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“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 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 2:46,47).

THE LAST SECTION OF ACTS 2 INDICATES HOW IMPORTANT THE COLLECTIVE ASPECT OF THE GOSPEL WAS TO THE EARLIEST CHRISTIANS IN JERUSALEM. Their “together” activities were not the sum total of their lives in Christ; nevertheless, they entered into this part of the gospel with great engagement and enthusiasm.

Today, religiosity has been cut off from spirituality. Disillusioned by “organized religion,” many wish to be spiritual but not religious. In practical terms, this means they do not “go to church,” preferring to have a relationship with God that is strictly private. Yet in the New Testament, in texts like Acts 2:41–47, we see Christians giving heed to both parts of the faith. To be blunt, we can’t be Christians without doing what they did, which they did under the direction of the apostles.

There is something else that must be said, and I fear to say it, but I believe I must. If we resist the idea of “church” because it is so frustrating and messy, that is probably an indication of how much we stand in need of it. Yes, it certainly would be easier not to have to adjust ourselves to other people, submit to them, and work out the inevitable conflicts that arise. But that is precisely the point. If there is one thing the gospel wants to do, it is to teach us humility — and the local congregation is a big part of what the Lord has designed for that purpose. There are many things about C. S. Lewis that I disagree with, but I have always appreciated the honesty with which he saw that he needed to “go to church.” So if you find the “people” part of Christianity a turnoff, I invite you to contemplate the quotation below. Then look in the mirror and ask yourself why the spiritual-but-not-religious approach is so appealing to you. While you’re doing that, I’ll go look in my mirror too.

“When I first became a Christian . . . I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn’t go to the churches and gospel halls . . . But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots” (C. S. Lewis).

Gary Henry — +

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