In Acts 2:42, Luke, a Christ follower in the early church, describes what a church is meant to be and meant to do.
“[The early disciples] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (NIV).
The first church was a gathering of followers of Christ who learned together from God’s Word, supported one another and worshiped God together through communion and prayer.
These new Christians couldn’t live a life of faith on their own, and neither can you.
When you're part of a healthy church, you will:
While God does call you to individually embrace Him and what He did through Jesus Christ, the truth is that He does not intend for you to continue to grow alone.
Because you are made in God’s image, you reflect His “Trinitarian” (three-in-one) nature. God has always existed in relationship, and because you’re also designed for relationships, you need others in order to thrive. God made this clear at the start of Creation, when He said it’s not good for people to be alone (Genesis 2:18).
The Bible also explains that Christ will return for “His bride,” which is the church (all Christians through the ages), not just one person. If you follow Jesus, you are a part of the larger church, but you are also designed to live out your faith within a local church family.
The early disciples prioritized teaching God’s Word. This was a primary mission of the church, particularly of the apostles (Acts 6:2-3), as they shared the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection — “the gospel” — with the world. They taught from the Bible, and the first Christians learned to know God and their need for Him through a perspective shaped by their faith in Christ.
Christians believe all of the Bible points to Jesus and the new life He offers. In fact, one way you will know you’re in a good church is that you’ll hear the gospel threaded throughout every sermon, Bible study discussion or song you sing.
Additionally, learning from the Bible with others will help you better understand what it means and how to apply it to your life. As you study and discuss with Christians from a variety of backgrounds who have different life experiences, you’ll hear points and perspectives that you might otherwise miss.
Belonging to a church is a little bit like being part of a family.
In his book “The Meaning of Marriage,” pastor Tim Keller wrote, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
While you can worship and pray by yourself — and do many other things in life virtually — you’re designed for face-to-face interaction with other people. In-person contact can give you a taste of how much God loves you.
I’ve never experienced God’s love through other people like I did when I became a mom for the first time. For a few months after my son was born, I was weak and sick. I could barely take care of my baby, much less anything else. That’s when God sent our church family to the rescue.
Because we live 1,000 miles from our biological families, my husband and I depended on our church family for survival during this hard time. For weeks, friends visited to drop off food, clean our home and hold our newborn while we showered or napped. Through each visit, God took care of us, reminding us that we weren’t alone, even when we were a mess and couldn’t give anything back.
Though human love is far from perfect and families are often messy, God can give you a taste of His love as you’re known and loved by people in your church.
Hebrews 10:24-25 reads, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” (ESV).
Regularly meeting with other believers is a crucial ingredient to growth in the Christian life. These family-like gatherings are intended to be a safe place to not only be loved and served, but to learn how to love and serve others as well.
The church isn’t a building or class to attend, but a living and breathing family to participate in. In relationship with people in your church, you’ll care for each other and serve those who don’t yet know God as a loving Father.
While you’ll find opportunities to serve outside of the church, 1 Corinthians 12 explains why Christians are always better together. Comparing the church to a human body, it explains that while each body part has its own important function — an eye to see, an ear to hear — not one of them could tell the other, “I don’t need you.” The gifts and skills of others enhance and support your gifts and skills — and vice versa. Your impact is multiplied exponentially as you work together with other Christians.
Throughout history, Christian communities have founded orphanages, run soup kitchens and dug wells in villages without water. But service doesn’t have to be an organized event. It can mean befriending a lonely neighbor or bringing a meal to a family in need. It is putting the love of God into action.
At the end of Acts 2:42, the disciples committed themselves to “the breaking of bread and to prayer.” These simple but profound acts are practical ways Christians worship God together as a family.
The breaking of bread is practiced through communion (the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist or Holy Communion are other common names). Before His death and resurrection, Jesus had one last meal with His disciples where He established a pattern that Christians still follow today. He explained that as often as we share this meal (some churches eat a full meal together, while others just serve bread and wine or bread and juice), it will remind us of Him and His sacrifice, and will proclaim the gospel until He comes again (1 Corinthians 11:24-26). When you take communion, you also express your ongoing commitment to Jesus and to your church community.
The second is prayer, or talking and singing to God. While God is always with you, and you can talk to Him one to one, there is something powerful about having a conversation with him in community. Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (NIV).
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