendance at services and may benefit from a sense of spirituality and community.”)
I believe that pull we have toward isolation is from the enemy—who is trying to pull us away from community because he knows that’s what we were designed for. He knows that when the people of God live in community with other believers, people will notice and want to know what it’s all about. Just as it happened in Acts.
What especially catches the attention of people who don’t regularly attend church is when that community is made up of diverse people with varying backgrounds, beliefs, ethnicity, and life stages. Not only does that show them that there’s a place for them too, but at a time when society feels so divided, there’s nothing greater that could set us apart.
As Zach pointed out, togetherness in the midst of diversity is hard. But the early church is historical proof that it happened.
It’s so disheartening to hear Christians say, “I don’t know how you can be a Christian and believe…” or, “I don’t know how you can be a Christian and vote for...” These comments reflect a lack of diversity in community. Just as they were in the time of the early church, people notice and are drawn to others who fellowship and have genuine relationships with people who are nothing like themselves. Young people connecting with older people, republicans with democrats, white people with people of color, U.S.-born with immigrants and refugees—and yes, even those who believe Tobey Maguire is the true Spider-Man with those who know it’s actually Tom Holland.
Those initial connections can be hard and sometimes awkward to make. But once we get to know someone and see their heart, it’s almost impossible to not feel empathy and kinship with them. We see pieces of ourselves in their hearts—we see God himself reflected. That’s the kind of community they had in the early church; that’s the kind of community that drew people to Jesus; that’s the kind of community I pray we seek today.
Francis Diaz leads a 10th grade girls’ small group at Edge and has been attending Summit for three years. She has two cats and is marrying her high school sweetheart this October! Francis also works as a research specialist at a behavior change communications agency. And she’s been to every taco and donut place in Orlando!