Is it proper to speak of a corporate group having a “lifestyle”? I suppose it is only odd if there is not a common “life” that members of the group possess. But the church does share a common life given by God through Christ and the Spirit. So let me propose “lifestyle” as an appropriate term for the church’s life together.
Following on the heels of Pentecost, in Acts 2:42, we see the church in action: “They were devoting themselves to the apostles‘ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (New English Translation).
I grew up in a tradition that labeled this verse a “charter of the church”, the fundamental components of the congregational gathering. Yet, it is more a lifestyle than a liturgy that we see illustrated. (It is what John Mark Hicks has called “practicing the kingdom of God”.) In the time frame of this verse, the church is not yet a distinct social institution. She is self-consciously a group of followers of Jesus still operative within first-century Jewish religious life. They meet in homes for fellowship, but they also meet for worship in the temple in Jerusalem. A definitive format for a worship service is not the immediate point of the passage.
So what are the essential attributes of this way of life for the church? A closer look at the verse can help us:
And they were persisting in the teaching of the apostles and in the fellowship, in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers [personal translation].
This verse contains two sets of two prepositional phrases with noun clauses, each set joined by “and”. I don’t think it’s a list of four activities that can be independently isolated. What is more likely is that the last two items (“the breaking of the bread” and “the prayers”) are the most prominent examples of “the fellowship”. Thus, at the most general level, the believers were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship.
Let’s examine the first activity: the apostles’ teaching. Continue reading A Lifestyle More Than a Liturgy