And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 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.
There is a great misconception in the church today. The misconception is that, in order to bring people into the church, it is necessary to be as close to the world as possible. The idea is that, by becoming very much like the world in appearance, the church then becomes more accessible to the world. Then, those people who are afraid of traditional church or who feel judgment from the churches they have attended in the past can feel “comfy” and “cozy” by attending the church that feels just like home.
I totally agree with what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. I have no issue with the concepts that he is speaking of. The problem is that Paul is saying nothing of the sort of thing such as “I am becoming worldly just like the world.” Look at the groups that Paul is talking about. Paul is comparing between Jews and Gentiles. He is comparing between those “under the law” and those not “under the law.” To stretch this passage to the point where it is assumed that Paul is saying to blend in with the world is to stretch it past the breaking point. Paul is only saying that in order to hang out with folks from Dacia, he wouldn’t wear his kippa, talit, and phylacteries.
Today, this verse has become the impetus for seeker-sensitive churches to tune in to the world with bigger music, lightshows at churches, sermons that only scrape the very top of the bulk of Christianity. It always amazes me that, while the seeker-sensitive movement decides to pull out 1 Corinthians 9, they seem to miss 1 Corinthians 3, where Paul derides the Corinthians for not growing and still being of the flesh.
Beyond that, I have other problems with the seeker-sensitive/megachurch movement. How many churches of more than 300 people do you know of where everyone knows each other? Probably none. The answer is the small group/cell group/whatever group. However, the group dynamic is entirely dependent on the group leaders, as well as how involved the group is. Therefore, typically, these churches foster two things: 1, a total divorcing of practical, deep preaching of the Word, and 2, a very unaccounted, anonymous Christian walk with God.
When Mark Driscoll, who I know is an incredible pastor from listening to him, freely admits that he is unable to interact with his congregants the way that small church attendees expect to be interacted with, then there is a problem in the church movement. What kind of answer can there be for this situation? Well, I think the answer is to look at the model of the early church in Jerusalem.
The early church in Jerusalem did not have coffee and donuts. The early church did not have “Mother’s Day Out” or outreach programs to the local at-risk community. What they had was Peter’s passionate preaching of the Word on the morning of Pentecost. Three thousand people were saved off of the message of “Jesus was the Son of God Most High, and YOU killed Him.” Now, take this with a grain of salt- I am not saying outreach programs, donuts and coffee, and the like are bad. I AM saying that the way to reach the unsaved is actually a lot simpler than modern churches think. Paul exhorted Timothy saying “Preach the Word.” The point I am getting at is this: We will reach the masses with the message of Christ when we stop worrying about looking like the world and start worrying about creating fellowship and community, but not at the expense of truth.
The connections of the early church thrived from true community. The church expanded on the strength of those who had heard the Word being discipled by the apostles and being taught the truth, then continuing in fellowship with one another.