One of the greatest challenges of church leadership and pastoring is measuring spiritual growth and vitality in our own lives and in the lives of those we seek to disciple and equip. How do we know we are growing spiritually? How do we know we are helping others to grow? What are the signs of spiritual growth?
In order to grow spiritually as leaders and as followers of Christ, we need an effective context for growth, namely, authentic community. Among the key elements of the early Church in Acts 2 is a sense of strong relationship, fellowship and authentic community. Acts 2:42-47 is a model of a healthy and authentic faith community, a context in which people of faith not only grow, but grow together. Vitality oozes from Acts 2. Consider the verbs in this section: “learning” …“broke bread … together”…“prayed together”…“met together”…“shared everything they had”…“give … to whoever needed it”…“shared their food”…“praising God”…“being saved.”
Do you know what that sounds like? Life, real life together. It was a vitalized community of people full of God’s grace, Spirit and good works. But these all depict the gifts, graces and practices that poured from this vital congregation of Christ-followers. What was it that was first poured into them that helped to foster this strong community of faith? Here it is: “They spent their time learning from the apostles …” (v. 42). The first characteristic Luke (the writer of Acts) cites is this: The primary practice of this vital Church in Acts 2 was spending time in and around the Word of God. Their practice was engaging God’s Word, and the result was a sense of authentic community and connection. The people’s devotion to learning from the apostles drew them together in powerful and authentic unity and community.
There are at least Seven Vital Signs of Spiritual Growth in Acts 2:
• Vital Teaching (v. 42)
• Vital Prayer (v. 42)
• Vital Grace (God’s answers to prayer, v. 43)
• Vital Giving (Stewardship, vv. 44-45)
• Vital Community (v. 46)
• Vital Worship (v. 47a)
• Vital Witness (v. 47b)
Community is the context of the Church. Christians and church leaders need to read and engage their Bibles personally, but we also need to do it together with our faith community. In fact, an honest and reflective reading of the Bible will remind us repeatedly that the biblical call is one to authentic community. We need God. We need the Bible. And we need each other.