The wealthy merchants of Liverpool, England, at the turn of the 20th century wanted to make plain that
their city was a great city at the
height of Great Britain’s imperial
grandeur. So they commissioned a
new Anglican cathedral. And they
got what they asked for.
The Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool is one of largest churches in
the world. Only St. Peter’s Basilica
in Rome is longer, as the Liverpool
Cathedral stretches the length of a
football field and a half. Only four
churches in the world are larger in
total volume, and it possesses the
world’s largest bell tower. Thousands of people can worship there.
Strangely, however, in all of this
huge space there seems no room
dedicated to children. Or to Christian instruction. Apparently the care
of new believers wasn’t a priority.
What would have happened
should that great church suddenly
have experienced an influx of converts, the way the Early Church in
Jerusalem experienced such a
blessing at Pentecost?
Are we set up to receive such a
blessing here and now?
God added several thousand new
believers to the Church that Pentecost. God didn’t provide a team of
angels for mass education. Instead
God expected the Early Church to
welcome the newcomers into their
community and help them learn
So what kind of church life did
God know would be sufficient to
disciple so many converts?
We notice in Acts 2: 42 that they
devoted themselves to the Apostles’
teaching, to fellowship, to the
breaking of bread and to prayers.
My students are supposed to devote themselves to my teaching. Yet
if a student testified that she listened to me speak for maybe 30
minutes per week, you might consider her devotion to be at a rather
low ebb. What would it mean to
devote ourselves to serious Christian education?
In most Canadian churches today, it’s customary after the morning worship service to adjourn to
a hall for “fellowship,” by which we
mean small talk, coffee and snacks.
Before we snicker, let’s note that
social scientists recognize that small
talk is not insignificant talk. Small
talk strengthens the bonds of communication that will facilitate the
big talk necessary in any serious relationship.
The question is: Do we ever have
that big talk? When do we share the
major things of life, truly partnering with each other?
As for worship in the breaking of
bread, if you were to ask me if I am
devoted to Canada’s alternative religion – hockey – and I say I watch
an hour’s worth of hockey a week,
you might question my seriousness,
if not my Canadian citizenship.
What would it mean to be devoted
to worship? Both individually and
Finally, we pray for a few minutes
during every worship service and
likely before each meal. Many of us
pray before we go to sleep. But
would anybody look at our lives and
plausibly conclude that we are
devoted to prayer?
Acts 2 challenges us even further
with its description of signs and
wonders, and the willingness of the
early Christians to sell whatever
they owned to provide for each
other. In our day, the willingness of
people to sell what they have to care
for each other’s needs would itself
be a sign and a wonder.
Time on task – we get good at
what we practise. We help other
people get good at the things we
share time together actually doing.
And if there are new Christians
among us, and they are introduced
to this kind of community, they can’t
help but grow soundly and joyfully.
So is God holding back a flood of
new converts until we are ready to
Recently it was reported in north-west India that a single church baptized 2,000 converts. More startling
was another report of 2,000 new
members coming into a single congregation in south-central England.
How about St. John’s? Or Sudbury, Saskatoon or Squamish?
Forget 2,000. How about 200?
How about 20?
May God bestow on us the Spirit
of expectancy such that we will
plan and prepare for success. And
may God add to us daily those who
are being saved. /FT
bread and to
CHRIST & CULTURE IN CANADA
JOHN G. STACKHOUSE JR.
What if we actually succeeded?
What kind of formative welcome do we have ready for new Christians?
John Stackhouse teaches at Crandall
University in Moncton. Find more of these
columns at www.Faith Today.ca/ChristAndCulture.