5 Lessons from the Early Church to Be Thankful for Today

As families and friends gather this Thanksgiving, many people will pause to reflect with gratitude on the previous year. Among the many things for which I’m thankful, perhaps one of the most significant is this: the body of Christ.

If not for the fellowship of other believers, including my wife, my children, and the church we call home, navigating today’s world would be a completely different experience. The truth is, we were never meant to live out our faith alone. We were designed to be in intimate connection with other believers, one body, as demonstrated by the first Church in the book of Acts. Fellowshipping, worshipping, and living life together as believers is an irreplaceable aspect of the Church being the Church, and it is for our good! It refines us, sanctifies us, and helps us to grow spiritually and spread the gospel more effectively.

The first followers of Christ exemplified what it means to "do life together,” adopting a radical model of sharing. As today’s believers have become more affluent and independent, we've largely abandoned this concept of abiding in dynamic fellowship with one another and traded it in for the false hope of self-sufficiency and the “American dream.” As we experience the challenges of living in a world that threatens daily to steal our peace, hope, and provision, it’s crucial that we reflect upon our roots as the family of God and recognize the eternal value of fellowshipping together, caring for one another and growing into spiritual maturity together.  As Paul reminds us in Romans 12:6, “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

The book of Acts offers invaluable insights that should guide the Church, especially in the context of our modern society. The lessons found in these passages serve as an enduring blueprint for a thriving and impactful Church.

1. Unity and Fellowship: Acts 2:42-47

The early Church exemplified a profound unity that shaped the foundation of their community. Together, they were devoted to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Their commitment was so much deeper than just being in the same room together once per week. They saw it as a responsibility to share their lives. Being one body is not meant to be a simple idealistic metaphor. In fact, our togetherness as children of God, is meant to reflect the very nature of who we are in Christ.

In Acts 2:42-47, we learn that “all who believed were together and had all things in common.” They formed a tight-knit community, walked through life together, and shared everything they had with one another. In a world often marked by division and isolation, we can learn from their example. As the body of Christ, our shared commitment to the Lord should be the driving force that creates a community where love, compassion, and a commitment to support each other define our relationships. Why? Because we are members of one body, and we have been bought with a price. We belong to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

2. Generosity and Meeting Physical Needs: Acts 4:32-37

The early Church not only shared their lives with one another, they shared their possessions as needs arose. Acts 4:32-37 paints a vivid picture of a community that demonstrated radical generosity, ensuring that the physical needs of its members were met. Believers willingly sold what they had and shared their possessions, and as a result, there was no one in need. This behavior of connecting needs to resources was not born from a sense of obligation but flowed organically through hearts transformed by the Holy Spirit.

Today, we should embrace this same spirit of generosity within our own congregations. Rather than waiting for the pastor to tell us there is a need in the body, we should seek out opportunities to serve and give generously to one another proactively.  By selflessly meeting the practical needs of our fellow believers, we embody the teachings of Christ and exemplify the transformative power of love in action.

3. Overcoming Racial and Ethnic Discrimination: Acts 6:1-4

In Acts 6:1-4, when a complaint arose about the distribution of food to widows, the apostles took immediate action to ensure fairness and equity. There is no mention of a resource issue within the church, but we do see a very difficult picture of early problems within the church. They appointed leaders of good reputation, full of the spirit and full of wisdom, maintaining the principle that no group should be treated unfairly. Our God is a God of justice and in a world grappling with the consequences of racism, discrimination, and all manners of hate, the Church can draw inspiration from the example of the first followers of Christ. We should work to foster an inclusive community of believers where every individual is valued and treated with dignity, not because of politics but because we truly believe that everyone is made in the Image of God.

4. Empowering Leaders for Gospel Ministry: Acts 6:1-7

Acts 6 also showcases the wisdom of the early Church in appointing deacons to oversee practical matters, freeing up the apostles to devote themselves to the ministry of the Word. This delegation allowed the gospel to spread more effectively. Acts 6:7 tells us that after the deacon model of ministry was implemented, “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly.” Pastors are often crushed under the weight of day-to-day challenges and a vibrant deacon ministry like we find in Acts 6 is the cure. Just like Aaron and Hur holding up Moses Arms in battle, the body of Christ needs faithful leaders who can help bear the weight of gospel ministry.

5. Equipping the saints to suffer well: Acts 14:22

Just like the early church experienced under the tyrannical rule of the Romans and others, suffering continues to be a significant and powerful part of the Christian faith. Acts 14:22 tells us, “Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” In fact, in John 16:33 Jesus himself tells us “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” The church is part of God’s plan to help believers through times of suffering. The writer to the Hebrews tells us of a particular situation where believers had been arrested and thrown in jail because of their belief in Jesus, and those who had not been arrested had a choice to make – run and hide to save themselves or go and visit their brothers and sisters in Christ in prison and risk their own safety. Hebrews 10:34 tells us, “For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.”

I believe one of the amazing and incredible parts of the body of Christ is that it reminds us to keep the faith, and that this world is not where we should be placing our hope.  Better yet, when suffering comes, we can say with Paul: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” 2 Corinthians 4:17. Today, many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering from various hardships including persecution, divorce, joblessness, depression, sickness of all kinds, death of loved ones, and many more. It is time for the body of Christ, the Church, to stand shoulder to shoulder with the suffering and show the world what true gospel love looks like.  In my own walk with the Lord, I am grateful for men and women of the faith who have stood beside me during my deepest struggles in life. 

In our contemporary context, the Church can empower leaders for specific tasks, recognizing that a collaborative approach enhances the overall impact of ministry. By valuing the diverse gifts within the body of believers, we can create an environment where each member can use their God-given gifts and talents for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

For the first body of Christians, fellowshipping with other believers, bearing one another’s burdens, and connecting needs to resources played a crucial role in the life and the health of the Church. I believe the same is true today. I’m thankful for these lessons found in the book of Acts and pray the body of Christ will strive to emulate the same attitude of caring for one another and working together for the sake of the Kingdom.

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Johnathan Kana 

Brandon Harvath serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Christian Care Ministry (CCM), the nonprofit 501(c)(3) association of churches that manages Medi-Share. CCM believes that we should reclaim the biblical mandate to care and provide for our brothers and sisters in Christ. A homeschooling father of seven, Harvath is passionate about family, and the freedom to choose educational and healthcare options that align with faith and values.

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