One of the most unique aspects of our weekly gatherings is that we don’t have a traditional sermon where one person stands up and “preaches”. Does that mean we don’t “preach the word” as 2 Timothy 4:2 so clearly instructs? Absolutely not! We are “devoted to the Apostles’ teaching” and to proclaiming the gospel they proclaimed. But, we have chosen a different form than the traditional lecture-style sermon utilized in most American churches. Why? Read on:
Devoted to the Teaching
The early church was very devoted to the Apostles’ teaching, so we believe it is vital for us as well. This was modeled in the early church in multiple ways, but here are a few examples:
- The Jerusalem church was “devoted to the Apostles’ teaching” according to Acts 2:42.
- Acts 20 describes a Sunday evening meeting of the church in Troas. We’re told that Paul talked with the believers there through the entire night—until dawn! We do not believe this establishes a rule that we should meet from dusk to dawn, but we do believe this passage gives us a glimpse of the early church’s devotion to the Scriptures through the teaching of a gifted teacher.
- In the same context where we find support for every-member participation (1 Corinthians 11:26), we also find clear support for the ministry of gifted teachers. “Prophets” (11:29) were to be given a chance to speak “so that all may learn and be exhorted.”
- Christ has provided gifted teachers and leaders to equip the saints for the work of the ministry according to Ephesians 4:11, so there must be a time for this equipping to take place.
Two Major Bodies of Truth
Perhaps the most important question is, What exactly did the Apostles teach? We don’t care to be “devoted” just for the sake of devotion. We want to be devoted to the true teaching and emphases of Christ and His Apostles.
Kerygma—The Good News
The “Gospel” (i.e., good news) proclaimed by the Apostles has also been known by one of the key Greek terms for “proclamation”: Kerygma. We believe that this gospel is—in many ways—the entire story of the Bible. God’s plan for restoring His creation to it’s original goodness. However, we also believe the good news of this kerygma can be summarized in a simple way:
The Old Testament predicted His first coming. This gospel was prophesied beforehand in the Old Testament Scriptures as part of God’s plan to bless the entire world through a promised Savior (Acts 13:23). It was given in the form of a New Covenant, promising forgiveness of sins, and placing God’s Spirit within man.
The New Testament proclaims that He came, died, rose and will come again. The promises given in the Old Testament were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus is identified in the New Testament as that promised Savior and the Son of God, the son of David, the son of Abraham, the King of Kings, born of the Holy Spirit. He came in the flesh, lived a sinless life, died, was buried and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures, ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. This Jesus will come again to judge the earth and set up the kingdom of God for all time. After abolishing all rule and authority, He will reign forever and ever.
Those who hear this message and believe will receive eternal life. The way to know God, be forgiven of our sin and be welcomed into His presence forever when we die is to believe this good news of Jesus. Faith is the response God is asking you for (Ephesians 2:1-10). You can read more about this in the words of Jesus’ first followers in passages such as Acts 2:14-22; 3:11-26; 9:1-43; 10:23-48; 17:16-34; 26:1-32 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.
Basically, this kerygma is Jesus and what He has done for us. It is “all-things-Jesus”! The Old Testament predicted Jesus was coming! The New Testament reports that Jesus came, died and rose again and that He will return! And, it invites us to believe and be saved. That is the first major body of teaching handed down by the Apostles in the New Testament.
But there’s more! The Apostles also taught a way of life—the way of life for a follower of Christ. The earliest church referred to this with the Greek term didache. This word simply means “teaching”. It is mostly contained in the epistles—the letters—written by the Apostles. This important teaching can be summarized in the following way:
Each believer should lay aside his old life, renew His mind in the teaching, and conform his new life to the will of God. (Ephesians 4:22-24; Romans 12:1-2)
Each believer should be characterized by a set of virtues, which are only possible through God’s help. (Galatians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:12; 2 Peter 1:1-11)
Individual households must be ordered properly, consistent with God’s created design for men and women and for the Church. (Ephesians 5:22-6:9; Colossians 3:18-4:1; 1 Peter 3:1-7)
God’s household, the church—the pillar and support of the truth—must be properly ordered according to the “sound doctrine” received from the Apostles, especially Paul. (1 Timothy 3:14-16; Titus 1:5-2:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6; Ephesians 3:1-13; Colossians 1:24-29)
Each believer must be committed to do his part, both generally in one-another ministry and specifically in the use of his gifts in the building up of the church. (Romans 12:3-16; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
Each church must be characterized by love, brotherhood, mutual acceptance and respect—each individual is to diligently pursue unity with his church family. (Romans 12:9-15; 14:1-7; Philippians 1:27-2:4; Ephesians 4:1-6)
Each believer’s relationships in the world must be characterized by respect for government, employers, and other authorities, and love and good deeds toward neighbors and those in need. (Romans 13:1-7; Titus 2:14; 3:1,14)
- Individuals must lead responsible and sober lives—working hard, providing for their own, making the most of the time (because the days are evil), and keeping on the alert for Satan and his strategies in their lives. (Ephesians 5:1-22; 6:10-18; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; 1 Peter 5:6-11)
The preaching and teaching in our gatherings is focused on these two great bodies of truth.
We believe the preaching and teaching was rarely—if ever—in lecture form. We believe the form of choice in the early church was dialogue or discussion.
For example, in Acts 20:7 and 9, we’re told Paul “talked with” the church all night. Vine’s Expository Greek Dictionary tells us the word translated “talked with” literally means “‘dialogued,’ i.e., not by way of a sermon, but by a ‘discourse’ of a more conversational character.” Strong’s Lexicon agrees saying the word means “to converse, discourse with one, argue, discuss.”
Not only do we believe there is strong Biblical support for this form, but we also agree with the general consensus of our time that discussion and interaction is a far more effective form of teaching than a lecture where most people sit and passively listen. There’s a time and place for lecture, but we believe that should be the exception rather than the rule. Our discussion time each week is designed to engage everyone in the room and help them learn to think Biblically.
Join us for our next discussion this Sunday evening. Contact us for times and locations. Click here for more about our weekly gatherings including our main gathering of the week: Neighborhood Churches.