The Habit of Meeting
It is probably not uncommon for newcomers to the faith to wonder why it’s so important for people to be part of a small group. Others, who are more used to traditional religion, might wonder as well why we have to commit to meeting a group that meets outside of regular church hours. Isn’t it enough for us to just sit in church and listen and then go home?
If we dig a bit into the history of the early church, we’ll see why. Acts 2:42-46 expounds on the habits of the first Christians: They devoted themselves to four thing—the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, o the breaking of bread, and to prayer. These were the primary reasons why they met.
The Apostles’ Teaching: Learning and growth are important. No doubt about that. In this case it was important for the new believers to learn from those who had experienced Jesus firsthand. The apostles were able to pass on their learning.
Fellowship: No man is an island. This is no less true for the Christian. “Fellowship” in the Greek has connotations of participation, partnership, and communication. They work together and build up each other. This would be of course, impossible without communication.
The Breaking of Bread: There are few acts of social participation that are as effective at strengthening bonds as sharing meals. This is true for almost any culture–in some it is seen as a sign of great honor to be offered a meal. Even now, when relationships can be changed on the Internet as simply as toggling a few options on your Facebook account, sharing meals still carries a powerful meaning. It is not only a way of relating to people one already knows, but an effective way of reaching out to newcomers as well.
Prayer: Prayer is more than just saying things to God, hoping that He hears them. If individual prayer has a transformative effect on ourselves, then corporal prayer (and I don’t mean simultaneous recitation of formulas, but simultaneously crying out to the Lord) has a transformative effect on our relationships and communities. And this is the case in verses 46-47, where the beauty of the church really stands out:
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.
This was not merely a new religion. It was a transformed society that consisted of transformed people. It’s a far cry from the political cabals of the Pharisees and Sadducees, or the profit-oriented markets in the Temple. The early church was about honoring God first, and touching the community around them with positive influence that points people not to any moral code or political orientation, but to Jesus—He’s the one who does the transformation.