Businesses are not just known for their products or services. They’re known for their work environment and culture.
- An Internet-related company offers its employees on-site vehicle maintenance, a laundromat, hair salon, and nap pods where employees are free to take power naps during work hours.
- A toy company offers paid time off for school-related absences like parent-teacher conferences or field trips.
- A healthcare company gives month-long vacations after only five years and will pay most of the cost if you choose to visit a country you’ve never been to.
- One pet food company allows employees to bring their dogs to work.
- Other companies offer employee perks like 100 percent tuition reimbursement, on-site gyms, pools, and even bowling alleys.
These companies have created an inviting culture that draws people to work there.
The church is also known for its culture that is far deeper than corporate perks. The early church’s culture overflowed with love—love that reflected Jesus Christ and drew people to Him. Their example in Acts 2 challenges us to continue that reputation and be a church immersed in a culture of love.
God did an incredible work in and through the believers on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came upon the believers, Peter proclaimed the gospel of Jesus, and 3,000 people responded and were added to their number. Out of their common love for the Lord Jesus, the believers came together and shared meals, worshiped and praised God together, and enjoyed each other’s company. They continued to grow by learning under the apostles’ teaching, fellowshipping together, and praying.
Let’s focus for a moment on that crucial last element: praying.
Every great movement from God starts with prayer and is confirmed by prayer. Remember from our study of Acts 1, the first activity of the church was a prayer meeting.
Prayer is the key to effective evangelism. We don’t change people’s hearts with our convincing arguments or clever presentations. Far more important than anything a believer can learn about evangelism is how much he or she depends on the Holy Spirit for witnessing. Before you start to have a conversation about Christ with your neighbor, your co-worker, or a fellow student—pause for prayer. It doesn’t need to be a long, involved prayer. Sometimes it’s enough to say, Lord, let me speak your words.
A friend of mine says, “The reason we don’t pray is not because we’re too busy, but because we’re too confident.” Jesus said, “You can do nothing without me” (John 15:5); and Paul wrote, “Pray constantly” (1 Thess. 5:17). Prayer should drive us to our knees in humility, knowing we need Jesus every hour.
Prayer allows God to change me—the one praying. As I pray in the love of Christ for others who don’t know God, I become more burdened for their souls. As I pray for their broken relationships, health concerns, financial worries, or problems at work, I grow in concern and love for them. People will be more open to hearing our message when they sense that we genuinely care about them and what matters to them.
Praying for others leads to caring for others.
What aspects of church life have been especially meaningful to you?
When have you seen the transformational power of prayer?
The believers in the early church didn’t just meet together to pray and worship. Verses 43-45 shows how they provided for the needs of one another. Three characteristics are prominent:
- Unity. They “were together and held all things in common.”
- Selflessness. “They sold their possessions and property.”
- Mutual care. They “distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need.”
Caring for people is an incredible way to open a conversation about Jesus Christ. It has been said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
The first Christians were so committed to caring for others they sold their own possessions and property to provide for anyone among them who was in need. That’s pretty radical.
Anything they contributed was a gift that came directly from the heart, not from autocratic rule. They gave from the overflow of their generosity. Just as the early believers weren’t required to sell all their possessions, neither are we. In this passage, Luke was describing what happened in the early church, not giving us a mandate. Nevertheless, their example of caring and extravagant love should motivate us to consider how we can imitate it.
How much should we give and how much should we keep? No one can give a once-and-for-always, pat answer to that question. We must find the balance in our own lives. The point is not to adopt an attitude of “How much do I have to give?” but to respond to the God who loves us extravagantly with a heart of loving generosity.
How can you describe a healthy balance between giving and keeping in today’s world?
The early church certainly prayed and cared for others. But they didn’t stop there. Perhaps if the believers had done only these two things—nothing more—none of us would know about Jesus today. At some point, in addition to praying for and helping people, they had to tell them about Jesus—who He is and why He lived, died, and rose again. They had to give voice to the message behind their love and caring acts.
The early believers evangelized! We know this is true because “every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.” This happened because someone who knew Jesus told someone who didn’t know Jesus how to know Jesus!
Sharing completes the cycle of prayer, care, and share. We pray, and God leads us to care. We care, and He leads us to talk about His Son, Jesus. “Let me tell you why I can love at all. It’s because Jesus first loved me.”
Prayer, care, and share: three acts that can become an incredible, dynamic lifestyle.
In most cases, the opportunity to share Christ will be built on the foundation of a friendship. You’ll pray for that person and find some way to demonstrate you sincerely care—even if it’s just to say, “I’ve been praying for you about that problem you shared with me.” In the course of praying and caring, the Lord will give you an opportunity to share how Jesus is the answer to whatever he or she is going through.
A statement that’s been around for years says, “Preach the gospel. Use words when necessary.” Catchy, but wrong. Sure, we preach the gospel as we show people we care, but we also need to tell them the reason we care. They need to know about Jesus Christ, and they need to know how to be saved.
Excerpted from Gregg Matte, Bible Studies for Life: Unstoppable Gospel © 2016 LifeWay Press®. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.