This study © 2000 by David Humpal
1. When was the church started? Why does the church meet on the first day of the week? Where did the early believers meet?
The church really began on the day of Pentecost as described in the second chapter of Acts. There are probably two main reasons the early church began to meet on the first day of the week. Christ arose on the first day of the week, and so it is possible that the early disciples were commemorating that important day. And since the early Christians were all Jews, it was natural for them to gather at the temple on Saturday as all devout Jews did, and then continue together the following day, Sunday. Now, two thousand years later, the calendar tells us that we meet on the first day of the week, but most of us probably consider Sunday the end of our week, and Monday the beginning of our week. And we do call Saturday and Sunday the "weekend."
We know that Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week.
Also, Christ appeared to his disciples on Sunday.
The early church met to worship on Sunday.
Paul says we observe our day of worship unto the Lord. Notice that he places observing the special day in the same category as eating unclean food. We know the ritual regulations of eating unclean food were abolished with the death of Christ, and so was the ritual requirement of meeting on Saturday.
Paul says we are freed from the law.
2. Do you need to go to church to be a believer? What are the benefits of attending church? How has going to church blessed you?
Going to church does not save you, and there are good Christians who cannot get out to church for health or other reasons. However, there are many benefits of attending church. We benefit from the encouragement and fellowship. The music touches our soul and the prayers uplift our faith. Hopefully the sermons teach us about God. We learn from each other, and attending church can help us get through a difficult time in our life as we forget about our problems and focus on God.
This is why Paul wrote in Hebrews 10:25, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
3. Read Acts 2:41-47. What are some of the features of the early church? What are some of the features of the early church that are practiced in our churches today? What are some features that you would like to see implemented in our churches today?
Notice that verse 47 says, "the Lord added to their number." It was God that caused the church to grow. We must do our part and be willing to be obedient to what God wants us to do, but we donít need to worry about the results. God will cause his church to grow. As Lechler wrote, "The external increase of the church was one of the results of its internal growth. The more vigorous and pure our inner life gradually becomes, the more powerful and extended is the influence which it exercises on the world without. ... Still, the external growth is essentially an operation of the Lord, and an evidence, furnished by facts, of his Deity. For it is not man (who merely plants and waters), but God, who causes the growth, and gives the increase."
So what was the pattern of the early church?
They prayed, we need to pray.
As we are faithful to God, he will add to the church and cause it to grow. May it happen, Lord; may it happen in our church.
4. Do you think there are hypocrites in the church? How does God feel about hypocrites? How are you sometimes hypocritical?
We have to admit that there are probably hypocrites in the churches - those that say one thing but do another. We must be careful that we donít find ourselves being guilty of hypocrisy. Remember, our true faith and beliefs are revealed by what we do, not by what we say! While acknowledging there are hypocrites in the churches, I still think it would be very difficult to continue a life of hypocrisy and attend church services regularly. You would either be miserable with guilt, or you would be convicted by the Holy Spirit to change. So even though the world might think there are a lot of hypocrites in the churches, I think it is more likely that there are mostly sincere Christians who are striving to serve God, but who sometimes fail in this effort.
5. Do you think the church is losing its relevance in our modern society? Why do you think thatís the case? How can the church be relevant to other believers?
Many people seem to think the church is losing its relevance in todayís culture. I think this depends on how relevant a church wants to be. There are many things that we can do to reach believers and seekers alike.
I believe each church must attempt to be more relevant to the needs of:
And I believe each church should strive to meet needs in the following areas:
There is no one approach to church that ministers to all people. God uses a variety of ways to reach a variety of people. Instead of trying to copy other successful churches, it is better for each church to find out how God wants them to minister in their unique corner of his spiritual family.
6. Does it seem that churches and ministers are only after money? Why do so many people have that impression? How should we support the work of the church? Do you believe in tithing?
If you listen to Christian television and radio broadcasts a lot, you might think that the church is only after money. Even some churches seem to emphasize offerings a lot. It is true that God wants us to be good stewards, but the focus of any ministry should be on Christ, not on finances. When a ministry spends too much time emphasizing finances, people will get the wrong impression of whatís important to God. We give because we love God, so we should think of offerings as a part of our worship. When we make giving a duty of obligation or a means to receive blessings from God, we dilute the gospel message. Unfortunately, many churches and ministries today are guilty of doing these very things.
In the Old Testament tithing was part of the commandments to Israel. For example, Leviticus 27:30 tells us, "A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord." And Malachi 3:10 says, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." This Old Testament practice of tithing has been adopted by many churches and many Christians. But as we discussed earlier in this study, Christians have been freed from many of the requirements of the Old Testament law.
This doesnít mean that we are freed from supporting the work of the ministry. In fact the early believers in Jerusalem sold everything they owned and gave it to the church! As the gospel message spread across the Roman Empire, the Gentile churches did not continue this early Jerusalem practice, but they did faithfully support the church. Nowhere in the New Testament are Christians told to tithe, but they are encouraged to give.
Tithing is a good practice and it is an easy way to determine how much to give each month. But we need to always be open to what God wants us to give. When we realize that all that we have is not ours at all but a gift from God, then perhaps we will be more willing to give of our finances, our talents, and our time to the work of Godís kingdom.
I believe there are certain guidelines we can set for our offerings and tithes. First of all, I think itís up to each individual to find out how much God wants them to give. For some it may be less than 10%, for others it may be more. That decision should be between the individual and God. There is no reason for the church to be telling people how much they should give. Second, your local church must be supported with your tithes or offerings first. Any support of other ministries must be in addition to this local support. God is still working though local congregations to reach people for Christ. Third, the organizations you support must have their finances set up so that there is accountability, there is openness, and there are checks and balances against abuse. Any television, radio, or outside ministry which you support should have some outside accountability firm to ensure proper stewardship. Fourth, try to get in the habit of giving regularly, whether weekly or monthly. You will find it is easier to practice good stewardship if you do it regularly.
7. Does God require church buildings for there to be a church? Why do we build church buildings? Read Haggai 1:4-9. What does God think about his house? Why is it important for us to take care of the church building and property?
We know that God does not need a church building for there to be a church. In the first few centuries, there were no church buildings - people met in homes. The church is actually not a building but a group of believers. But if we have a church building in which to meet, we are blessed. And if the building has been in existence for some time, we are reaping the benefits of the vision of those Christians before us who sacrificed to buy the property, build the structure and maintain the facility. A church building is a convenience - a place where we can gather as the family of God. Every great spread of the gospel message has eventually resulted in the building of new churches.
In Haggai 1:4-9 we read what God felt about his temple. Although the church building is different than the temple, I think we can apply some of these thoughts to our own church buildings.
I believe God wants us to take good care of his house - not only his spiritual house of believers, but also the physical house of the church. God does not dwell in our churches, but God uses our churches to minister to his family. We should care enough to try to take good care of Godís house.
8. Why do you think there are so many denominations? Are Christians immune from conflicts? Why do you think Christians sometimes disagree?
It seems Christians disagree over a lot of things. In fact many churches and denominations have been formed in the past because of disagreements. So we might ask ourselves, Why canít Christians be in more agreement with each other? Why do Christians fight and argue with each other? Sometimes Christians argue because of pride. But other times there are sincere disagreements because some things of God are not easily understandable to humans. In spite of the proliferation of churches and denominations, God is still working through these Christian bodies to reach people for Christ.
The way I look at it is that God uses a variety of churches and denominations to reach a variety of people. There are some people that respond to different styles of worship, and there are some people that need to have different aspects of Godís nature emphasized to help them become whole. There are quiet churches and there are loud churches. There are intellectual churches and there are emotional churches. There are traditional churches and there are contemporary churches. There are large churches and there are small churches. God will use the unique ministry of each church to reach different people with the gospel message.
This study on the Church © 2000 by David Humpal, all rights reserved.
Lechler: Langeís Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Acts, pg. 58, Zondervan Publishing