“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
In the book of Acts we read about how the Holy Spirit set the early believers ablaze for the work of God. We encounter Peter, who courageously steps into the public square to preach the good news of life in Jesus Christ, and thousands come to believe Jesus is the Messiah. We see powerful people like Stephen, who speaks of Christ in the face of persecution, even though it ends up costing him his life. We hear about Philip, who shares across cultural and religious barriers to bring the Samaritans to Jesus. We even see an enemy of Christ and persecutor of the early Christians, Saul of Tarsus, become a passionate evangelist and bold church planter that we know as the Apostle Paul.
The book of Acts is an active book. The church is not stagnant, but moving. The church is engaged and alive, moving forward on mission by the power of the Holy Spirit. What does it look like when individual believers and church communities are activated by God for His work? Well, at the very least we can say that it is not easy to ignore a church that is activated.
But it’s important to give a little more attention to something we could miss here. While Acts is an active book, we also see two things in this story of the early Christians that clarify for us what does not fit with an activated church.
First, an activated church that truly follows Jesus cannot be apathetic. There are times when see find ourselves confronted with the many needs, challenges, and serious situations within the world, that we can become overwhelmed by it all. In the mass of it all, we sometimes shut down and turn away from the needs of the world. We may, instead, focus on our own lives and challenges without giving any thought to the world God loves. Essentially, we become apathetic. But activated churches and Christians are not apathetic. They are engaged with the needs of the world because God cares about people and the needs of the world. While no one church or Christian can address all the needs and challenges of the world, our faith will not give us permission to turn away. An activated church remains open-hearted to the world because God is an open-hearted and generous being.
Second, even though Acts shows us that an activated church is not apathetic but engaged, it also shows us that an activated church is not necessarily a busy church. There is a significant difference between being busy and being active. The early church was activated by the Holy Spirit to join in with God’s mission in a focused way. However, the early church was not meaninglessly busy, doing whatever came their way at any time. In fact, there were key moments where the early believers chose not to do some things or pursue some aspects of potential mission because of the Holy Spirit’s leading. Some of us misunderstand the missionary aspect of Christianity as a command to become busy for the kingdom. But an activated church replaces busyness with focused obedience. Some of us need to remember that God is not very interested in un-commanded work. Yes, God wants us to join in with His kingdom mission, but He does not want us to aimlessly rush around with whatever need or challenge captures our attention in the moment. In fact, what captures our attention may lead us away from the mission God has for us. As a mentor once shared with me: we may need to consider whether we are more in love with the work of the Lord than we are in love with the Lord of the work.
An activated church is not boringly apathetic to the world’s need nor frenziedly busy. An activated church is alive in the Holy Spirit, open-hearted to the world, and walking in obedience to the Living God.