The book of Acts is one of my favorite books in the Bible because it gives the account of one of my favorite things to study, the early church. What I have found is that it has become trendy to look at the first three chapters or so of Acts and say, "Look at how awesome the early church was, how come my church isn't like this?" This is a valid question. Our churches should be proclaiming the gospel boldly, serving one another, and worshiping together. But we must not forget that as great as the Apostles were they were simply men whom were saved by grace and were not free from hardships and leadership oversights.
This becomes obvious in Acts chapters 4-6 and really throughout the rest of the Bible. The Church was growing, people were being saved, sicknesses were being healed and in the midst of all of this goodness we see persecution arising and leadership oversights from the Apostles.
In Acts 4:18-21 we see the Apostles detained for their teaching. In Acts 5:17-18 some of the Apostles were arrested for preaching Jesus. In Acts 6:1 we see that because of the growth of the church the widows were not being cared for. In Acts 6:8-12 we see a deacon named Stephen arrested for preaching (one chapter latter he was martyred). It only took three chapters in Acts for everything that seemed perfect to get messy.
What should our expectations at our churches be as we grow, as we see people saved, and as we bring the powerful message of the gospel to bear on peoples hearts?
We should let the bible give us the answer. According to the book of Acts we should expect hardships, persecution, and leadership oversights. We should expect the churches we lead to be messy.
The church I lead is led by broken men who are sinners saved by grace. The body that we serve is a group of sinners; some saved by the mercy of God and others who are yet to taste salvation. Of course it is going to be messy!
Here is the good news.
(Jesus praying to God the father)
But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:13-19 ESV
Just as God sent His son Jesus into the world, Jesus is sending us. We are a people being sanctified more and more into the image of Jesus. Sanctification is a process and we will not be done with this process until we are called home or Jesus returns.
We are not a perfect people by any means, but we are a people being sanctified into the image of Christ. We are a messy people, but messy is good when you have Jesus. Our church just like the early church is messy, but it is messy for the glory of God.
Matt Patrick serves The Well Church in Boulder, Colorado as a Teaching and Lead Pastor. He is passionate about seeing the local church transform cities through church planting. He enjoys teaching and training up future leaders. Matt was born and raised in Lawrenceburg, IN. He graduated with a B.A. in Outdoor Leadership from Western State Colorado University and completed a church planting residency with Fellowship Associates. Matt was ordained at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, AR. He and his wife Ari have 3 kids. Matt enjoys great food, drink, campfires, and most sports.