Wednesday, September 9, 2009

In the Church, "New" is Not "Improved"

In the modern West, we tend to think that just about anything new is also better. We are all extremely familiar with the phrase "new and improved." In our culture, we always seem to be craving the next new thing. For example, blogs gave way to MySpace, which gave way to Facebook, which gave way to Twitter. What's next?

This desire for the next new thing has also infected the western church. If we take a casual look around at most local churches in the USA, we see them doing all sorts of new things that are designed to be new, better, attractive, exciting, and fun. Church events and programs get bigger and bigger. They cost more and more. Meanwhile, the western church becomes increasingly ineffective and irrelevant.

The reason for this is simple: When it comes to the church, "new" is not "improved."

The irony to all this is that we know what the church should look like. We know what makes a church effective and relevant in society. We have a clear example of a church that is exciting and impacts society positively and radically for the Kingdom of God.

We can find that church in a book - the Book of Acts. In particular, we see the early church in action in Acts chapters 1-4. What we see is a united body of believers who lived radically and simply for Jesus Christ. They spent much time together, served one another, gave generously to one another, and loved one another. As Acts 2:42 describes it, they, "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." Interestingly, rather than praying for comfort or safety, they prayed for boldness.

Above all, the early church relied on the power of the Holy Spirit to direct them.

We can see all this very clearly with a simple reading of Acts 1-4. Why don't we do what they did?

The answer may be that Acts is old. It is very old. It is 2000 years old.

It is not new.

However, the reality is that the church in Acts is biblical. The apostles were part of it. They gave approval to it.

When it comes to the early church, it is old and best. It needs no improvement.

We would be wise to reject the "new is better" notion for the church. We would be wise to imitate what we see.

5 comments:

Aussie John said...

Eric,

So the old saying,"What's old is new" still applies. I couldn't agree more, especially Acts 2:42.

What we can't seem to grasp is that a lot of church history, between Acts 2:42 and the present is indeed "new", and not in accord with that verse.

Eric said...

John,

It's ironic that the same people who say scripture is sufficient will at the same time invent new definitions for what the church is and what it should do.

witwaw said...

Eric,

I agree with you on the importance of looking to Acts for our self understanding, but I also think it is important not to stop at the book of Acts. The metaphors used in the NT, especially in Paul's letters, are critical for a proper understanding of church. There is a theological depth to the metaphors that is not easily derived from the historical descriptions in the book of Acts.

Eric said...

Laura,

I agree with you 100%. I probably should have made mention of continuing on beyond Acts.

Just out of curiosity, which metaphors for the church do you think are most instructive?

witwaw said...

Eric,

I've done a bit of study on body, building, and bride for a class on exegesis in Ephesians, so those are top on the list, but flock, priesthood, temple, and branches are important as well. Two themes running through all of these are important in forming my ecclesiology: essential unity of the church and connection to Christ.