Foundations for Church and Mission Taken From the Book of Acts
Holy Spirit Power– Acts 1:8, 5:12,16,32, 4:31
The church in the book of Acts depended on Holy Spirit’s power to witness, appoint leaders, experience breakthrough signs and wonders, discern and overcome the lies and attacks of the enemy, and to endure suffering. In Acts 9 and 10 we read of amazing Holy Spirit activity in the life of the church. Saul is confronted by a blinding light and meets Jesus on the road to Damascus. As a result Saul is converted and becomes Paul the apostle. A disciple named Ananias is spoken to by God in a vision, and is subsequently told where to find Paul to be able to baptize him. Later in chapter nine we read of the healing of Aeneas and the raising of the dead of a disciple named Dorcas. In chapter 10, God leads Peter to a Gentile named Cornelius through a vision and a supernatural visitation, and as a result the gospel spreads to non-Jews.
We believe in and long for such Holy Spirit power at work in our churches!
Acts 1:8 “What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses...” The Message
Global Mandate – Acts 1:8b
The new disciples of Jesus were given a mandate to take the gospel to people groups near and far. They believed the uneducated, the poor, men and women, young and old, people of all cultures and tribes were all commissioned by Jesus to go and make disciples. And so we should pass on this good news to everyone we reach, rich or poor, black or white. All are called! Everyone can be part of what God is doing. God longs for His son Jesus to be worshipped among all nations. We believe what it says in Matthew 24:14: the gospel will be preached to all nations, and then the end will come.
Acts 1:8 “Tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth…” NLT
Church Based – Live and Function as Church – Acts 2:40-47, 4:32-35, 8:1, 9:31-32 Holy Spirit gave birth to the church on the day of Pentecost. From that moment, God’s primary way of working on the earth was through the church He birthed, and through local expressions of that church – as they are empowered by Holy Spirit. We believe that mission and church are one in God’s heart and that we should therefore integrate church and mission in how we do things. All Nations is called not only to plant and multiply churches, but to function as local church missional communities wherever we are. We believe we will multiply who we are and how we live our daily lives; if we function as missional church communities, we will reproduce missional church communities.
This truth equally applies to how we govern ourselves. We seek to base our “structure”, i.e., how we organize and govern ourselves, on the patterns and practices of the church we read about in the Gospels, the book of Acts, and Paul’s letters to the churches. This includes the leadership roles in our churches and our network of churches. We believe God has given the church five equipping gifts and spread them throughout the church to equip everyone for ministry. Those five equipping gifts are teachers, prophets, apostles, prophets and evangelists. We appreciate the need to manage and administrate our resources well, and to be accountable to donors and governments in the appropriate legal ways, but at the heart of who we are we believe the basis of our governance is functioning elderships. Legal boards have a vital role to play but should not lead the work of ministry but provide legal and financial accountability for the ministry we do.
We believe the persecution the early church experienced was against the church because it was the church – it was not against organizations, schools, social programs, etc. It was because the Holy Spirit was living and working through the New Covenant community God created. The early church became a force for change, and thus they experienced opposition and persecution. We believe if the nations of the earth are to experience New Testament type transformation, it will be because we build and multiply Spirit–empowered missional communities of Jesus followers that do signs and wonders and spread the good news of Jesus. Our vision is Jesus working through the church to change the world. That is what inspires us!
Acts 9:31 “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.”
Multi-Cultural Teams and Community – Acts 13:1-3, Acts 17:22-28 The gospel breaks down barriers and walls between people and makes it possible for local churches and church planting teams to become expressions of God’s love and forgiveness between races, generations and genders. As All Nations, we believe we are to demonstrate the love of Jesus for all nations, tribes and cultures. We seek to practice non-racialism, i.e., we recognize and appoint people to leadership responsibilities because of their maturity, abilities, and spiritual gifts, not their race or gender. We believe that God has revealed Himself uniquely in each race and culture and people. We believe God has planned every tribe and people and culture, and that no culture exists by accident. We look forward to the day when around the throne of God people we will worship Jesus in every language and culture! (Revelation 5:9-10)
Acts 17:22 “So Paul, standing before the Council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious, 23 for as I was walking along I saw your many altars. And one of them had this inscription on it—‘To an Unknown God.’ You have been worshiping him without knowing who he is, and now I wish to tell you about him. 24 He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need there is. 26 From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand which should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. 27 His purpose in all of this was that the nations should seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist.” NLT
Cross-Cultural Empowerment – Acts10:44-48, 11:1,18, 13:46-48, 15:3-7, 18:6, 21:19 The church grew because there was acceptance of the reality that God created and revealed Himself uniquely to each culture. It took a revelation of the Holy Spirit to convince the early church leaders that God was equally committed to loving and redeeming “the Gentiles” as He was the Jews. In fact, He had to remind the Jews that He made the covenant with them in order to bless “all the nations of the earth”. As the gospel spread to non-Jewish cultures, and those cultures experienced redemption from cultural bondages, each people group was able to glorify God in their own heart-language and culture. We are committed to empowering each culture and race we plant churches among to experience God in their own language and culture. We believe it will take all the cultures, languages, tribes and peoples God has made to create a big enough picture of the vastness of God’s glory.
It follows, then, that churches grow and multiply most naturally and quickly along the lines of specific languages and cultures. Insiders in a culture are more effective than outsiders in redeeming, transforming and reaching their own people and culture if - and this is a big if – there are people who will cross cultural barriers and spread the gospel and plant churches in people groups other than their own. We see this as cross-cultural empowerment because people who build relational bridges between the cultures do so for the purpose of spreading the gospel and quickly raising-up local leaders within that culture. In some situations the process of empowering leaders within a culture may happen over a few months, and in others it may take longer, but in every situation we are intentional about starting church planting movements within tribes and cultures that are led by people from within that people group.
Acts 15:3 “So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. 15:7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.”
Abundant Gospel Sowing – Acts 13:5, 13:49, 14:7, 16:14, 17:3 The church in the book of Acts proclaimed the “gospel”. They believed the truth they proclaimed had the power of God to change lives, that it was God’s way to change lives and the only way to change lives. They were focused on people coming to faith in Jesus through the preaching of this truth. It was priority for them: the primary way for reaching out to other people no matter their gift, calling, vocation or ministry or business. It came naturally to them because their lives were changed by the gospel. It was a priority, the way they believed the poor and broken and people in bondage could be helped. They sowed the gospel with great courage:
Acts 17:3 “He was explaining and proving the prophecies about the sufferings of the Messiah and his rising from the dead. He said, “This Jesus I’m telling you about is the Messiah.” 4 Some who listened were persuaded and became converts, including a large number of godly Greek men and also many important women of the city.” NLT
Leaders Appoint Leaders Acts 14:21-23, 11:30 God empowers people with leadership gifts to serve His church (Ephesians 4:3-13). Servant leaders don’t have to wait to be appointed to lead because leading is exactly that: it is serving. Every true servant leader begins by serving then their leadership qualities and character become apparent and the person is recognized. God uses other leaders in the Body of Christ to affirm them and validate their leadership calling in the eyes of the people they lead. Leaders who serve in local churches are recognized for the their service, their maturity and the fruit of their endeavors, and then appointed by other leaders. The normal pattern in the New Testament was for proven leaders from outside the local church to recognize the gifts of leadership in others and publicly appoint them. Jesus did this with His apostles (Luke 6:12), as did Paul in the churches he planted (Acts 14:21-23). Because those who are gifted as apostles are the ones who most often pioneer new churches, it is the apostles who most often appointed local church leaders (by apostles we do not mean people who held an office called “apostleship” but those who functioned as pioneering church planters).
There is no example in the New Testament of local church elders being chosen by election. God worked primarily through the principle of using existing leaders to appoint other leaders. Though we in All Nations are passionate about organic-simple church planting movements and non-professional clergy because of our desire to see gospel spread rapidly among the unreached, we recognize that God uses servant-leaders in the church to equip and empower others for the “work of ministry” (Ephesians 4). We see this principle of leaders appointing leaders repeatedly in the New Testament. For example, Paul sent Titus to appoint leaders in the churches in Crete (Titus 1:5). At the Jerusalem council, it was apostles and elders who came together to judge the dispute between the churches. And it was a senior amongst equals, James the apostle, who led this very important gathering.
What qualifies leaders to appoint other leaders? It is on the basis of one’s spiritual gift, their relationship with the church or movement, their maturity and their experience in doing the work of ministry that qualifies leaders to recognize and appoint other leaders. Leaders tend to appoint leaders who carry the same spiritual “DNA”. This is important because it allows the vision and passion of a leader to be passed on by others (see Romans 15:15-21 – Paul did not want to “build on another man’s foundation”). It might seem contradictory for leaders to appoint leaders and at the same time advocate organic church planting movements, but we believe that this pattern of leaders appointing leaders is a recognition of the truth that God wants there be a DNA transfer from church to church by those who are evangelizing and pioneering among the churches. It also creates accountability between churches through proven men and women who exercise one of the leadership “equipping” gifts described by Paul in Ephesians 4. As apostles and teachers and prophets and evangelists move between church communities they are able to provide needed wisdom so the churches don’t become isolated or subject to false teaching. In other words, there is a need from outside a local church community for help in discerning who qualifies to serve as elders inside the local church community, especially in the beginning stages of the life of a new church.
Scripture passages that reinforce the Biblical truth of leaders appointing leaders:
- The apostles chose another apostle – Acts 1:26
- When there was a need for some admin help in the early church, the apostles oversaw the process of selection and appointment of these leaders – Acts 6:1-6
- Jesus modeled the truth of leaders appointing leaders: He chose apostles from among his disciples to be leaders among them – Luke 6:12
- The elders oversaw the distribution of goods to the poor among them – Acts 11:30
- When their was a dispute, it was the apostles and elders as representatives of the people that judged the matter, and an apostle among them, James, who chaired the gathering – Acts 15:4, 16:4
- At the end of his life, Paul called for the elders of a church to come together – Acts 20:17ff
- When there were problems in the church in Crete, Paul sent Titus to set things in order and to appoint elders – Titus 1:5
Obedience Based Discipleship – Acts 5:32, 5:29 A disciple is one who “hears the word of God and does it…”(Luke 8:21). Jesus spelled out this requirement for his disciples very clearly. He reminded them of the cost of following him. He turned many away because they would not obey Him. Following the example of Jesus, we are called to make disciples who love and obey Jesus. Jesus not only loved His disciples with compassion and mercy, He also loved them with truth and correction. He taught them to obey Him. He gave them commands to obey to be clear about what He expected from them. The early church carried on the teaching of Jesus about the cost of being one of His disciples, and if we are true to Jesus, we will do the same.
- Entreat God through prayer - pray
- Engage the hearts of people who don’t know Jesus - meet
- Equip through one-to-one discipleship - make
- Encounter God by gathering in house churches and celebrations - gather
- Expand through multiplying this same pattern all over again - multiply
Acts 5:32 “We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”
Cell and Celebration – Acts 2:40-47, 20:20, 6:2, 6:5, 15:12, 15:30 There is a pattern in both the Old and New Testaments of God inspiring and instructing His people as they gather in large celebrations (called feasts in the Old Testament), and building community as they gather in small, more intimate home based gatherings. We believe this pattern is healthy for both small communities of Christ followers, and large congregations. Celebrations provide opportunity for accepting the leadership of those God has appointed in their midst, recognizing the multi-cultural nature of the church, inspiring faith to believe God for great things, spiritual momentum to keep growing, and a larger sense of spiritual family. Celebrations tie movements of simple churches together and give them greater cohesion for the vision God has for them. Leaders have opportunity to instruct people when they are gathering together in large celebrations in the truths of the gospel in a way that does not happen in small house churches. And large celebrations build hope in people’s hearts as they see many others who believe the same as they do.
Acts 2:42 “They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer. 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.”
Church Planting Movements – Rapid Multiplication of Disciples – Acts 17:1-4, 1 Thes 1:7-8, Acts 28:20, 6:7 We endeavor to ignite movements of church planting churches, not just one church at a time. The new church in Thessalonica exploded in growth and multiplied rapidly throughout the region around them. The believers that were in Rome grew to 140 house churches by the early part of the 2nd century. This rapid, spontaneous disciple making growth of the church is called a church planting movement. We seek to adjust our practices and patterns of church so that we help ignite explosive church planting movements. We dream of Jesus being worshipped and whole communities and nations being transformed as a result.
Acts 9:31 “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.”
Acts 6:7 “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
Simplicity of Life - Serving the Poor – Acts 6:1, 2:44-45, 4:32-37 When one reads of the church in the book of Acts, there is a beauty that emerges because of it’s simplicity of lifestyle. Believers spontaneously shared their goods with one another “as there was need”. The people often sold their property and belongings and subsequently trusted their leaders to distribute the proceeds as they saw fit. There was no lack by anyone because there was no lack of love by everyone. One person who stands out as an example of simplicity of faith and generosity of spirit is Barnabas. Here is how Luke describes Barnabas as an example of this way of living:
Acts 4:34-37 “There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them 35 and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need. 36 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. 37 He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles for those in need.”
Sacrifice and Suffering for the Gospel – Acts 7:54-60; 8:1-3; 9:1-2; 5:17 & 40; 4:21; 14:1-7,19-20; 16:16-24, 37; 17:1-9; 19:21-41 It was normal for the early church leaders to suffer for their faith. Sacrifice was common. Sacrifice and suffering in the book of Acts took place because of gospel activity. The early apostles preached the gospel aggressively. They spoke about the resurrection and their belief in Jesus the messiah. They did not practice the principle, “Preach the gospel and if necessary, use words.” They knew one could not preach the gospel without using words.
More impressive than the fact that the early church leaders suffered for spreading the gospel, was how they responded when they suffered. On one occasion, when they were released from prison then refused to leave town quietly! (Acts 16:35). They were beaten for their faith, when released they joined a prayer meeting asking for more boldness!! (Acts 4:23-31). They strengthened new converts, encouraging them to continue in the faith by reminding them that it is “through many tribulations we enter the kingdom of God…” (Acts 21-22).
The early apostles were part of a movement where suffering was considered a privilege (Philippians 1:21 & 29). May God grant us the same boldness and courage in All Nations.