|Photo Credit: Malcolm Jackson, Flickr Creative Commons|
So, for those of you who strangely may not be aware of who Peter Pan was, let me begin by refreshing your memory a bit. Peter Pan was the creation of J.M. Barrie (1860-1937). It's the magical story of a young boy who refuses to grow up. He lives on the island of Neverland with his gang, The Lost Boys. Peter's perpetual youthful life includes an assortment of adventures with mermaids, Indians, pirates and fairies. He is a careless and boastful boy who is often quick to point out to those around just how great he is. Peter has a "who cares" attitude and is surprisingly cocky when faced with danger. I would argue that Peter Pan is also a pompous and judgmental boy with a big attitude problem.
|Photo Credit: Thamy Secco, Flickr Creative Commons|
So what does all of this have to do with my reading of Acts this morning? What is all this talk about the modern church embraced the Gospel of Peter Pan? I think that, unfortunately, it has done just that. Before I share my thoughts, we should look at the Acts passage that led me to this conclusion.
Acts 2: 42-47 describes the fellowship of the believers in the early church. There we read,
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."I've often said, the Bible is either the Word of God, or it isn't. If we maintain that it is, and if we call ourselves Christians, then we have no excuse for not following its teachings and examples. If, on the other hand, we argue that it is not the Word of God, then our whole faith is a sham and we might as well all go book a flight to Neverland and join Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. In that case, we're obviously just as lost as they are. So which is it? Is it the Word of God, or isn't it? If you are reading this blog, I'm sure that you are not here because you believe in fairies, magic, and a tribe of Lost Boys who like to play with mermaids and fight Indians and pirates. I'm going to assume that you're here because you are interested in things pertaining to your faith. You're here because, like me, you search the web for other believers and (hopefully) some interesting, inspiring and encouraging truths. So let's get back to the text in Acts.
I said at the beginning that I believed that the Book of Acts was completely foreign to the modern church. Do you see the modern church in those verses? I don't. They:
"devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."Where's the devotion today? If we are to assume that the dictionary definition of "devotion" is correct, then "devotion" means "a deep, steady affection: a feeling of loyalty; faithfulness." The early church may have had such a devotion, but I'm sorry, I just don't see the same thing in the modern church.
"Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles."Forgive me for sounding harsh, but do we even know what the word "awe" means any more? According to the dictionary, "awe" is described as, "wonder and reverence inspired by something sacred, mysterious or magnificent." Does that describe your normal church experience? If it does, I would suggest you're in the minority.
"All the believers were together and had everything in common."Well, seems to me we blew that one too. A quick look at denominationalism proves that we certainly don't have everything in common theologically, and our materialistic hoarding tendencies proves we don't have a common pool of resources either!
"Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need."Do you see the modern church there? No, me neither.
"Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts."We sometimes get together with other believers two or three times per week, but "every day?" No, sorry.
"They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people."Those of us who have left the traditional institutional forms of church life for the more organic and simple house church style, probably have a more successful time on this one. Still, most of us here too have a long way to go.
"And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."How many bonafide genuine conversions to Christianity do we see in our churches every day? How about per week? Per month? Last year? I thought so. We're great at shuffling the sheep, but not so great at turning goats into sheep.
So if God in the Bible has preserved for us this passage of the fellowship of the early believers, does it not seem likely to you that He did so to set an example for us to emulate? Does it also not seem likely that it also serves as a barometer through which we can test and see whether or not we are on track with what He intended for the church?
A brother on Twitter this morning simply said,
"False eternal life; false conversion."Is that true? Maybe he's got something there. If our preaching doesn't include the need for repentance, then it is a "false eternal life and a false conversion" we're experiencing. And that in turn may explain why the Book of Acts is completely foreign to the modern church; unlike them, we still need to learn to repent. Until we learn that, we'll never find our way back from Neverland. Until we learn that, we'll never be much more than cartoon characters in the Gospel According to Peter Pan.