I was present for the births of all three of my children. Each time I looked with fearful care at the tiny, flailing, and tender newborn. Each time my heart cried, “What do we do right now to help my clearly traumatized little child whom I so instantly love?”
The well-prepared physicians in the room knew exactly what to do. They knew the APGAR test designed in the 1950’s to quickly assess the appearance, pulse, grimace, activity, and respiration of the infant. From this diagnostic tool, each physician prescribed necessary steps to provide indispensable care for our newborn children.
I give this example in order to ask: What is the immediate protocol of the Great Physician, of God himself, when a spiritual newborn is tiny, flailing, and tender of life and faith? Is there a biblical description and prescription of exactly what God does? Is there any record of a single instance, or more?
…to God the church is as indispensable to the spiritual wellbeing of his children as expert medical care is to newborns.
We actually can discover what our Great Physician does with hundreds or even thousands to whom he grants new birth and life as his children. Acts 2:41-47 provides such a record.
In descriptive and prescriptive detail, Luke makes clear to his immediate audience and to us: the church is indispensable in the life of every Christian. Although we might increasingly push church involvement to the margins of our lives, to God the church is as indispensable to the spiritual wellbeing of his children as expert medical care is to newborns.
It is God who adds 3,000 new followers of Jesus in verse 31 to the assembled church, and it is God who adds daily to their number in verse 47. Hence, God’s chosen method to nurture life in multitudes of spiritual newborns is immediate participation in a community that has been realigned in right “devotion” (verse 42).
What does Luke say the triune God does every day? He puts his children in this indispensable, unmistakable community he calls “church.” He does not put them on a golf course, bass boat, hiking trail, or beach-side hammock – all of which I have heard referred to as “my church where I commune with God.” Note the operative words: my and I.
The Great Physician places his children in this community with a three-fold prescription.
First, God wants his children to have robust friendship with those devoted to teaching that unfolds the realities of knowing and loving the triune God through his son, Jesus.
Second, God wants his children to be surrounded by believers in a common life that pulses enduringly with hospitality, sharing meals, sacrifice, vulnerability, and abiding joy.
Finally, God wants his children in a community that embeds worship deeply into daily life and does not merely append it to occasional moments in their life together.
We must not marginalize what God makes an indispensable routine for us. The church is the tool God uses to allow his children to thrive in the way he designed. Let us all welcome his expert care for us in this way.