How the Church Began–and Why That Matters Today
When God’s Spirit moved at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit appeared as tongues of fire. That is truly astonishing. The Apostle Peter’s sermon brought conviction and commitment to more than 3,000 people. But might I be so bold as to argue that these spiritual encounters do not include the most miraculous development of all?
The 3,000 people who experienced God and responded to the gospel did not return home. Instead, they encouraged their loved ones to come and be a part of God’s great outpouring. The church began with pilgrims who stayed in Jerusalem. What could have possibly caused them to make such a dramatic life change?
I believe the answer is that we all do amazing things when we fall in love. The first converts fell in love with God and with each other. They found what they had been searching for all their lives. The new life of Jesus always demands a new lifestyle. And this new lifestyle centered on five areas of life the church repented into. [Below, Teter focuses on three of the five. Download the full eBook What We Repent Into to read all five].
1. The Apostles’ Teaching
The new life brings about a hunger for God’s Word. New disciples must be taught how to listen to, study and live out Scripture. When the new converts entered into the daily life of the Jerusalem church, they knew very little Scripture. Can you imagine how the hearts of those in the early church burned within when they went to their regular teaching times and Peter began speaking?
Like the first converts at Pentecost, our new Christians must be taught God’s Word. And they must not only learn, but also apply and practically live out God’s Word—tasting and seeing that the Lord is good, so that their faith will be strong and their lives will bear fruit.
The church began with devotion to God’s Word.
The church was devoted to fellowship. Some 3,000 new brothers and sisters in Christ began to get to know one another. The church began with a group of people who truly enjoyed being together. They learned each other’s cultures and asked each other, “Why do you do things that way?” They made time for relationships and prioritized their new life together.
What does this look like in the life of the church today? We must invite people into these life-giving relationships and welcome them. I remember the first year of planting Fountain of Life. My wife and I hosted a weekly Life Group Bible study. We would begin with dinner at 6:30 p.m. followed by Bible study at 7:30. Our group of 20 people bonded deeply. After study, we spent time getting to know each other. We talked, joked and watched funny YouTube videos. Time flew by. A few of us still recall laughing in my driveway, when the Los Angeles Times driver delivered the paper early in the morning. People do amazing things when they fall in love with God and each other.
The church began by repenting into meaningful and life-giving relationships.
3. Breaking of Bread
Luke shares that in the early church there was much joy in the sharing of meals.
There is another component, however, to Luke’s description of life at the table. With glad and generous hearts, they ate The Meal together. They shared the Lord’s Table meal living in the great reality that Christ could return at any moment.
The Lord’s Table has an especially powerful place in the hearts and mind of Fountain of Life Covenant Church. In the first year of our plant, we suffered a horrendous loss. Dear friends of mine from college—the fourth family to commit to the church plant—were driving home from a New Year’s Day family party when a drunk driver barreled through an intersection and struck their van. Midi, age 35, wife of Mark and mother to twin boys, died instantly. One of the twins, Nathan, survived through the night on a breathing machine, only to die in the early morning hours.
For that first year after the accident, the Lord ministered to all of us through communion. Every time we served communion, we employed the “missing man formation,” placing two empty chairs at the table. It was a visual reminder of our sorrow and loss, but it directed us upwards, rejoicing that they were in the presence of the King.
God met us every time we approached the table and allowed us to be broken as He fed us the bread. He allowed us to be weak as we drank His wine. And He gave us hope that we would see our friends again who used to sit in those chairs. That was His promise. One day, on that amazing day, He will make all things new.
The church began by repenting into sharing The Table together.
Being the Church
The church began when 3,000 people repented away from the world and what they knew to be true. The church grew when 3,000 people repented into being the church.
Repenting out of the world is never enough. We must repent into that which gives life.
This article is excerpted and adapted from the Exponential FREE eBook What We Repent Into: 5 Things Every New Believer Must Do by John Teter.
About the Author
John Teter was born in Los Angeles, the son of Korean and Dutch parents. He was raised in a non-religious home. But while at UCLA, Jesus captured John’s heart and life through an evangelistic Bible study. He went on to serve with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for 12 years at USC, Cal State Dominguez Hills, and Compton College. In 2007, John and his family planted Fountain of Life Covenant Church, a multiethnic, inner-city congregation of Long Beach to incarnate God’s love and make disciples. John serves the church today as senior pastor. He also serves as the church planting team leader for The Evangelical Covenant Church. He is passionate about calling, training, and sending the next generation of apostles to plant churches that are strong in faith and add to their numbers daily. John has written two books, Get the Word Out and Jesus & the Hip Hop Prophets, co-authored with Alex Gee. He and his wife, Becky, have been blessed with three wonderful children. In his spare time, John enjoys good film and television, fantasy football, and being a part of the Los Angeles Lakers Band. John will be speaking on the live Exponential East 2014 live webcast. Register for the webcast here.