Fellowship as Community

“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Ac 2:41-3:1). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

In my twenty three years as a Christian, I’ve seen times of great blessing and times of great suffering, times of fruitfulness and times of barrenness. But, I’ve always fallen short of what I know God has for me. I’ve always felt spiritually hungry, perhaps malnourished, part of me knowing that something’s missing.

There are many common and legitimate explanations for this chronic hunger, ranging from unconfessed sin to unhealed wounds from the past, and I’ve spent years seeking forgiveness, deliverance and healing.

But Acts 2 makes me wonder about another possibility. My christian life has largely followed the common American church model of fellowship, two hours or so at the Sunday service and another two or so at a home group during the week. The rest of my time has been my own, along with all of my possessions, except for the tithe I sometimes manage to give. In a very real sense, I live a largely secular life with just enough church to keep me from falling away.

But what would happen if I took Acts 2 to heart? What if my family and a critical mass of other families decided to live in community with each other? What if we shared all things in common? What if we prayed together day in and day out? What if we worshipped together and ate together? Would we see the same joy and awe and thanksgiving? I believe so.

There are precedents in history. Two that come to mind are the early church and the Moravian community at Herrnhut, both of which turned the world upside down for Christ. Without going into detail, the message is clear that living in the manner described in Acts 2 could be the answer to spiritual hunger, fruitlessness and lukewarmness.

If this is so, what does it say about my level of commitment to Christ that I haven’t taken this to heart? Am I so enslaved to my belongings that I would deny myself the answer to my deepest needs just so I can keep my stuff to myself? Am I too afraid of being so close to other believers that I wouldn’t be able to hide anything anymore, as I can now?

Clearly, the Acts 2 model can only work with a sufficiently large group of people to sustain the communal economy. There simply would need to be enough people with enough possessions to meet everyone’s needs.

Above all, the Holy Spirit would have to be in it. The heart of God, of selfless love, would have to reign in enough hearts to keep it from disintegrating into a perverse form of socialism.

So far, I have been the rich young ruler who turned away in sorrow when Jesus asked him to get rid of his stuff and follow Him. So I’ve decided to put my rich young ruler knees on the floor and pray.

Lord, help me!

- January 4, 2004