The New Testament book of Acts clearly reveal to us that the young Christian Church (the Early Christian Church) struggled to establish rules for living together in the covenant community. At the Jerusalem Council (see Acts 15), they sought faithfully to find what was essential—as do we today. After much deliberation and careful thoughts on many issues facing the young Church, they were able to consider reasonable and not burdensome rules for faith and practice—for the purpose of maintaining general Christian unity. The same process the council followed or the formula that they used in resolving their conflicts then, would be helpful in resolving conflicts found within the Church today.
Though there are times when Christians will not agree on certain aspects of ministry or on rules for faith and practice, the attitude of preserving the unity of the Church and the Spirit should be utmost on our minds. To help us to grow in the life of faith, Dr. Craig Dykstra, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church, USA, and a research Professor of Practical Theology and Senior Fellow at Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, in his book Growing in the Life of Faith: Education and Christian Practices, put together a list of Christian practices.
List of Christian Practices:
- Worshiping God together—praising God, giving thanks for God’s creative and redemptive work in the world, hearing God’s word preached, and receiving the sacraments given us in Christ.
- Telling the Christian story to one another—reading and hearing the Scriptures and also the stories of the Church’s experience throughout its history.
- Interpreting together the Scriptures and the history of the Church’s experience, particularly in relation to their meaning for our own lives in the world.
- Praying—together and by ourselves, not only informal services of worship but in all times and places.
- Confessing our sin to one another, and forgiving and becoming reconciled with one another.
- Tolerating one another’s failures and encouraging one another in the work each must do and the vocation each must live.
- Carrying out specific faithful acts of service and witness together.
- Giving generously of one’s means and receiving gratefully gifts others have to give.
- Suffering with and for one another and all whom Jesus showed us to be our neighbors.
- Providing hospitality and care, not only to one another but to strangers and even enemies.
- Listening and talking attentively to one another about our particular experiences in life.
- Struggling together to become conscious of and to understand the nature of the context in which we live.
- Criticizing and resisting all those powers and patterns (both within the Church and in the world as a whole) that destroy human beings, corrode human community, and injure God’s creation.
- Working together to maintain and create social structures and institutions that will sustain life in the world in ways that accord with God’s will.
(See Craig Dykstra, Growing in the Life of Faith: Education and Christian Practices; Louisville: Geneva Press, 1999, pp. 42-43).
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