Jerusalem: A Winsome Church (Acts 2:42-45)
The first-century church in Jerusalem was a church known for its rapid growth. Acts 2:47 says, “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” New souls were being converted every day! 3,000 were converted on Pentecost (Acts 2:41). The number grew to 5,000 in Luke’s note in Acts 4:4. In Acts 5 the text says, “...believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (5:14). What were the factors contributing to this rapid growth?
Of course, the undeniable resurrection of Jesus was a key factor in the church’s growth. This powerful fact was a main point in every gospel sermon preached by the apostles. Speaking of preaching, the evangelistic culture of the church was also a key growth factor as “they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42). Yet, another secret to their success is connected to this note found in Acts 2:42-45,
Acts 2:42-45, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need” (NKJV).
What was the culture of the first-century church? The believers were close-knit in “fellowship” and “together.” They had “all things in common.” They were willing to share homes, share food, share resources with one another. If anyone was in “need” these believers would sacrificially sell “their possessions and goods” to provide for each other. This generous culture, while not the only factor, was certainly a winsome factor for those with eyes to see. The generosity of the church was why the church was “having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47). In other words, the church itself had qualities which made its people noticeably likeable from the perspective of outsiders. It is easy to be drawn to a people who create a family-like atmosphere of benevolent love. Truth without love can feel cold.
If someone were to use five adjectives to describe you and your local church what would they be? Would “generous” or “giving” or “hospitable” make the list? How can we become a church known for these winsome qualities? Use Jerusalem as a template. Invite others into your home and let them know they are welcome in it. Mi casa, es tu casa. Share food with visitors and newcomers and make hospitality a regular habit. Look out for people in need and if you have clothes to share, money to give, or even if it takes selling something or denying some luxury be sacrificially generous. Give to both individuals and the church generously. Volunteer for church works without complaint so needs are quickly met. To do the opposite gives the impression we are uninterested, uncaring, and unwilling to help. These are unattractive qualities. In contrast, a Jerusalem culture will make the church an attractive place. Why would we not want to strive to become a winsome church?