Ten Essential Principles of the Jerusalem Apostolic Church Model
There is a need for the body of Christ to go back to
the way of Jesus and the apostles as shown in the first-century church. In order to do this we must begin with the first church born after the resurrection of Christ. The best way forward to discover some important principles from this apostolic church is to go through the first several chapters of the Book of Acts.
The following are some of the salient Jerusalem apostolic church principles extracted from the Book of Acts:
1. They needed to be immersed in heaven’s perspective before they could function effectively on the earth (Acts 1-2).
After the resurrection of Christ, the disciples were still looking for a quick fix via a manifestation of a triumphant political kingdom centered in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4-8). Jesus had to refocus them by commanding them to gain heaven’s perspective through the power of the Holy Spirit, which would only come by waiting on God until they were endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49). The church was born out of a 10 day prayer meeting (gaining God’s power and perspective cannot be rushed). Hence; the prayer meeting came before they attempted their mission on the earth. It is a mistake to think the church can fulfill the mission of God merely by strategy or by first immersing themselves in their communities.
First we need to immerse ourselves in heaven before we can be effective on the earth. The Book of Acts could also be called the book of prayer (Acts 1-4; 10; 13; and 16 all speak about significant things that came forth out of a “seeking” attitude and commitment to regular prayer). For 10 days the original disciples prayed in the upper room, perhaps it took this long for their paradigm to change because of the many things the Spirit had to work inside of them. The Spirit had to remind them of all of Jesus’ words spoken to them during the gospel period. The Spirit had to reinterpret all those words in light of the cross and resurrection. The Spirit had to immerse them in the power and presence of God to turn their cowardice into courage and their fear to faith.
2. They devoted themselves to the apostle’s doctrine, to fellowship, to breaking of bread and the prayers.
They had all things in common, received their food with glad and generous hearts, breaking bread in their houses and continually praising God and having favor with unbelievers (2:42-47).
After the download from the Spirit, which took place over the course of the 10 day prayer meeting, not just on the day of Pentecost, the apostles were now able to interpret the implications of the death and resurrection of Christ to the people. This apostolic doctrine was mentioned first because it framed everything else they did. Their fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer all came out of the context of being indoctrinated by the apostolic teaching. Mere fellowship and/or prayer without the apostolic framework are not effective and result in purposeless social gatherings and ritualistic prayer without power.
The effect of this apostolic paradigm was so profound it even affected the mundane things they did in their lives and turned ordinary dinners into a remembrance of the Lord’s broken body, accompanied with great joy and gladness with every family meal.
They also lived in a state of continual praise and had favor with all the people (by implication, those outside the church). This implies that even the world will recognize genuine Christianity if it is practiced house-to-house and has imbued even the ordinary practices and attitudes of believers.
3. They had regular times of daily corporate prayer (Acts 3:1).
In the Levitical system there were morning and evening sacrifices. In this Jewish mindset, offerings were a type of prayer offered to God. Hence, the early church was used to praying and offering sacrifices at regular set intervals of the day. In this particular passage we see that the apostles were heading to the temple “at the hour of prayer” which happened to be 3 p.m. Many scholars believe the Jews went to the temple to pray everyday at 6 a.m., noon and 3 p.m., and perhaps even 6 p.m. The point is, the original apostolic church did not just depend upon once per week meetings to connect with God, but there were daily times set aside to pray. Later on in church history this pattern of daily prayer was called the “daily office”.
4. The leaders were biblically trained in their local faith community (Acts 4:13).
When the religious leaders called Peter and John uneducated but took note that they had been with Jesus, they were referring to Peter and John’s lack of formal training in the rabbinic school that taught the Torah and the traditions of the elders. Being biblically trained in the church family became the norm as all the believers matured into their calling in the context of the local church, not through being shipped away to a seminary. This becomes a critical issue to us in contemporary times because of the present failure to follow this biblical model for training leadership.
Typical denominations attempt to train potential church leadership in a seminary, which is out of the context of the faith community, often resulting in a failure to produce effective church-based leaders. This is why in our local church we utilize church-based theological education (http://www.bild.org), and recommend young people get a secular degree in a regular college. This educational strategy prepares the folks in our church for both the secular and church world without removing them from the covering and care of the local congregation.
5. The apostolic church renounced material individualism, not private property (4:32-35).
This section shows us that another important component of being an apostolic church is the renunciation of individualism even when it comes to material goods. Some would use this chapter to teach that the early church espoused a form of communism (in which no one lays claim to their right to own private property for the good of the secular state), but there is no such teaching in this passage.
This passage actually shows the reverse. It shows that the apostolic church used their private property for the glory of God rather than for the glory of the state or for self-gratification.
6. The apostolic church experienced the judgment of God as well as spiritual renewals (Acts 5:1-11).
In this chapter a mighty prayer meeting (4:26-31), a great move of corporate unity, and mutual care for each member’s material needs were followed by the divine removal of one of the wealthiest financial contributors in the church. The removal of Ananias and Sapphira, not only from the church but from the earth, shows that a believer’s life is not worth living if indeed it results in hurting the purity and mission of the church. This also illustrates the fact that God deems the unity and holiness of the church as more important than its material needs being met through high-end donors. (Often pastors will compromise the mission of the church to appease their highest tithers.) This chapter also shows us that sometimes when God shows up it is not for revival; it is for judgment.
7. The apostolic church allowed God to move in the streets (5:12-16).
It is no coincidence that the majority of the miracles in the gospels and Book of Acts were done in the streets, not in the synagogue or temple. The apostolic church is not a box church in which all the activities take place in a building on a Sunday morning. God wants to show off His stuff and prove the resurrection of His Son. The apostolic church brings Christ to the city and does not expect the city to come to the congregation without a demonstration of His power.
8. The apostolic church used every challenge as an opportunity (Acts 6:1-7).
When the Hebrews neglected the Greek speaking Jews in the daily distribution of food, the apostles refused to lose their focus on their primary calling, but used this challenge as an opportunity to empower more believers for the service of the church. This shows us there will always be challenges and problems in every local church, but apostolic churches turn every challenge into an opportunity to go to another level of effectiveness.
9. The apostolic church produced martyrs (Acts 7:59-60).
The blood of the martyrs became the seedbed of the early church. When Jesus told the church that the Holy Spirit would enable them to be witnesses, this is the Greek word martus from which we get the modern word martyr. Hence, being a witness for Christ was equated with dying for Christ.
Nowadays the church often produces self-centered believers who attempt to use their faith to live a life of ease and comfort rather than lay their whole life on the line for the master.
10. God forced the apostolic church to fulfill their mission to send out believers to fulfill His mission (Acts 8:8).
In spite of the commandment by Jesus to go into the entire world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15), the Jerusalem church stayed in one community and one city and focused on just one ethnic people, the Jews. God had to allow a great persecution to break out to scatter the believers so that some of their best trained leaders could go and spread the gospel to other cities of the region. Sometimes God disrupts the normal pattern of life in a church to fulfill His greater purposes. Philip would have never turned the city of Samaria upside down if God did not send trouble and allow Stephen to be martyred.