A description of the early church in Acts 2:44 has, for a long time, intrigued me. In describing the church, Luke says, “All who believed were together and had all things in common.” The words which catch my attention are these; “were together.” The term “together”, in this case, refers to direction or location. In other words, these believers were moving in the same direction and camped in the same location. Location here is not geographical. These believers were planting their lives on the same area of commitment. I’ve sometimes translated this idea by stating that these believers “were altogether together.” What a great concept and testimony to the unbelieving world, not to mention a powerful position for accomplishing God’s command for taking the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Just like our churches today, this first church was made up of people from different backgrounds, social standing, educational levels and economic resources. There were any number of issues that could have divided them, but they had experienced the miraculous work of God in their lives and wanted others to know Jesus and His forgiveness as well. So, they laid aside the issues and preferences that could divide and focused on what was of greatest value – the gospel message. They were altogether together in their direction. They were “all in” for the gospel. And the result? The gospel spread like wildfire through Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and beyond. Even when faced with threats and persecution, they prayed for greater boldness to live and speak the word of God.
I read a short article recently by Pastor Jimmy Pritchard who is serving as the President of our Southern Baptist of Texas Convention. Jimmy had served on the committee for our International Mission Board charged with finding the man God would bring to lead our world mission agency. At his first progress report to the board of trustees, he remarked that he was somewhat surprised that the Holy Spirit seemed to be saying different things to different members of their group. After the laughter subsided, he reported that when the committee decided that they must pray and ask God for unity, they began to come together in a focused pursuit. When all was said and done, they found unanimous agreement in God’s direction. But it only happened when they were “altogether together” in pursuit of God’s plan instead of their own individual plans.
God’s charge to the church has not changed. The gospel message is our direction and our place of encampment. It doesn’t matter what we have on our church calendars or how we think things should be done, if we are not altogether together regarding the fact that God has placed us where we are in order to share the gospel in our neighborhood and around the world, we will be failures. Unless we do all that we do with that goal in mind, all of our words and activities are nothing more than exercises in religion. I want to be part of those who refuse to spend their lives in religious activity. I want to be all in for the gospel. That will mean I lay aside those things that could divide and unite with others in taking the life-changing message of Christ to our community and beyond. I’m thankful to share in that fellowship with you.