English Standard Version (ESV)
Compare this to the modern church. We'd probably call this a cult if it were taking place today, but push past that and think about how interconnected their lives were -- not just materially and financially, but communally. These people knew each other at a deeper level than most of us can fathom knowing our church community. Their needs and joys and sorrows were shared. We focus so much on the financial interdependence that we lose the beauty of the willingness of the early church to build a community that depended deeply on the participation of every member. These people were willing to be vulnerable and expose themselves to the risk that inevitably comes with trusting a large group of people.
In today's church, we are starkly independent. We share bits and pieces of our lives and our finances with one another, and if there is a dire need of someone with whom we are well-connected, we might be willing to go above and beyond what we normally give, but often we are isolated, even in our communities. The community often now depends on the paid staff that orchestrates it, rather than on the members. If large numbers of members don't show up, the church structure still usually finds a way forward. People routinely skip church events for other functions because they don't feel a sense of responsibility. They have membership in the church, but how much ownership do they have in the ongoing life of the church? We tend not to be more vulnerable than we need, and we give to the church out of our excess time, money and energy.
It's very different, and while it suits our American lifestyles, I'm not sure that it's better. If I don't show up at church for a few weeks, who notices? Who calls? If I don't share my own struggles and joys, does it harm the community? Do I show up to observe or participate?
There are important questions facing the church. We need to be willing to ask ourselves tough questions, and I think we need to be open to thinking about church in different ways as well, ways that aren't so conforming to our independence and open us up to the Spirit working in new and wonderful and even uncomfortable ways.