Acts 2:42-47 is a classic passage of Scripture often used to describe what a healthy New Testament church should look like in today's world. In the passage, we find what many call the 5 purposes or functions of a healthy church: Evangelism, Discipleship, Fellowship, Ministry, and Worship. Others have substituted words like Service for Ministry or Teaching for Discipleship. Within the scope of church history, the Reformation marks of the church included the right administration of the sacraments and the pure preaching of the gospel. In modern times, some have adopted the mindset that a church must have 9 marks to be considered a healthy New Testament church. These 9 marks are discussed in detail under the topics of preaching, biblical theology, the gospel, conversion, evangelism, membership, discipline, discipleship, and leadership.
These are all great and acceptable ways to define a healthy NT church, however, all are lacking the most important ingredient. One can be found doing all of the above items yet not figured out what it is that is missing. Christianity is not a checklist. You cannot check all of the above items and say ok, everything is good. While on earth, Jesus told the Pharisees "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life yet you refuse to come to me." On Judgment Day, he will tell many who did good things in his name to depart from him and that he never knew them. This is because Jesus always has and will continue to look into our hearts. He weighs and knows our every motive.
In this famous passage of Scripture where the early church is devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers, Paul's main point goes way beyond what a healthy church is to do. Paul gives us the how and the why! Have you ever read this passage of Scripture and just noticed the love that was present in this community of people. They genuinely enjoyed being in each others company and more importantly in God's presence. They considered the people sitting beside them more important than themselves. The gospel had so much effect in their lives that they had placed others above themselves and put themselves last.
In Revelation 2:1-7, we see what it looks like for a church be considered healthy on the outside, yet Christ condemns the church for what it looks like on the inside. He says they are to return to their first love. Newlyweds are madly in love with one another. How is it then after even 20 years of marriage, some couples are at each others throats? It is because they are like the church at Ephesus. They have forgotten their first love. They may do the right things and even say the right things but inside, the love is missing.
The main mark of a healthy NT church always has been and always will be love. Without love, a person and a church is nothing. Faith, hope, and love remain but the greatest of these is love. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. But if love is greater than faith, how much more impossible does it become in order to please God? As I look around the world today, I ask the same question the music group Black Eyed Peas ask, "Where is the love?" Ultimately, God is love and love in people and churches spring from the gospel activated in our lives. Watch this music video and listen to its words: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpYeekQkAdc. You may ask how could I show a secular video to talk about God's love. My answer to you is that although I may not agree everything that the group has said or done, I am commanded to love them. We are to do good to all men, believer and unbeliever alike.