Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April 24, 2014

"All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need."  Acts 2:44-45

I remember when I got it just like I get the flu, I caught it from someone else. I'll bet you did, too!

To what am I referring?

Faith! Contagious faith, that is!

When I read the second chapter of Acts I see contagious faith on display!

So, as one who would love to see the Church come out of quarantine and start and epidemic of Christianity I asked myself, "What causes a church to become contagious?"

I was able to recognize three traits of a contagious church:

1) Growing people

2) Generous people

3) Genuine people

In my previous post I talked about growing people. Today's verses focus on the second trait of contagious churches - generous people.

That begs the question, "What does it mean to be generous?" Does it mean giving to everything every time a need presents itself? Does it mean giving a large amount to a few needs?

In keeping with the big idea of this message, generosity is defined in terms of what can spread the most "germs" of faith? How can I give in a way that breaks down people's resistance to the faith and makes them more susceptible to "catching" our faith? Where can I get the most spiritual impact from my gift?

Another important concept in these verses is the idea of "getting by with less in order to give more". True generosity is not just giving more because you have more, it about needing less to be able to give more. It is about taking more risks in giving because we have each other's backs. 

Some look at the phrase "having everything in common" and see socialism or communism. I look at it an see Christian love. I see responsible stewards being frugal so they can care for their own needs and be able to care for others within the fellowship. That is being generous!

Caring for one another by living on less to give more, fosters a level of love and Christian community that catches the attention of unbelievers and draws them toward the faith.

Furthermore, when needs are cared for within the church that fellowship is prepared to respond to outreach opportunities when they arise. When that happens contagious churches are willing to do what it takes to reach out even if it means selling off some possessions to do it!

Growing people are generous people and growing generous people make a church contagious!

April 23, 3014

"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who 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." Acts 2:42-47

Nearly a year after I had returned from a mission trip to Africa I received a phone call from someone at the Center for Disease Control , Atlanta. As soon as the caller identified herself  and where she was calling from she had my full attention!

She proceeded to explain that it had been discovered that someone on the flight back to the USA from Africa had tested positive for tuberculosis so everyone listed on that flight manifest was strongly urged to get screened for TB.

Fortunately, I had not contracted that very dangerous and contagious disease and I hope no one else did either!

But that got me thinking about how one person can infect several hundreds of other people just by being in close proximity with them. 

The members of the Church in Acts 2 were like that! They infected everyone around their city with their contagious faith!

That raises the question, "How did they get contagious enough to infect others?"

Verse 42 gives some insights - "They devoted themselves......."

The original language renders it "they continually gave themselves"  to four important functions of a contagious church:

1) devoted (continually and earnestly) learning and study of the Word

2) devoted (continually and earnestly) fellowship with believers

3) devoted (continually and earnestly) sharing of the sacraments

4) devoted (continually and earnestly) prayer

You may accurately say they remained contagious by staying infected with a good case of the "faith" disease.

What about you?

Are you truly devoted to your faith?

Are you continual and earnest in your study of God's Word?

Are you continual and earnest in finding fellowship with other believers? 

Are you continual and earnest toward the sacrament of Communion?

Are you continual and earnest in your prayers?

Are you "contagious" enough to "infect" someone else with your faith?