Acts 2:42-47 gives us a very clear picture of a body of believers who were wholeheartedly devoted to the person of Jesus Christ. As you and I lead churches from a pattern of decline and death back to a place of vibrancy and effectiveness in ministry, we must be pastors who are leading people to be devoted to Christ.
But what does devotion to Christ look like?
In Luke 5, Jesus goes for a walk by the Sea of Galilee. He encounters two brothers – Simon Peter and Andrew. Verse 19 says Jesus called out to them “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Now, keep in mind that these guys were career fishermen. They were devoted to their profession, but their lives are about to change in a big way. We’re told they immediately left their nets to follow after Jesus.
The small group walks a bit farther down the shoreline, and they encounter another set of brothers – James and John. These guys are fishermen too and, alongside their father, Zebedee, they are keeping the family business running. Like Peter and Andrew, these two men follow Jesus immediately when He calls.
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone we encountered followed Jesus as quickly as these four men?
Of course, that’s not the reality. Throughout the gospels, we see people rejecting Jesus for all kinds of reasons. In fact, we see three men reject Christ back-to-back-to-back in Luke 9:57-62. Some were more concerned with their own comfort or honor, instead of holiness. Some were more concerned with keeping social customs than with embracing the promised Messiah.
Turning our attention back to Acts 2, we see that the disciples and the members of the first church were completely devoted to Christ. They gave their lives (many of them, quite literally) to worship and serve Him. Given the state of the world around us, we are in desperate need of men and women who will be completely devoted followers of Christ.
One of the biggest challenges you will face in replanting is turning peoples’ hearts back to Christ. Many things fight for our attention and affection. Some of these things may seem silly – devotion to a certain music style, a certain dress code, or even a certain carpet color in the sanctuary – but never forget that these seemingly trivial matters can point to a deeper spiritual reality: Somewhere along the line, we became devoted to something other than Christ.
So, pastor, remember that changing affections takes time. John Calvin said the human heart is “a perpetual forge of idols.”1 That means elements of the world constantly are fighting to turn our devotion away from Christ and toward something else.
Also remember that you can’t lead your people where you’ve never been. So, make sure you are devoted to Christ before you try to lead your church there.
How will you respond to Christ’s call of “Follow me?”
This is the first in a series of posts based on Kyle’s new book, They Devoted Themselves, available now from Acoma Press.
1 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, https://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iii.xii.html, para. 8).
Published August 20, 2020