Close your eyes, and you can almost imagine the beginning of Acts playing out like the intro to a Christopher Nolan film. A moody Hans Zimmer score swells beneath sweeping shots of Jerusalem at night. Jesus has ascended. Pentecost is over. A few nameless apostles gather at a discrete farmhouse to discuss their next move amid rising pressures and the rumor that a certain heavy-hitter has converted. “You’re late…” one says. “Sorry. Thought someone was following me. Had to take the long way. Is it true what they say?” A third man raises a candle to the corner of the room, where two armed guards stand over a hunched and grizzled figure. “He’s calling himself Paul…” How metal is that? That’s a church service I can get behind!
A few months earlier, a ragtag group of remnants and newcomers adopted a bold commission. And so began the single greatest faith movement in human history. But it wasn’t one tied to buildings or budgets. Instead, it was a collective of believers, gathered around their mandate as individuals. They weren’t commissioned to create of the church. The church was the byproduct of their shared conviction. Consequently, they realized they could benefit from sharing their experiences and pulling their resources. The church, at the beginning, was just Reddit for missionaries.
Today, that church feels more like a hive mind. Rather than a mead hall for juggernauts, fresh from battle, it has become a way to outsource field orders. For ten percent of your weekly income, you can pay to have your evangelism done by full-time missionaries. You can count on the committee for community outreach to handle your neighbors for you. The student ministry can teach your kids how to be decent. And you can rely on your pastor or small group leader to keep you current on the Bible.
Some say this local church is the hope of the world, but was it ever truly meant to be?