Why Acts 2:42 is our Ministry Model
Acts 2:42 is especially well suited to serve as a ministry template. Expressed in English, the Greek grammar of the verse is, “They continually devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, to the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread, and to the prayers.”
ACTS 2:42 IS DESIGNED TO BE A SPECIAL SUMMARY
Luke uses the rhetorical tool of summary statements at key points in both the Gospel of Luke and in Acts. Acts 2:42 epitomizes the things that produce health and growth. R. C. H. Lenski wrote, “Here we have a brief description of the religious life of the first Christian congregation. All the essentials are present and are in proper order and harmony. The church has always felt that this is a model.”
ACTS 2:42 IS A SUMMARY OF MINISTRY ACTIVITY
Jesus summarized the Law, saying we must love God with all our heart and love our neighbors as ourselves. Paul summarized the historic gospel facts by writing that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and appeared to the Twelve. When seeking to coordinate the ministry of a church, it makes sense to focus on Acts 2:42, which is a classic summary about church ministry. Healthy church ministry is our goal, and this verse is a particularly good action template.
ACTS 2:42 IS A SUMMARY OF MINISTRY PRIORITIES
Many activities found in Acts (and in the rest of the New Testament) are not priorities for every person in the church (for example, speaking in tongues, using gifts of administration, traveling the world as an evangelist, serving as an elder, avoiding meat sacrificed to idols, being married). The four elements in Acts 2:42 are priorities that each believer must take seriously, and must practice with the whole church.
ACTS 2:42 EXPRESSES THE CHURCH’S MAIN PURPOSE
Acts 2:42 shows worship in action. We worship our Teacher by fully embracing all he revealed through his specially appointed servants. We worship our Leader by committing ourselves to the group he stands among as the supreme worship leader (Heb 2:11-13). We worship our Savior by breaking the bread of the Lord’s Table. We worship our High Priest by offering praise, thanks, and petitions to God the Father in his name.
ACTS 2:42 PRESENTS ELEMENTS THAT ARE COHERENT, BUT NOT CONFUSED
We can make distinction between the four elements, but we cannot drop any of them and still have a coherent approach to ministry. We cannot be devoted to the teaching of the apostles, yet ignore what the Word says about prayer, the fellowship, and Christ-centered worship. We cannot be devoted to the fellowship, yet neglect public reading and study of the Word, corporate prayer, and corporate celebration of the Lord’s Supper. We cannot be devoted to the breaking of the bread, yet ignore what the Savior who gave his body for us says in his whole Word, distance ourselves from his people, and ignore his call to prayer. We cannot engage in the prayers, yet expect God to hear us when we are deaf to his Word, do not love our brothers and sisters, and neglect the Lord’s Table (which is giving thanks, a form of prayer).
ACTS 2:42 IS THOROUGHLY CHRIST-CENTERED & GOSPEL-CENTERED
Jesus chose the apostles as very special servants to teach how he fulfills the Old Testament, and to reveal further, inerrant truth. The fellowship is the group assembled by Jesus and focused on Jesus. The breaking of the bread is ordained by Jesus, is about Jesus, and is directed to Jesus. The prayers are offered by the church in the name of Jesus, and are the main means of drawing on his resources to fulfill our calling. The apostles proclaimed the good news that Jesus is Savior. Belief in the gospel brings us into the fellowship, and the gospel is the solid core of our commonality. The Lord’s Table preaches the gospel. Prayer is how we accept the gospel, and the gospel is why our prayers are accepted.
ACTS 2:42 IS FOCUSED, YET BROAD
This summary embraces the why and the how of church life in one sentence. Using this verse as a template helps us focus on essential activities. Yet it is flexible enough to encompass what it means to be the people of the Lord in all times and places. The summary tells how the church approached ministry, and it points to the whole point of ministry.
ACTS 2:42 EMBRACES BOTH THE VERTICAL AND HORIZONTAL DIMENSIONS OF INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
Acts 2:42 inseparably links the vertical and the horizontal. The verse does not allow us to think of life simply as a matter of “me and God”, or of us and us. The fellowship is between people, yet it is primarily with God, in Christ. 1 Jn 1:3 says, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”
ACTS 2:42 SHOWS THE ACTIVITY OF THE CHURCH AS A WHOLE ASSEMBLY
In recent decades, evangelicals have often applied Acts 2:42 to small group ministries, sometimes called “242 Groups”. In Acts, the whole local church was the 242 group. Acts 1:13-15 shows a group of 120 people in one meeting, about ten times the size of a typical small group today. The early house churches had multiple elders, a list of widows, and a wide variety of spiritual gifts. When we seek a template for church-wide ministry, Acts 2:42 works well to meet the need.
ACTS 2:42 PRESENTS CORE ELEMENTS FOR HEALTH AND GROWTH THAT ARE OFTEN NEGLECTED IN EVANGELICAL CHURCHES
The activities shown in Acts 2:42 are indispensable for health and for real church growth. Yet too many churches let one or more slip into the background. The early church grew stronger and larger as it focused on core fundamentals. The church was neither inward focused nor outward focused. They were upward focused. The God-centered community was a compelling witness. Seminars, vision statements, programs, and events take the place of the fundamentals of ministry. If we use Acts 2:42 as a template for ministry, we will be God-reliant people.