And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
What visible impact does the power of God make on our lives? For one, it makes us regular church attenders.
As uninspiring as that sounds, it’s exactly what Luke tells us in Acts 2 following one of the most well known revivals in history. After the Spirit of God descended on those gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost, and three thousand new converts responded to the gospel in faith and repentance, the next scene commends the regular, corporate gathering of Christians for worship.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42
Here’s a shorter way of making Luke’s point: Everyone kept going to church.
That’s not exactly fair, because the word translated here as devoted suggests more than merely going to church; it suggests heartfelt commitment. These new church attenders gathered not to watch, but to participate... to offer themselves. They viewed regular church attendance as the vital means through which their love for and loyalty to Jesus could be expressed. As one historian points out, worship was not an inner feeling of inspiration, but an embodied life of God-honoring practices. Corporate worship was the habit through which early Christians imagined they could best know, and follow Jesus Christ.
Luke goes on to indicate the result of their devotion to corporate worship: “And awe came upon every soul…” He says more than this, of course, but this first fruit of corporate worship is important. Through being together regularly to hear God’s Word and to sing and to pray and to celebrate the sacraments, God became even more amazing to them. His holiness, love, and mercy astonished them even more. Corporate worship fueled the early Christians’ vision of God, which in turn fueled their mission of making Him known throughout the world in the face of severe opposition.
To be sure, the pattern of the early church was not a new one. It was the pattern of God’s people for centuries, and it remains the pattern for His people today. Devotion to corporate worship is one of the primary ways in which our own vision of God grows. It’s how our loyalty to and love for Jesus gets expressed. This same devotion causes our hearts to enlarge for our neighbors, and for the extension of God’s kingdom in our time and place. Author Annie Dillard paints the picture well:
"You do not have to do these things (corporate worship) —unless you want to know God. They work on you, not on Him. You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.”
If you want to know God, to grow in your awe of His love and authority, you will find that regular church attendance is necessary. This is true on the heels of revival, and it remains true when God’s Presence seems to have vanished, as was often felt acutely by the psalmists (e.g., Psalm 13). When those times come, the insight of C. S. Lewis is especially worth remembering:
“When we carry out our ‘religious duties’ we are like people digging channels in a waterless land, in order that when at last the water comes, it may find them ready.”
Regular church attendance is often a commitment to keep digging – to keep listening, offering, praying, singing, and sharing – no matter how we feel, in hope that when the awe of God at last returns, it will find channels in us to fill. May those channels in us be deep.