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What does a renewed church look like?

Augustus Henry
Inspiration from New Creation Ministry —
By Augustus Henry (PhD)

In many of our Christian messages and sermons, we speak of the early church as a beacon of perfection. The references to those first Christians are often seen in terms of people-with-no-fault. When we hold them in such high esteem, the blemishes among those historical brethren can be missed. In such cases we could forget that many of the Apostle Paul’s writings were to address heretics within the early churches. In fact, many of the challenges we face among congregations today are reflections of issues they faced in their time. We sometimes forget that Ananias and Sapphira – liars and hypocrites, were part of that era. As a matter of fact, they were members of one of the first churches. There were arguments over what to eat. Paul had to write to the Corinth Church on issues pertaining to sexual misconduct. Sexual immorality was so gross that he ‘called out’ a brother in church who was sleeping with his stepmother in 1 Corinthians 5. The concern about gluttony was real, not to mention heretics. Some Jews wanted to make the Christian Church Jewish in some places. They were focused on the doctrine of circumcision.

In spite of all those imperfections, the Church was powerful. It was within that church that five thousand people got baptized in one single day. It was in that setting that people were raised from the dead. It was among those congregations that many miracles were done. When that church prayed, prisoners were set free, people were healed of all types of diseases, and diverse feats were accomplished for the glory of God. But how did such an imperfect church become so powerful? The answer is the Holy Spirit. The reason that that church became so powerful is that, as Luke reported in Acts 2, “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread and in prayers.” Once that happened, the church reached renewal status. The era of truth had arrived. Jesus had promised the disciples that when the spirit of truth had come that they would accomplish great things. In fact, he predicted they would work greater feats than Jesus himself (John 14:12).

The renewed church, a spirit filled church.

If we change the description from what a renewed church looks like to the characteristics of a spirit-filled church, then it begins to look more clearly defined. What evidence did that first century church give of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in its midst? If we can answer that question, we’re well on the way to asking what the marks of a renewed or spirit-filled church should be today. Again, Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and the fellowship, and the breaking of the bread, and the prayers” and so on.

Renewal is found in searching the scriptures.

Therefore, a renewed church is one that has developed routines of bible study, not for mere rituals, but in diligent searching of scripture. John 5:39: Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. So, a church group that engages the Word of God does that to delve more deeply into understanding the workings of salvation. When such a congregation digs into the Word, they are also searching for the testimony of Jesus Christ. The Idea is understanding his experiences as a human being and to grasp how his life connects to our salvation from sin. Yes, a renewed church must demonstrate a high interest in the Word of God.

A renewed church, a fellowshipping congregation.

According to Acts chapter 2, attending church services and meeting with brothers and sisters to celebrate, honour and worship our Lord is another matter of utmost importance. In that vein, some early apostle was careful to admonish the new church to not abstain from congregating. He wrote, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10). He recognized that there was a tendency for folks to stay away, so he counselled members to prioritize corporate worship. A church that is inspired by the Spirit, although imperfect, will adhere to that advice if it is to function as a renewed entity.

The renewed church eats together.

In addition, breaking bread together is essential. There are multiple examples of Jesus sharing a meal with his followers; we have the most famous example of The Last Supper. However, there are other times in which he ate with them. He admonished them to continue in that practice after his departure and promised that he would again supp with them in the heavenly kingdom (Matthew 26). In that regard, the early church was not just being pious, but heeding the very word of Jesus.

The renewed church, a praying church.

The most important characteristic of a renewed church is its commitment to prayer.  The apostle in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, put it succinctly: pray without ceasing!  Most Bible scholars believe that Pentecost occurred 50 days after Jesus’ ascension.  Just before he left, he commanded the disciples to remain in Jerusalem and to stay in the spirit that would have ushered Pentecost. It means that most of those 50 days were spent in prayer. And that is how you have this massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit, even in a church that was full of faults.

What did the renewed church do?

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place (Acts 2):

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. When the people heard Peter testify of Jesus, they asked, what shall we do?

What is also worthy of note in this scripture is the testimony of Peter. The early church carried the testimony of Jesus – it is the relating or telling of the change that the life and teachings of Jesus do for the life of the Christian. Peter preached with such Holy Ghost power that five thousand people became Christians in that place in a single day. People were so impressed that they asked the disciples, “What do you all want us to do?” Peter replied, “repent and be baptized.” That is our goal as a church where people ask what we shall do. This is not feasible if the Spirit is not involved. It is not possible without commitment to prayer. Today’s church does not attain that type of power if continual commitment to prayer is not practiced, with fasting and intense supplication to God. It does not take place in the absence of a diligence in entreating God.

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