The following is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of our latest book, Church Reset by Jack Wilkie. Church Reset is now available for preorder.

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you go in with high expectations only to be totally let down?

A certain mouse-hosted theme park located in Florida was that way for me. Through my entire childhood I saw TV commercials telling me just how magical a place it was. I heard athletes gleefully exclaiming that they were going there after winning championships. I was well familiar with the park’s self-given description as a place of happiness unmatched anywhere in the world. But while I enjoyed the visit when I had the chance to go, on the trip home I couldn’t help but think “…That’s it?” 

Those magic-filled commercials somehow neglected to depict the hours-long lines. They didn’t tell you that at the end of those lines would be rides which differ little from the average ride at your local amusement park, except for a few beloved characters thrown in the scenery. And when they tell you about how happy everyone is while there, they conveniently leave out all the overheated, exhausted toddlers pitifully on the verge of meltdown or the occasional family yelling at each other because they can’t agree on where to go next. Obviously I didn’t really expect it to be the happiest place, but with such a lofty description I at least expected it to be happier than most other places I’ve been. It’s not like it was unenjoyable. It’s just that after such inflated expectations, I couldn’t help but be left with that question—“…That’s it?”

I can’t tell you how often I’ve returned home on a Sunday night after 3 sessions of worship and study and thought “…That’s it?” Each week I preach a sermon knowing full well that most of it won’t be retained and having little to no opportunity to sit down with individuals and discuss the text with them, hear their questions, and learn from their input. Each week we stay conscious of the clock on the wall, sticking to our programmed 6 songs, 2 prayers, Scripture reading, sermon, Lord’s Supper, and giving format because some (perhaps many) people wouldn’t come if we left it open-ended. Each week I have those exchanges I’ve come to hate: “How are you?” “Good, how are you?” “Good.” —exchanges which give no opportunity for building each other up and bearing each other’s burdens. Shouldn’t church be more?

It’s at this point you might start to think, maybe my expectations are too high. Maybe like with Disney World I’m expecting some kind of unattainable ideal. The difference is, our expectations for the church weren’t cooked up by some brilliant, high-dollar marketing firm. They come from God’s inspired Word. Consider just a few of the glimpses the Bible gives us of what God intended the church to be. 

The Acts 2 Church

The first Scripture to come to mind for most will be that tight-knit group who began the church in Acts 1-2. Pre-Pentecost they gathered together and devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14). Afterward, once the Spirit had been received and the 3,000 had been baptized, they all immediately became family. They were devoted to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowshipping with one another, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Those who were more well off started selling property to take care of those of their group who were in need. They shared meals together and gathered in each other’s houses as they praised God together. They were a family in every sense. 

How many times have you read that section and thought, “Why can’t it be that way?” Unfortunately, too often our first response to that question is why it can’t be that way. “We’re a lot busier now.” “It’s not realistic.” And yes, it’s true that not everything they did was sustainable even for them. But if you have that nagging feeling that their example is much closer to what God wants for His people and that their lives were a reflection of what His eternal kingdom will look like when it is fully realized, then those simple, wave-of-the-hand explanations aren’t going to satisfy.

Every time I read Acts 2 and compare the way church looked then to the way it looks now, the question keeps tugging at me—shouldn’t church be… more?

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