What do churches do? Many people, doubters and believers, are asking this question. What purpose does the church have? What does the church do for the community? Consider how the church of Christ began.
When the Gospel message established the church, the apostle Peter proclaimed the fulfillment of the prediction of the Spirit’s coming and he proclaimed David’s prophecy that the Christ’s body would not decay. How did thousands respond? Because the Apostles and hundreds others testified to their experiences of Jesus resurrected, three thousand were baptized that day, and God added them to the church (Acts 2). When the first church began, what did they do?
That initial faith compelled these first believers to devote themselves. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). This is what the first church did. Why? What is so significant about these actions? Why was the first church devoted to these? Consider these four activities.
(1) The church devoted themselves to the apostles’ doctrine. Doctrine is teaching. The apostles’ declarations of what they heard and saw from Jesus compelled the followers of Jesus to continue believing that Jesus is the Christ who overcame death rising from the dead. When these first believers came to believe, they followed the apostles’ teaching to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). Today, the church does the same. The church of Christ is devoted to the apostles’ teachings sets this objective standard for living by trusting God. This doctrine is God’s Word and apostolic writers formed the Christian Scriptures.
(2) The church devoted themselves to fellowship. Fellowship means “sharing” in Greek. Their fellowship was sharing their possessions and their days (Acts 2:44–46). Likewise, Paul encouraged the church at Ephesus, “[Christ] from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph 4:16).
(3) The church devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. The devoted church gathered for the Lord’s Supper, because “the first day of the week” is “when we were gathered together to break bread,” (Acts 20:7a). The first church communes with Christ together, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16; cf. 1 Cor 11:17–34).
(4) The church devoted themselves to prayer. Why? Because “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (Jas 5:16a). Furthermore, Jesus revealed, “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matt 18:19–20).
This is what the church does. The church offers a gathering of believers where the community can come to partake of the bread of Christ. After feeding more than five thousand people, some of these people followed Jesus seeking more food. However, Jesus only offered them the bread of life (John 6). That is what Christ offers, and so does the church.
The church is the congregation, the community of Christ’s people. Jesus built the church and bought the church with His blood (Matt 16:18; Acts 20:28).
This what the church does:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42–47)