For anyone who has read even a few of my blog posts, you probably have noticed a trend in them: I do not think too highly of the present state of the American Church. In fact, I believe that our state is so terrible that even those among us whom we would label as the “best” of Christians are unwittingly ensnared by money and materialism. Our problems as a Church are exponentially compounded in the South where tradition regularly trumps Scripture and where we have been explaining away our disobedience to the Word so shrewdly for so many decades that we do not even view it as disobedience any more. This indeed is a great tragedy—that we sincerely believe that our disobedience is obedience and our loving the world is loving Christ.
But rather than perpetually play the role as diagnoser of the American Church’s ills and never offer a cure, God through his Word has convicted a number of us locally to form a group that we haved called “The Acts Forum” that is seeking to address two foundational doctrines of Christianity that we believe the American Church has crassly ignored: 1. The selling of possessions and living impoverished lifestyles for the sake of Christ and 2. The daily gathering of saints for fellowship, prayer, and the “breaking of bread.” My hope in writing this post today will be to challenge your minds to think outside the box of the materialism of American Christianity and to encourage those of you with similar convictions to submit your thoughts, talents, funds, and even your lives to help make this a possibility in our country and hopefully, by the pleasure of God, spark a revival to obedience in the American Church.
1. The Selling of Possessions and Living Impoverished Lifestyles
One of the clearest teachings in Scripture is God’s demand for his creature’s to delight in him over the riches of the world. This is even more explicit in the Gospels where every instance that Jesus Christ mentions the action of “storing up treasures in heaven” it is directly tied to the action of “selling all that one has.”1 Also, whenever Christ mentions the phrase “store up treasures in heaven,” it is not clearly distinguished from salvation in general. As in the case of the rich young man of Matthew 19:16, the man asks, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life,” and Jesus replies, “Sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” And in Matthew 13, in the parable of the hidden treasure, Christ says, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
As I mentioned before, these are texts that we as American Christians have been shrewdly explaining away for decades. We first throw out the “This command is applicable only to the rich young man” excuse, forgetting that most of us probably have more possessions that the rich young man ever did. Then we throw out the “This is a works based salvation” excuse, when James clearly writes, “Faith without works is dead.” And then we conveniently ignore passages like Luke 12:32, 33 where Christ says, “Fear not, little flock [i.e. poor disciples in the context and the Church in the greater context], for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” Or we ignore examples like the Macedonians who gave joyfully to the saints out of their own extreme poverty (cf. 2Cor. 8:1-6). The testimony of Scripture is there, if we have ears to hear it.
Now I will get to the point, for I know that I am, for the most part, preaching to the choir. What we have seen in the Acts Forum in these Scriptures is not the selling of possessions just for the sake of getting rid of them (though that would be a great start), but it is the selling of possessions to give them to the poor and thereby demonstrate the love of Christ. Because of this, our chief focus is to minimize our consumption so that we might maximize our giving. Looking at all of our budgets, we determined quite easily that the highest percentage of our income goes to housing, and therefore determined that our first project would be to come up with ways to live as cheaply as possible. We have since tossed about ideas that have included the affectionately named, “Church Trailer Park,” and other similar ideas that involve constructing a Church community on a donated piece of land made up of low cost living structures that would cost not a penny more than $30,000 a piece (preferably less). This price point is set for several reasons: 1. To allow people to give more to the Church and to the spreading of the Gospel, 2. To allow people to work less so that they might serve more, 3. To make it so that a mother can stay home with her children instead of having to work to help pay a mortgage, and several others.
2. The Daily Gathering and Communion of the Saints
You might have already picked up on this aspect in the “Church Trailer Park” concept, and it is the idea of a community that consists of members of the Church. In an age of freeways and long commutes, it is quite often the case that we live so far away from other members of our local church that we only see them once or twice a week. The Acts Forum seeks to remedy this by making the Church those whom we go home to not the place where we go on Sunday. In such an environment, accountability and edification would be daily occurrences and would be constant reminders to us that our home is not in this present age.
I would like to challenge you to pray for us who make up the Acts Forum—to pray that God would provide the means and the ingenuity to glorify his Name in America and in the nations through the giving up of material wealth for the sake of the Church and the spread of the Gospel. I would also like to challenge you to get involved with the Acts Forum. We meet weekly (for the most part) on Saturday mornings at Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, North Carolina for a time of prayer and discussion about the Kingdom. You can stay up to date with the Acts Forum events by joining the Facebook group linked here. Thanks and God bless.
1 Matt. 6:19,20; 13:44; 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 12:33; Luke 18:22