Community in the Early Church

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What makes a good commercial? Often, it’s humor. Beer commercials just about had the market cornered on this for a long time. Sometimes, it’s something that gives you an “A-ha” moment. Farmer’s Insurance has a series of commercials where actor J. K. Simmons demonstrates examples where the company has covered claims of extremely improbable scenarios, such as an air drummer who plows his car into a building or a motorist whose truck was rammed repeatedly by a wild goat. 

Commercials often follow a kind of formula. They’re designed to advertise a product, to be sure. But the way they do it is often by selling an experience—particularly, an experience that takes place within a group. Whether advertising cigarettes, beer, theme parks, or cell phones, commercials often depict people sharing an experience or having a good time together. One classic example was the 1971 Coke commercial that featured the song, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” which brought together young people from different cultures all over the world. The message was clear. 

We all want community. That’s why we join clubs, professional societies, teams, and other organizations. We all want to belong to something bigger than ourselves. We see this very thing in the second chapter of the book of Acts:  

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

One of the great things about the early church was its sense of community. The term used in Acts 2 for “fellowship” is the Greek word koinonia, which means to have community and fellowship, and to share in something. The early church had a shared experience in which they invited one another into their homes, enjoyed table fellowship, and helped one another if some financial need arose. 

Christians understand that this kind of community is not one merely described in the Bible; Scripture commands it. The New Testament includes dozens of examples of “one another” passages that demonstrate the care and concern we should have for fellow believers:

  • Be devoted to one another – Romans 12:10
  • Live in harmony with one another – Romans 12:16
  • Care for one another – 1 Corinthians 12:25
  • Be patient with one another – Ephesians 4:12
  • Comfort one another – 1 Thessalonians 4:18
  • Encourage one another – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
  • Be kind and compassionate to one another – Ephesians 4:32
  • Love one another – John 13:34

None of these things can be practiced outside of a community. These are commands that must involve other people. They require a recipient that benefits from something we do. Every believer should dedicate themselves to the betterment of others (cf. Proverbs 27:17).

A Christian without a church family is an impossible contradiction. Believers are more than members, attendees, or participants in a local congregation. If we’re part of a church family, we should be involved in other’s lives—welcoming them into our homes, showing them love, and concerning ourselves with their needs. 

Luke says, “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). With a church family like the one he describes, it’s no wonder why people wanted to be part of it.