Jesus changed the world. The sacred writings of the Bible support this truth as well as secular histories. He changed the world with a simple idea. This simple idea is that when men change to become disciples of Jesus, then the world they inhabit changes too.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Ideas are powerful things. They lie dormant in the hands of the uninspired, but become infectious when shared with passion. Passionate persons use ideas to inspire. Their inspiration helps them to persuade. Their persuasiveness causes their idea to spread, and soon their idea has become a dream.
Jesus inspired men to believe in his idea, and that idea spread over 300 years from 120 people in an upper room to 300 million all over the world. The transformative effects of his idea resulted in a group of barely 120 in the 1st century comprising 56.5 percent of the population by the 3rd century.
Their influence reached far beyond numbers. They transformed civilization politically, culturally, economically, and religiously. Thousands of years later, the hearts and lives of those 1st century Christians remain the standard by which all Christians should measure themselves.
The mission of our church is to rise to the standard set by those 1st century Christians. We use the term “New Testament Christianity” to describe the faith of the disciples we read about in scripture. It is for this reason that we call ourselves “New Testament Christians”.
A mission as boldly ambitious as that of imitating the Christians of the Bible requires resilience, flexibility, and a willingness to evolve. Flexibility has been a mainstay of our congregation since its inception as the Berkeley Church of Christ in 1937. It has allowed us to safely navigate the persistent disputes and divisions so characteristic of the churches of Christ.
Resilience has been required over the last few years with tumultuous changes in both the world and the churches of Christ. The chief lesson we have learned is that as the world changes we cannot remain the same. We must be fearless in addressing the unbelief that tempts us with inaction, and embrace the transformative relationship with God necessary to meet the spiritual challenges of the 21st century.
A transformative relationship with God is rooted in the humble understanding that without “a willingness to evolve” we cannot grow into that which God has called us to be. A faith and trust become part of the fabric of a fellowship when all of its members are devoted to God. This trusting belief in God and one another will allow us to embrace the evolutionary changes necessary to make God’s church attractive in the 21st century.
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Devotion is an underemphasized quality of the Christian life. Interestingly enough, it happens to be fundamental to our relationship with God. There is within us a desire for relationship, and this appetite will either be satisfied by God or Money.
This should be of little surprise to us since it is common to see those who have lost their devotion to God leap wholesale into a love affair with money. Both God and money provide confidence, security, and power. It makes sense that when we choose devotion to one, then we lose our appetite for the other.
One of the most significant changes we can make for transforming our lives is to develop an unwavering devotion to God. It is at the core of New Testament Christianity, and without it building a New Testament Church is impossible.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
The 1st century Christians made the dream of Jesus come true, because they built a community on earth like the one in heaven. They brought the kingdom of heaven to earth. Theirs was a loving togetherness that reached beyond language, culture, or family. This miracle of love took a dangerous world by storm toppling long held assumptions about what was possible for men and women to achieve on this earth.
The scriptures record a level of devotion that moved from the inside out. They had no one enforcing the standards of community, because they had given their life to the standard. With no government, formal leadership structure, or clearly delineated power structure they created a harmonious community that quickly became the envy of Jerusalem (Acts 2:47).
What they had was a devotion to the apostle’s teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer (Acts 2:42). These spiritual qualities of their culture produced a shared conviction, shared responsibility, and shared commitment. When these qualities were combined with the incomparable power of God through prayer this integrated community of diverse people changed the world.
There is no wonder that God was able to add to their number on a daily basis (Acts 2:47), when you consider how well they took care of each other (Acts 2:44-45). This type of loving community may seem impossible today, but it is in fact as easy as a decision on the part of every believer to live their lives according to God’s word.
This 1st century vision of God’s church is our dream. Every change we are making to our church is an effort to make this dream come true. When this dream comes true, it will inspire men and women around the world to develop their own personal relationship with God. There could be no greater purpose to which we could give our lives, and no more inspiring hope than of a world filled with the people of God.