Tyler David teaches on the importance of Missional Community using Acts 2:41-42
Series: Missional Community
As a people, we gather on Sundays to hear the word of God, to sing songs of joy, confession and praise. Sundays are important and vital for us to come together and be ministered to by God. But church is much more than an event you attend; it’s a people you are a part of.
Our life, as a people, only begins with Sunday services. Throughout the week we live together with a smaller number of believers that we call Missional Community.
Missional Communities are just that: communities on mission. We are passionate about them. Not because we have some really cool new way to do church, but because they’re an essential part of us following Jesus together.
Hundreds of years from now, when no one remembers the Austin Stone, or us, faithful followers of Jesus will still be living in communities on mission in some form or fashion.
Missional Communities are about faithfulness to Jesus. Not to the Austin Stone, or to a philosophy or idea. But to Jesus.
Today I want to discuss why they are so important to us.
The First Missional Community
Missional Community is a sign the gospel has been believed. Once you believe, eventually a missional community will appear. It is the direct fruit of people who have repented of their sin and trusted in Christ.
This is what happened in the book of Acts. At the birth of the Christian church, a people believed in the gospel for the very first time. They believed in Jesus. Then a missional community appeared and they began to live their lives on mission.
In Acts 1, Jesus rose from the dead and taught His disciples about the kingdom of God. He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit comes in magnificent power and these men begin to speak in different languages, proclaiming the mighty works of God. People came to Peter and asked him what was going on. Full of the Holy Spirit, Peter stood up and preached his first sermon.
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men…. 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:22-23, 36 (ESV)
Peter proclaimed what God had been doing through Jesus. He proclaimed the gospel and that Jesus was from God. It was obvious; He healed the sick, cast out demons, and commanded the wind and waves. Him being crucified was the plan all along. It wasn’t a sign that God had left Him. Through His death, God was accomplishing the most amazing thing in history; the forgiveness of sins. On the cross, all the sins and punishment for God’s people were being placed on Jesus. Now He reigns over everything and everyone and everyone who hears His voice will be held accountable to Him one day.
How did they respond?
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. Acts 2:37-41 (ESV)
They heard the gospel and it cut them to the core. They were pierced by the inescapable truth they had rejected God’s Messiah. They couldn’t just move on. He told them to repent. Then for receiving Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins, they got to receive the Holy Spirit. In that day they were saved.
Responding to the Gospel
I would assume most of us have had a similar experience. It may not have been after a sermon or in a particular moment, but somewhere along the way the gospel gripped you and arrested your conscience where you couldn’t just move along. You had to come to terms with this God, this Jesus. You repented of your sin and trusted Him for the first time.
I was eighteen when it happened. I had been to church and had heard great testimonies, but nothing had really gripped me. One weekend God woke me up and I couldn’t get away from Him. I had to know this God I was hearing about. I remember saying to some friends that I had to know Him for myself. The joy that I had felt in those moments was unparalleled. I had never felt forgiveness, love, and encouragement like that.
But once you believe in the gospel, then what?
Unfortunately, not much usually changes for us. We might think a little differently, attend church a little more or read our Bible a little more. But is that supposed to be it; have some cognitive agreement with a set of facts and that’s it?
The people in the book of Acts who believed in the gospel suddenly had a faith that produced a missional community.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 (ESV)
Repentance of sin and faith in the gospel produced a brand new community. They didn’t know each other before, but all of a sudden they believed in the same gospel, followed the same Jesus and were suddenly brought together. They began to overlap their lives in significant ways: eating meals together, having people into their homes who they didn’t know very well, being vulnerable about their needs and being generous with what they had.
It’s no wonder everyone was in awe of what was happening. They just met each other, yet they were experiencing a grace, joy, and relationship that was amazing.
There are a lot of terms you could use to describe this first community of the church, but the one that describes it best is in verse 42.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42 (ESV, emphasis added)
They weren’t just checking things out and if it didn’t meet their needs they were gone. They weren’t coming in as consumers looking to get something out of the group. They came in as participants looking to give something.
They were devoted to one another.
It’s a rare thing in our culture for someone to be devoted to a group of people. What’s more normal for us is being individuals, feeling isolated and, for a lot of us, being lonely. In an age of constant connection, everyone feels less connected to other people. That type of community feels impossible to us.
What’s important to remember is that it wasn’t a perfect community, but simply a devoted one.
They had plenty of conflict, unmet expectations and hurt feelings. In chapter 5, within the same community, there was a married couple that lied about the money they gave to the church. God killed them. In chapter 6, there were a group of widows who don’t get fed, because the people distributing the food didn’t like that they were culturally and ethnically different from them. They had some issues.
They weren’t perfect. They were just devoted.
That’s ideal community.
The perfect community with no issues, weaknesses or sins will exist one day, but in heaven. Here, you will still get hurt and things will be difficult. But the ideal community is when we’re devoted to one another regardless. It’s a group of people who overcome the pains and the discomforts that come with being in a missional community.
For Others’ Salvation
What’s even more incredible was people were coming to Christ. Somebody new was saying they wanted to follow Jesus with them.
47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:47 (ESV)
In the midst of all the transition, the newness, the relationships and adjustments, they were still talking to people about Jesus. They were still a community of people on mission. The community was not just for their benefit, but also for the sake of people outside of it.
Your missional community is a picture, a physical representation of the gospel you are sharing with others.
When a person hears about some guy in heaven, who they can’t see, or this Holy Spirit who lives among us that is invisible, it’s hard to understand; especially in our culture where we want to see everything in order to believe in it. When you share the gospel it feels weird, ethereal and intangible.
You can then point to your missional community and show them what the gospel actually produces. You can say you’re broken and messed up, but you still stay devoted to each other. You love one another and work through conflict with each other.
Your missional community gives weight to the gospel you talk about.
Guarding Our Benefits
Most of us, if we were able to get the community seen in Acts 2, we would not use it for the benefit of other people. We would use it for our own benefit. We would guard it. We wouldn’t want new people coming in and messing with the flow of the group.
I had this in college. I was in a group with five guys. Each week we read the Scriptures and prayed. We shared groceries, money and served one another. We confessed sin and weakness. We encouraged one another. We had the community that all of us long for. But like everyone else, we didn’t use it for the sake of other people. We used it to honor ourselves.
We didn’t have missions, so our community became an opportunity to feed our egos and hide our arrogance. It’s easy to think you’re loving well, when everyone you’re loving is just like you. We began to realize we had weeded out other people that didn’t meet our standards for the group. Our group began to nitpick one another. Our energy, gifts and time didn’t go anywhere. We were made to use them, but by keeping them guarded in our own little group and not sharing them, they became distorted and hurtful.
When you don’t have mission the community becomes stagnant, toxic and suffers.
Without mission, our community didn’t see the power of God in the ways we wanted. We talked about it. We longed for it. But when it really came down to it, we didn’t see it. We didn’t get to see people’s lives change.
We prayed a lot. We learned a lot of theology. But when you looked at our lives, there were the same sins and issues and not a lot of growth.
The Christian community was designed for mission. To welcome those people who are far from God. That’s why it says there were people being added day by day. Their mission was people.
People vs. Causes
I emphasize people to point out how easily we sidestep individual people to champion a cause or initiative. Often we’re about reaching the city, restoring a neighborhood, or cleaning up a park. These are good desires. However, they don’t need saving.
The people in them need saving. The people in the city, the neighborhood and at the park need you to share the gospel with them.
The mission is people. Not projects.
Projects don’t feel shame, people do. Initiatives don’t have guilt, people do. Buildings have not rebelled against God, people have. Parks, no matter how beautiful they may be, cannot sing songs to God. People can.
The Christian community is about having new people in your home, at your dinner table, attending your parties. We need to open up our lives. There are thousands of people in this city that will never come to a Sunday service that will come to your house and have dinner with you.
They don’t care about what we do here on Sundays. They will care about you, your story and your community. They will want to hear how Jesus has changed you.
Stuck Between Verses 41 and 42
The community in Acts was incredible. It started with them believing the gospel. They weren’t planning with a strategy. They simply believed and things began to take place.
We need to hear this. God is doing so much in our church. There is a large portion of us who are trying to live this type of community out. However, there’s a larger portion of us that come to listen at Sunday services, but are stuck between verse 41 and 42.
We believe the gospel, but not enough to actually live a life on mission.
41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:41-42 (ESV)
So many of us have heard the gospel, believed it, repented of sin and even been baptized in faith. But something is keeping us from verse 42. Maybe you have too many fears or your apathy is too invasive, but something is hindering you. I’m not here to belittle or demean you. I’m here to encourage you to take that step into verse 42.
This season in our church I’m begging God that He will give us faith in the gospel in such a way that Missional Communities will begin to be produced. We are launching almost two hundred brand new missional communities in the next few weeks for you to be a part of. We have simplified the ways to get connected. We’ve written a curriculum and scheduled trainings for you to learn how to live this out.
We want to be a church faithful to Jesus. We want you to worship Him with us.
For this to happen you and I need a type of devotion we don’t currently possess. Acts 2 wasn’t perfect, but they were devoted. We will need that kind of devotion; a devotion that overcomes the pains and frustration caused by being in missional community.
How do you get this kind of devotion?
Think about Jesus’ devotion to you. His devotion to us is the antidote to our flakiness and weariness towards missional community. You’ve tried before, but it was too hard. You don’t want to yet. You can’t make yourself want to do these things. Think about how Jesus did these things for you.
When you were distant and wanted nothing to do with Jesus, He still prayed for you. Even now, He prays for you when you fail. When you are weak and continually rebel, He’s patient with you. When you sin and have too much shame that you cannot forgive yourself, Jesus still forgives you.
His gospel and devotion to you should stir up devotion and commitment in you to be on mission in community.
Join a Missional Community
We need to be devoted to a people, to a missional community. We need to repent and receive forgiveness for all the ways we’ve stayed in verse 41, not moving into verse 42 and into the lives of others. It’s messy there, but that is where we see the gospel play out in the most amazing ways!
All of us need to take one step toward missional community, knowing that where Jesus is leading us may be scary and hard, but there’s only more joy. That’s all He has in mind for us. It’s also the way to future salvation for others.