The Church: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Church has been a place of imperfect Christians since its beginning … because people make up a church, and people are imperfect. Although it had a powerful start, the Church had persecution from without and problems from within almost from the get-go. Devotion (Acts 2:42) to the right things doesn’t ensure that there will be no challenges. Disagreements, disunity, disharmony … no one is immune. In the first chapters of Acts, we see an amazing beginning for that band of believers, brought together by a love and passion for carrying on the work that their Savior had started. With that kind of start, one could assume it was a “perfect church.” I’m thankful that the Acts account includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. As local churches seek God’s grace in becoming what we should become, we can know that even after the great resurrection and ascension “party”, His followers stumbled and stammered along at times …

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers …
And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved ... Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul …

But a man
kept back for himself some of the proceeds … and immediately fell dead … and great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose..
And the twelve said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
And what they said pleased the whole gathering …
And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. 
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ.
And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot.’ So Philip ran to him … and he opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus …
and he baptized him.

But Saul [was] still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. 
Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. The Lord said to [Ananias], ‘Go, look for Saul … for he is a chosen instrument of mine. So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized.

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch.
And a great many people were added to the Lord. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also …
And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’ Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” (the Book of Acts)

Devotion, increase and multiplication, fasting and praying, and baptism … these aren’t the only words we find in the account of the early church. We also see persecution, death, fear, disagreement and separation. Being a part of a church is messy. There are leaders who probably shouldn’t be leaders and members who probably shouldn’t be members. But I choose to believe in the Church, with all its failures and faults. I believe it’s biblical to say that the Church needs US and we need the Church. I have come to realize that I need to recommit this year to serve, care, give and love more at my local church. By God’s grace, I’ll follow through …

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-31081AN" data-link="(AN)”>for the churches. I am <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-31081AO" data-link="(AO)”>the Root and <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-31081AP" data-link="(AP)”>the descendant of David, <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-31081AQ" data-link="(AQ)”>the bright morning Star.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

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