The Spirit blows across the pages of Acts, blazing in his enthusiasm for Jesus. His first appearance is in 1:2 in which we discover that it was the Spirit that inspired Jesus. In chapter 2 the Spirit ignites a fire that rages through the rest of the book. He brings courage and boldness to timid disciples, clarity to Peter, discipline to a wayward couple – and so on throughout the book. Lives are changed (usually for the better although Ananias and Sapphira may have a different take). People are healed. Evil spirits are thrown out. And the infant church grows.
The author of Acts introduces the narrative by pointing back to his first volume: ‘In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach’ (Acts 1:1). Acts, in contrast, tells us some of what Jesus continued to do and teach through His disciples. This present participle is vital, because the tacit assumption is that the ministry of the disciples, in the power of the Spirit, is a continuation of the ministry of Jesus. And His ministry continues today through us, as we are work in collaboration with the Spirit.
I am beginning a series of blog posts on Acts of the Apostles. They will be a series of reflections as I seek to draw some lessons from the biblical text and apply them to the contemporary ‘mission scene.’ You may agree with the points I make – but equally you may want to question some of the things I write. This is healthy and I welcome your comments and feedback.
Other better scholars will (no doubt) offer different perspectives, but I am approaching the text primarily as a missiological narrative rather than as doctrinal or historical accounts. Acts is an account of the spread and growth of the early church, from ‘Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). There are four main actors throughout the text: Jesus (1:1) and the Holy Spirit (1:8), the ‘Word of God’ and the Christian community. Off stage – in the wings directing everything – is the Father. The director and actors work in collaboration throughout the text as the story unfolds.
I finished my last post by saying, please God, may my anger continue to burn until the church practices holistic evangelism as God has called it to do. This raises the question of what is holistic evangelism? I answered the question by saying, “when the kingdom is enacted on the earth, amidst all the messiness of human existence with its sin, sickness and spite.” But what does this actually look like?
I am angry. I have been since 6th July 1980. At times the anger has burned brightly, but on other occasions it is just sadness. Nearly 34 years later and there is still anger and sadness.
I am angry with the church. Not with any particular local congregation, but with the chronic failure of The Church – the community of people claiming to be Christians in this country. The anger is specific: it took The Church 17 years to tell me about Jesus. It was in July 1980 that I became a follower of Jesus, this controversial, delightful, enigmatic and fascinating manual labourer from Palestine. It was then that I found I actually mattered to God, that I was loved by Him and that my life had purpose and meaning. But it took 17 years for The Church to bother telling me about this Jesus.