Characteristics of the Early Church – a note on unity

A few weeks back I was completing an in-depth study (or as in-depth as I could be) on Acts and then based on some conversation I was having here in Belize also dove right into 1 Corinthians.  The Lord spoke clearly and near audibly to me.  He told me I had to share the revelation with our summer staff for Belize.  So this blog is me sharing what I learned from Acts and 1 Corinthians with you all!

I just finished up about a month study of the book of Acts and specifically characteristics of the local church.  Here’s what I found….
  1. They were filled with the Holy Spirit
  2. They valued (it says they were devoted to) each other, community, meeting, praying, worshiping together.
  3. They were unified.
A note on unity – It doesn’t say that they were all the same.  Rather it says that they had unity.  Unity in a church doesn’t mean that everyone agrees on everything.  IT means that there is a love that covers everything, even differences!
Paul writes to the church in Corinth to instruct them in unity because they were in disunity.  They had placed one difference (in their case charismatic spiritual gifts) over another’s difference.  People in the church were questioning their own salvation and God’s blessing was not upon them.
Paul writes of the differences in spiritual gifts (Chapter 12) and then devotes an entire chapter 13 to love.  Contrary to what we may believe, the Lord did not prompt Paul to write 1 Corinthians 13 (the “love” chapter) so we had something to read at our weddings today.  He wrote it because the church needed to be reminded to operate in unity and the path to unity is love.  It is only after addressing the love issue that he tackles the specific dispute.
If one were to look back the church, the periods of the greatest unity and specifically verses about unity amongst believers are immediately followed by verses of church growth.  I find it interesting that for the most part (I would argue always) the Lord does not and cannot bless something that is in disunity.
Here the deal for our staff.  We must operate in unity.  We must cover each other’s differences in Love.  And when we do, because I have seen it happen, The Lord will do immeasurably more than we could possibly imagine.
Literally through all the ministry that happened last summer in Belize, all the awesome kids we saw, miracles that happened, the biggest blessing in my life from last summer is to see the deep bond our staff share that served here last summer.  Nothing has brought me greater joy from the summer!  This year our bonds will grow even deeper!
Here’s what I asked of our staff and I would ask of each one of you all…Read through 1 Corinthians 13 except where it says “Love…” substitute your name” Read it as an example Josh is patient, Josh is kind, Josh never boasts….etc Read it frequently this weekend and into next week.
My prayer is that those verses are a prayer to our Lord for our own character and may we all take great steps to operating in love in our lives in the here and now and as we move forward to into the full life that God has called us to.
Update from last week
Last week I had the awesome opportunity to lead an amazing group of 60 students from Tulsa, OK. To say that it was an amazing week would be under-selling.  It was life-changing for us as a staff, for the team and the local ministry partners.
  • We ministered to over 800 children through school ministry and VBS at 3 different locations.
  • We constructed 8 gardens for families in a new area of ministry for Paula’s church. These gardens are the launching point for healthy eating for these families, to meet and end hunger for this community, to fight Diabetes and as these families bring the first fruits of the garden, the gardens will provide for a feeding program.
  • We constructed (2) chicken coops that are the start to feeding programs for (2) different churches feeding over 200 kids combined who may not eat a “real” meal all week.
  • We constructed a fence around a primary school that was the last step in a long process for the local pastor to hire someone from the village to be the warden of the school.  A fence completed.  A family now with one parent with full-time work!  Praise God
  • We participated in the first “official” service at a new location for Paula’s church!  Now they are one church meeting in two locations!  Praise God for local ministry partners proclaiming areas of this country for The Lord!
  • On the last night we commissioned 60+ people to head back to their homes to “Go and Make Disciples”  The Lord is raising up His army and they will conquer this world!  His Kingdom is coming to Earth!

A story from ministry this morning.  I literally just heard this story a few minutes ago – I just spoke to a trip leader who is serving in Belize.  His team is doing the bunk bed ministry. The local pastor asked if a bunk bed could stay at church so she could have a place for people to stay if they need to, almost like a homeless shelter.  Of course our trip leader said!  Anyway, a special needs girl comes up to a participant of ours and the local pastor and immediately wails in crying.  She shares about how she has lost her mother about 2 months ago and her father has been abusing her.  She didn’t have anywhere else to go.  Pastor said “come my child, the Lord has given you a bed to sleep in tonight”  A partnership.  A bunk bed.  A life rescued.  A life changed.

Working hard on one of the gardens for Paula's church

Working hard on one of the gardens for Paula’s church

50 chickens for one of the new feeding program locations!  I named them BBQ and fried chicken

50 chickens for one of the new feeding program locations! I named them BBQ and fried chicken

1 of the 2 completed chicken coops!

1 of the 2 completed chicken coops!

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