When my wife was in high school, her house was the place where her friends all wanted to hang out. There were snacks aplenty; they had a pool table and big screen in their basement; so lots of great conversations were had, and deep friendships were formed.
As adults, we have carried that tradition into our own home, for our kids, and for our adult friends. We have a dining table large enough for a small army to eat together; both living spaces are set up for community and fun, rather than distractions and technology. And even though our yard is small and too hot to hang out in for much of the Texas year, we have a basketball hoop in our alley and a drink-packed fridge in our garage.
On one hand, we have structured our home in this way because we happen to like people, and enjoy having our friends and our kids’ friends over. But on the other hand, we have structured our home this way because it’s in the yard, around the table, and over games in our living room that a lot of life-on-life discipleship happens. And we believe this pattern started with the first Church in all of history.
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. -Acts 2:46-47a
If you’re part of a church, or even if you have a vague concept of what a weekly rhythm of a church looks like, it’s easy to misread this verse. At first glance, we might assume “attending the temple together” means “going to church on Sundays”. The problem with that is that the first-century Jewish temple in Jerusalem was not anything close to a Christian church service! There wasn’t often singing or preaching in normal daily temple life. Instead, the main act of worship in a Jewish temple was sacrifice: every morning and afternoon, faithful Jews would bring bulls, doves, sheep, and grain to the temple, where priests would slaughter and/or burn the offering as a sacrifice it to God. That’s what happened at the temple “day by day” as this verse mentions.
So why would first-century Christians attend the temple? Because that’s where their non-Christian neighbors, friends, and family were! They would gather in the temple courts, not to bring sacrifices, but to proclaim to their Jewish friends, Jesus’ final and complete sacrifice: the life, death, and resurrection of a “lamb without spot and blemish” (2 Peter 3:14). In other words, they would go to the temple together, as one act of life-on-life discipleship: talking about Jesus in public, everyday life.
Around tables in homes, they would continue that life-on-life discipleship. Some neighbors, friends, and family would hear the message in the temple courts. They would accompany Christians home and be welcomed into the community discussed earlier this week. Over simple daily acts like meals, and maybe while just hanging out, discipleship would continue. They would talk about who Jesus is and the difference he made in their lives. They would “speak truth in love” to one another (Eph 4:15). They would serve each other and pray for one another. And they would praise God together.
Church services, classes, and groups have a place in God’s plan for discipleship. Pastors, priests, and counselors have time and education to serve the church. But most discipleship through history has happened as imperfect, everyday Christians commit to love and serve each other, and point each other to Jesus. In Acts 2 and still today, discipleship happens in simple, normal, everyday life-on-life things, that everyone does all the time.
What are simple ways that you can create time and space for life-on-life discipleship, in your normal, everyday life?
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