Formations 05.22.2016: Casting a Vision

Acts 2:37-47

Pierre Reymond, Pentecost, c. 1550

Pierre Reymond, Pentecost, c. 1550.

One of the key skills of any leader is motivating his or her team, and there is no shortage of advice about how to do it. Much of this advice, however, though true, is also rather basic. In a recent Fortune article, MongoDB president and CEO Dev Ittycheria suggested four substantive things leaders can do to inspire their teams. These include:

• Make people believe in your mission. Be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish so people will want to be part of it. Explain the “why.”
• Show how every employee can make an impact. Help people understand the steps to implementing the mission and how they fit into the process.
• Define your best. Set the pace by defining your own values, the principles by which you operate.
• Provide opportunities for growth. Teach valuable new skills. Provide opportunities to take on bigger challenges.

Luke was no corporate executive, but when I read today’s text from Acts 2, I can’t help but notice how the vision Luke casts for what the church could and should be aligns with what Ittycheria recommends. By highlighting the church’s early successes, the commitments of its members, and the values they sought to embody, Luke motivates his readers to get on board with what Jesus is doing in the church by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2 inspires Christians to believe in the church’s mission and put it into action.

Source: Dev Ittycheria, “This Is What Makes a Great Boss,” Fortune, 2 May 2016 http://fortune.com/2016/05/02/makes-great-boss/.

Discussion

• What are the signs that the Holy Spirit is at work in a church?
• Are some of these signs more telling than others? Explain.
• What is the relationship between the signs in Acts 2:43-47 and the commitments believers make in Acts 2:42?

Reference Shelf

The Community of the Spirit

Lesslie Newbigin and Jurgen Moltmann have done well to stress this Spirit-dimension of the church’s reality. Newbigin has seen the “giveness” of the reality of the church as body as its organic (Catholic) dimension; the “given” message, responded to in faith, as the evangelical (Protestant) principle, and the emphasis upon church as the community of the “given” Spirit he labels the Pentecostal principle. No doctrine of church can be fully a NT doctrine which ascribes small weight to this. The church as “community of the Spirit” exists, to be sure, as those who confess a common faith (Eph 4:4-6), it exists as those who know a common life in the body of Christ; and it should be noted that the word for “fellowship” (koinonia) means life lived in common. But as a common faith does not mean unanimity in the understanding of faith, so does the common life of the body leave room for individual members (individual roles and functions). We are “saints,” not clones. This koinonia of the Spirit gives prominence to singular experiences, to the freedom of faith and life, to the unpredictable dimensions of faith acting in situations where no “preapproved” guidelines exist. As much as it is anything else at all, the church is “where the Holy Spirit [is] recognizably present with power” (Newbigin). It exists where lives are actually changed, are turned from their condition into their possibility. Little attention is given here to either order or creed. Emphasis falls on the presence, the power, the purpose of God the Spirit (Acts 2, 4, 10). It is this given Spirit who makes us belong to Christ (Rom 8:9); this Spirit is the power and sign of our obedience (Acts 5:32), and this Spirit is the title-deed of our final inheritance (Eph 1:14).

Theron D. Price, “Church,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 152.

The Life of the Early Christians

Verses 42-47 present a Lukan summary of the newly restored faith community…. This particular summary offers an ideal portrait of early Christian life. Verse 42 introduces features of such communal life upon which vv. 43-47 elaborate. First, the community was devoted to the apostles’ teaching. Previous material in Acts allows readers to understand that this would have included scriptural (Old Testament) interpretation and gospel proclamation. Verse 43b adds that apostles also performed “signs and wonders.” This recalls 2:19b, which speaks of “signs below.” Apostolic teaching includes the mighty works that give demonstration to the reality of God’s in-breaking rule.

Second, the community was devoted to “fellowship” (v. 42). At the root of the word koinonia is the idea of sharing. While Christian fellowship can take on many characteristics, in this context such sharing manifests itself in the early community’s practice of having all things in common (koina, v. 44). It was not uncommon for ancients to describe a commu
nity’s origins in ideal terms, which include
communal sharing. Given the 
formulaic character of such communal societies, 
some might be suspicious of the strict historical accuracy of Luke’s description. Still, a community of sharing where people give to others “as any had need” is a goal, idealized or not, to which the covenant community of God’s people should strive.

Third, they broke bread together. This would include both the celebration of “the Lord’s Supper” and so-called “regular meals.” The place where such meals took place was “at home” (v. 46), implying not one particular house, such as “the house” of 2:2, but various homes.

Fourth, they were devoted to “the prayers.”
The use of the definite article might imply specific prayers, such as those of daily Jewish
prayer. This would complement the note in
v. 46 that the early community daily attended
the temple. It is possible that they went to the
temple outer courts each day only to preach. But
there may also be an allusion to Luke 24:53,
which concluded the Gospel saying that the disciples “were continually in the temple blessing God.” Acts 2:46 is the first reference to Jesus’ followers being “in the temple.” This text may represent the more detailed narrative realization of the initial reference found in Luke 24. Connection with temple worship related this early community to the Gospel’s beginnings, which was also in the context of temple worship (see Luke 1). It also affirms that this remnant, restored Israel, is faithful to its heritage. Thus, other people in Jerusalem are favorably disposed to the new community, and many choose to join the ranks of the remnant, or “to be saved” (v. 47).

J. Bradley Chance, Acts, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2007), 59–60.

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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