Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

All for One and One for All

Posted on 01 Dec 2014 in Christianity, Discipleship, Ministry | Comments Off on All for One and One for All

The more I read and study the book of Acts, the more I see it as a cautionary tale for the church.

Luke had to have known what was coming and wrote his book not only as a reflective history for Theophilus, but as a warning for the future of the church. He could sense the writing on the wall and knew the dangers and perils of church done poorly.

I see it every time he highlights, reiterates, and explains life in the early church. He is constantly returning to what life was like in the early church.

Loving.

Gracious.

[pullquote]

The church fails, Luke argues, when individual members become more concerned about their own status, priority, title, or advancement.

[/pullquote]Kind.

Defined by generosity.

Service.

Hospitality.

Again and again Luke drives this point home. Because he knows how easy it is for people to not be like this.

The church fails, Luke argues, when individual members become more concerned about their own status, priority, title, or advancement.

I once had a coaching client that seemed to exemplify this. He once told me, “At our church we don’t care that much about titles, but I make sure everyone knows I’m the lead guy and the buck stops with me.”

I’m similarly bothered when I hear things like, “My pulpit,” “My ministry,” or “My group.” We miss precisely what Luke is warning us about: personal possession, of any kind, always causes trouble for the church. The story at the conclusion of Acts four exemplifies the good the church should be doing, while foreshadowing the trouble of Acts chapter 5.

Like trying to clench water it our closed fist, there is failure in claiming what we do as our own and holding the benefits for ourselves.

The Reading

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.  lightstock_167786_medium_justin_
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

All for One, and One for All

The popular phrase, “All for One, one for All” made popular by the tales and adventures of the Three Musketeers epitomizes the life of the early church in this passage. All members, Luke tells us, were of one heart and one mind.

  • Heart: For the Jewish and early Greek culture of the first church, the heart was the center of reason and logic. The guts held the feelings and emotions (“I’ve got a gut feeling about this”), while the heart housed reason and logic. The early church was held together by a firm sense of knowledge and belief in the power of the resurrection and what it meant for the course of human history. [pullquote]The believers that gathered together did so to reaffirm their dedication to being of one sound mind and one sound purpose, one unified sense of understanding and mission. With that as their great foundation, is it any wonder that God moved with great passion and purpose among them? [/pullquote]
  • Mind (literally: Soul): An interesting word choice by Luke, yet another in a series of creative writings by him (for one example, see here). The soul (psyche) in the Ancient World, always carried a bit of a mystical element to it. Related to, but different than the idea of our spirit (pneuma), it carried forward the idea of the creative element of people. In the ancient world, people had bodies, they had spirit’s (something that lived on after death), and they had soul’s (psyche). Luke here tells us that they were of one soul. One creative force. We might today call it one mission.

The believers that gathered together did so to reaffirm their dedication to being of one sound mind and one sound purpose, one unified sense of understanding and mission. With that as their great foundation, is it any wonder that God moved with great passion and purpose among them? Our modern churches, which often find themselves mired in conflict (most of which are irrelevant to the spreading of the Gospel) can regain this sense of witness by gathering together to affirm their calling to be of one heart and one mission.

A Life of Witness

Luke concludes this chapter with many of the same clues that he has provided before: the apostles testify to the resurrection of Jesus. To testify was to tell and to show, to proclaim and to demonstrate. They paired together word and deed so their teachings might be seen as valid. They didn’t have to ask about what Jesus would do, they knew it and they did it.

Think of the great spiritual mentors and matriarchs of our faith. Those that have shaped us into who we are. More than likely, what stood out about them was that they paired together word and life together. Proclamation was always tied to action. Too often what upsets us about Christians is that their words and actions don’t line up. Again, Luke’s prophetic voice of mind and mission should call us to greater levels of faithfulness. Luke even concludes this chapter by providing a specific example of faith.

Barnabas sold a field that he owned because he knew the collective use that the money could do for the community was of greater benefit than the personal satisfaction of more land. He laid aside personal benefits and pleasure to be of one heart and one soul with his brothers and sisters. He care for the poor, oppressed, and outcast drove him to work on their behalf, even we might say, at the loss or expense of his own personal accomplishments or material wealth.

And then Luke sets us up for a plot twist, a punch to the gut, an unexpected heartache. Chapter five is going to create a shift in the early church, a dramatic example of the perils of Jesus followers who choose to exploit others for their own gain and personal benefit. The story of Ananias and Sapphira, the next post in this blog series, will challenge us all.

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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