The church as it should be (from verses 42-47 in Acts 2):
Is it communist? Many have the misconception that the Acts 2 church is just the Christian form of communism. Nothing can be farther from the truth. While this merits a much more detailed treatment, it must be said here that communism is a brutally selfist system that denies the One who truly provides all we share with one another — in essence it is a profoundly industrious attempt by the World to counterfeit the beauty that is the Acts 2 church. That church is indeed, however, communitarian, which is the carrying out of a people's love for one another in action, in full devotion to Christ — it is the real Shalom community — something the Catholicist Nation knows little about.
Is it carelessly dismissive? Some may also consider the Acts 2 church benignly foolish in that it requires us to relinquish all of our possessions. The Catholicist Nation has done a brilliant job of convincing people that they actually have possessions to begin with. The truth is that God has assigned us stewardship over certain things that belong to Him. Look carefully at the passage — the Acts 2 church is not about selling out to poverty, it is instead about accurately assessing the value that God has placed on things so that all in community may have great abundance.
Is it reclusive? Some Christians have gone to the extreme of trying to form their "Acts 2 communities" by isolating themselves into reclusive communes. This is frequently accompanied by venomous revulsion of government authority and mostly results in cult-like paranoia. Yes, we are living and working in Babylon, but Jesus walked around and interacted with people in Babylon also. We are expected to be His lights today, and as such we mustn't put that light under a bushel.
Is it ascetic? If we do all the things asked of us by God to ensure that all needs are met in community, does that require us to maintain some strident denial of worldly things to demonstrate our piety? Many times this "devotion" is merely a way to display pride: "Look at how poor I am, that means you can see how spiritual I am." The issue with being too rich has mostly to do with those who've gained their riches through exploitive means — this is what Jesus was talking about when he spoke about the camel and the needle.
Is it communal? That is, do we have to form a remote commune or village with some formal hierarchy to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world? Never! Such constructs are formed because the people in it need external boundaries like distance and fences to behave properly. Christ asks us to live righteously, and that out of His presence in our hearts and His request to love others with His love. That should be enough in and around the worst among us.
Is it non-authoritarian? Every community must have wise leaders to help sustain it. Respect from the rank-and-file is an important part of that. The question is, are leaders wholly informed by Scripture and act out of Christ's love, or do they dominate unduly because they either crave power or exploit the sinful conduct of the people?
Is it non-monetary? Some may presume that to use a medium of exchange — dollar bills or some form of currency — would defy the purest principles of this community, that the only alternative is to practice barter. This is a noble thought, but it significantly misses the main point. The descriptive model from Scripture doesn't tell us to forego units of account, but it does clearly state how those units are to be considered — exclusively based on the love one has for one another in community. The value we have for one another is to be determined through God's eyes, not the World's.
Is it religious wealth redistribution? Nothing in Acts 2 or anywhere else in Scripture mandates that each individual in that community has an equal amount of dollars as every other — once again, this is the World's value measurement. The key is that, whatever those measures are, all are cared for and can praise God for blessing us with all good things. Much of that comes from gratitude for the manifestation of His glory in our gifts — those abilities each of us has to do marvelous works in His name. If that happened, entire communities would be wonderfully wealthy!
Is it rejecting industry? You'll note that this passage says nothing about the people of the community continuing to work hard and produce things in great abundance for the community. Because of that we may assume these people are still out at their jobs joyfully employing their talents and giftings to produce the things that are shared and distributed, and that each individual in that community may still deeply respect and appreciate having their own God-awarded stewardship over their own productive resources and capacities.
Is it a distortion of incentives? Nothing in the passage indicates everyone sat around and did nothing expecting others to give them everything. Again, everyone contributing something of productive value is necessary, and it is all richly enjoyed by their covenant relationship with God and with others. The economic principles are well applied: Each individual specializes in something, then exchanges what they produce for the good things others have intricately specialized in producing. The law of comparative advantage actually brings an increase in the overall wealth of a community and all are blessed.
Is it just too pure? Since when do we give up on purity as an excuse to keep sinning even in the most easily rationalized ways? The answer: when one desires to remain tied to the World and follow its dictates. Let's not mince words. A monetary unit such as a dollar is the World's assessment of value derived from fear. God's assessment is based on love. The truth is that the real church of Jesus Christ is one that may indeed operate without any monetary unit at all, for all people in that community provide for one another in great abundance trusting in God's provision and knowing that trust does involve vibrantly deep acknowledgment of the gifts He has placed in each individual to do phenomenally things in tangible present reality. The genuine follower of Christ considers any "unit of account" this way. All are cared for based on this love, not on the World's oppressive standards of exacting value reciprocation.
Is it Pentecostal? Obviously part of Acts 2 is the filling of the Holy Spirit. Certainly all followers of Christ are filled with the Holy Spirit, but many argue about what that exactly means. Is it speaking in tongues? Is it having a glow? The point that must be emphasized here is that while God speaks to and moves within individuals in whatever way He wants at whatever time He wants, we are still called to love one another to the extent that we see God in His glory, and I believe the passage cited above details the real conditions in which that is made to happen.
Is it too utopian? Let's be honest, everyone wants to live in a perfect world. One of the key problems with this is the fear it would be so sterile that individuals would not be allowed to be expressively human. For these purposes, the real issue with utopianism is that it cannot be achieved by imperfect humans, especially in light of their claims it can. When spouted by very powerful people it makes for one of the most destructive deceits of all. World attempts at perfect society have been, are, and always will be miserable failures. This is why living in Christ's Kingdom even here amongst World-driven murderers is the only way one may have the fulfillment most otherwise seek from a quasi-utopia.
Is it just warmed-over dominionism? Many believers do relish their crusade to transform Cain's World into a Christian "dominion." They don't realize that is impossible, and something an Acts 2 church does not have to worry about. Dominionists try to make a Kingdom on earth from Caesar's domain, but the fact is the Kingdom is already here in the lives of those who'd simply be Christ's. Dominionists are striving futilely to rehabilitate the World, "Kingdomists" leave the World to its proper role while drawing those who desire agape out of it and into liberating truth and bountiful grace.
Is it too primitive? Some Christian groups have been so obsessed with separating themselves from the World that they've gone to wild extremes to try to prove that they are genuinely pious. This only reflects their failure to appropriate Christ's words deep inside their hearts, instead relying on outer prohibitions that do little to nourish their souls. By insisting that the only way to get back to the original church is to furiously forbid dancing, card-playing, and artwork on the walls is to completely miss the point of what Christ was all about. Sure any given individual may see that certain worldly things do keep him from a vibrant relationship with God, but it takes solid disciples grounded in the word and committed to abiding fellowship to graciously help one another. One of the most important areas of concern here regards our contracts with Caesar, and one which as this webzine proposes is easily one of the least addressed. We don't have to wear plain robes and break bread on the floor to be ungrafted!
Is this simply an excuse to try to make "heaven on earth"? This dismissal is itself often used as an excuse for all kinds of wretched behavior. No one with any intelligence believes the state of our world is in any way "heaven on earth," or even that it ever could be. But because it isn't shouldn't keep us from being His Kingdom right here, right now. All this means is that we display Christlikeness in all our words and actions. The issue is whether we allow Christ to move us to do that, and doing church by the World really gets in the way of that.
Is it obsolete? Finally, it may be asked, "What about the idea that the Acts 2 church was dispersed?" The intimation is that it was never supposed to be permanent, that it served its purpose for a young church but cannot be reproduced today. The answer is that the Acts 2 church must be dispersed, but it cannot disappear. It is still the Shalom community (meaning peace and joy have their most authentic expression there) among those who so desperately need it! Jesus said the Kingdom is in you, so share that with others. You can't be out treating the sick if you aren't fully immersed in the internship. Remember, Jesus commissioned you now to be the doctor on his behalf. That internship is vibrant interaction that is precisely what the Acts 2 church is about.
I might add that you can find a number of mind-blowing, heart-rendering places in Scripture where the Acts 2 church is described in more detail, even in the Old Testament. Check out Deuteronomy 15 and Isaiah 61 and look at the community depicted there. It is His vision for us. Prepare to be blasted by the truth about how much He wants to give us when we meet to worship Him and only Him in Spirit and in Truth.
This page was originally posted by David Beck at yourownjesus.net on September 26, 2004