Pentecost Plus One: 3 Things The Church Did After The Day Of Pentecost

What do you do after you have experienced an unprecedented outpouring of the Spirit?

I don’t know how many reading this post have had experience of a powerful move of God. Many, perhaps most or even all, have been in meetings where God has been powerfully at work. Or even seasons when God has been powerfully at work. But what do you do next?

The early church found itself in that position on the day after the day of Pentecost. One hundred and twenty previously fearful believers had been impacted by the Spirit in a way that was as public as it was powerful. And the church had three thousand new believers.

Now it was Pentecost plus one. What was next?

Perhaps what they didn’t do is as instructive as what they did do.

They didn’t try to revisit the events of the day before. No retreat to the upper room to wait for the rushing wind and tongues of fire. They weren’t looking for a repeat performance. They didn’t turn the life that they had experienced into a liturgy – a mistake sometimes made in the Pentecostal / charismatic world. We experience the Spirit moving in a particular way and then try to revisit the experience again and again. We use particular songs and even phraseology that “gets a response”.

God, because He is gracious, does meet us. The tendency is, however, to become “stuck” in a way of doing things, impeding the church’s further progress.

So what did the church do on Pentecost plus one?

Firstly, it developed a shape of corporate life.

That’s a fancy way of saying that the church gathered together at certain times, and it gathered together to do certain things.

Acts 2 .42 explains that they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Putting that in more contemporary terms, they prioritised learning (apostles’ teaching), spending meaningful time together (fellowship), worship (breaking of bread) and prayer (prayer!).

I recently attended the annual conference of a church denomination in the developing world. In its own country it has seen extraordinary growth. Miracles are not uncommon. Yet one of the major concerns was that they had seen a slight decline at their mid-week prayer gatherings.

Impressive enough was the fact that they knew how many attended mid-week prayer throughout their denomination. Their urgency in addressing the matter was even more revealing. They made the connection between maintaining the flow of the Spirit and the shape of their corporate life.

Churches that want to stay Spirit-filled must develop a Spirit-shaped corporate life that revolves around engaging with the practices of teaching, fellowship, worship and prayer.

Secondly, they were open to the Spirit moving in fresh ways.

There were no recorded miracles or healings on the day of Pentecost. The only miracles were miracles of salvation.

That changed the day after. Acts 2.43 highlights the fresh move of the Spirit:

Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.

Notice a couple of things here.

Firstly, it was different to what happened the day before. Nothing like this had happened on the day of Pentecost.

Secondly, this was not a sovereign move of God as had happened on the day of Pentecost. It was more a case of God responding to the apostles’ faith.

Pentecost plus one teaches us to be ready for different.

It is also a reminder not to be waiting passively for God to do something. We can spend all our time waiting for Him, when all the time He’s waiting for us.

Finally, this was a church that was seen.

We know that they met publicly – in the temple courts (Acts 2.46) and they enjoyed the favour of all the people (v.47). It was a high profile church, certainly not a private club.

It is so easy for the church to resemble the latter. It’s a more comfortable existence; high profile churches attract favour and criticism.

I once heard someone say that a church can be internationally famous, yet locally anonymous. That has never been more possible than it is today. Our social networks and social media can lead us to the most exotic places without us ever having to confront the challenges on our own door step.

A church that is impacted by the Spirit will be visible locally, however visible or not it is internationally.

Pentecost plus one must have been a challenge for the early church with its three thousand new believers. But they rose to the challenge. And we can too. After all, it is the same Holy Spirit, is it not?

 

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The Monday after the day of Pentecost

No matter how good Sunday is, the next day is always Monday!

It was no different for the early church. And it was no different on the first Pentecost Sunday. Monday was the next day. The Spirit might have been poured out. Three thousand people might have been saved and baptised. But eventually the day of Pentecost came to an end.

So what was the church to do? Was Pentecost now just a memory in the spiritual scrapbook of the early church? Would it become little more than something to reminisce about when the disciples grew older – “do you remember the time when the Holy Spirit came and we all spoke in tongues and three thousand people got saved?”?

Did they try to maintain the experience that they had? Can you maintain the Pentecostal experience? In short, is it possible to keep the fire? And if so, how?

I think it is. And I think Acts 2 tells us how.

Most preaching about the day of Pentecost ends at verse forty-one of Acts 2. This verse records that three thousand people were baptised and added to the church. Seldom do preachers venture into verse forty-two on Pentecost Sunday. (I am as guilty as anyone of this, so please do not hear this as a criticism of fellow preachers).

Often Acts 2.42 is presented as what the church starts doing when the Spirit stops moving.

Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. What happens 2.42-47 is what happened because of the Spirit moving!

So what did they do?

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Firstly, they developed a pattern of life around the Word of God, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer.

If the church wants to keep the fire it must develop a pattern of life centred around those four components. Those four things will ensure that the church is hearing what God is saying, growing in community, Jesus-focused and bringing the rule of God into every -day life through prayer.

Secondly, they devoted themselves to these things.

Devoted themselves translates a word that is used in other places of a servant waiting on his master. It’s how Luke describes the faithfulness of Cornelius servants in Acts 10.7.

In other words, this is the language of strong commitment. We might say that they made the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer their priority.

The result? Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles (v.43).

The early church kept the fire. We can too.

And they kept the fire because they developed a pattern of life and devoted themselves to it.

If we will embrace their pattern of life and devote ourselves to it, we too will keep the fire.

Perhaps the Monday after Pentecost isn’t looking so bad after all.

Music to my ears

Just recently a national newspaper carried a story about a band called The Hustlers.The Hustlers began their career as a band over fifty years ago. Eventually the men who made up the band went their separate ways, mainly because, one by one they got married. Twenty-two years ago some of the band members decided to try and bring everyone together and reform the band. But it didn’t happen. Someone reported that the drummer was now dead and the rest of the band decided ditch to the idea.

Rumours of the drummer’s death, however, were greatly exaggerated. He was very much alive and fifty years on The Hustlers are playing gigs again!

Years had gone by without them making any music, all because of a piece of misinformation.

Individuals and churches can go years without “making music” because of misinformation or forgotten revelation. This is particularly true with respect to the Holy Spirit.

Even the way we talk about Him sometimes – referring to Him as “it” – reveals a way of thinking about Him that has more to do with Jehovah’s Witness teaching than the Bible!

Sometimes we focus on those – important – passages of the Bible that emphasise His power and the affects of His power but overlook those scriptures that reveal His personality.

And sometimes, life just gets on top of us and we quietly forget His presence in our lives.

If we want to begin “making music” again, we could do no better than taking another look at what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit. He referred to the Holy Spirit as another parakletos (John 14.16,26; 15.26; 16.7). I have deliberately left the word parakletos untranslated, because it has such a wealth of meaning. It is variously translated comforter, advocate, friend and helper.

The Amplified translation of John 14.26 highlights the incredible range of meaning:

But the Comforter (Counsellor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. 

Personally, I love the translation Helper – we have a Helper!

Whatever the most accurate translation, all of these words show us one thing about the Holy Spirit: He is for us! He counsels us. Teaches us. Stands up for us. Strengthens us. Backs us up. Helps us.

We desperately need to remember that: the Holy Spirit has been given to us to help us.

And I don’t know about you, but that is music to my ears.