Luke begins his description of the early church in Acts 2:42-47 by saying, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” This is a simple statement, but there is a lot to it.
Keep in mind that, as Luke writes this, he’s in the process of writing the book of Acts. The Gospels have not yet been recorded in their entirety. So, when the church gathered together, what did they read? What did they proclaim? Acts 2:42 says they proclaimed the apostles’ teaching, which was the message these men heard from Jesus. The apostle’s teaching ultimately was written down and eventually became the New Testament we have. When the believers in the early church came together, they devoted themselves to the things they heard from the apostles about Jesus.
In his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney says, “No spiritual discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There is simply no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture.”
What does this mean for the work of replanting?
First of all, it means pastors must faithfully proclaim the Word of God. I argue that this is best done through expositional, text-driven preaching. If the people we are called to shepherd as pastors are going to grow in their understanding of the Bible as the Word of God, preachers must demonstrate—week in and week out—how Scripture speaks to our daily lives.
I’ve witnessed firsthand how preaching through books of the Bible will address contemporary cultural issues. For example, on March 15, 2020—the final Sunday our church was able to meet in person for a couple of months—I preached Mark 1:29-34, a passage about Jesus healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever. The passage also tells about Jesus healing many others who were sick and casting out demons from many who were afflicted.
I had this passage on the calendar a couple of months ahead of the pandemic. Yet, on that particular Sunday, I was preaching to our people about the power of Christ over diseases and demons. That provided the perfect opportunity to call our congregation to continue trusting Christ in the middle of the biggest health crisis our nation had experienced in 112 years.
I certainly am not smart enough to plan things with such precision, but God is! And His timeless, unchanging, inerrant and infallible Word speaks powerfully in any circumstance we may face. This is just one example of many I have experienced during my ministry that have convinced me of the power of God’s Word to speak, if only we will allow it to speak. You do not have to dress up God’s Word with fancy props or catchy taglines. Simply proclaim it boldly and see what happens!
While a pastor’s commitment to expository preaching is essential, that alone will not create a congregation devoted to Scripture. Men and women also must daily immerse themselves in God’s Word. Thankfully, as I mentioned above, we have unprecedented access to God’s Word. The Bible is available in thousands of languages and across multiple platforms, in print and in digital formats through the technology of the internet. The YouVersion Bible app has hundreds of reading plans to take you and your people through sections—or even the entirety—of Scripture. You can encourage your people to read through plans on their own or create a group on the app and read through Scripture portions together.
Daily time reading and meditating on God’s Word is crucial to the spiritual health of individual believers and our churches as whole. Acts 2 tells us the first-century church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching—and we would be wise to follow suit.
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of posts from Kyle’s new book, They Devoted Themselves, available now from Acoma Press.
Published September 1, 2020