Acts is not a manual with blueprints and a set of instructions on how to be a church. Acts is not a utopian fantasy on what a perfect church would look like. Acts is a detailed story of the ways in which the first church became a church. A story is not a script to be copied. A story develops a narrative sense in us so that, alert to the story of Jesus., will be present and obedient and believing as we participate in the ways that the Holy Spirit is forming the Jesus life in us. The plot (Jesus) is the same. But the actual places and circumstances and names will be different and form a narrative that is unique to our time and place, circumstances and people.
Churches are not franchises to be reproduced as exactly as possible wherever and whenever – in Rome, and Moscow, and London and Baltimore – the only thing changed being the translation of the menu.
But if we don’t acquire a narrative sense, a story sense, with the expectation that we are each one of us uniquely ourselves – participants in the unique place and time and weather of where we live and worship – we will always be looking somewhere else or to a different century for a model by which we can be an authentic and biblical church. The usefulness of Acts as a story, and not a prescription or admonition, is that it keeps us faithful to the plot. Jesus, and at the same time free to respond out of our own circumstances and obedience.
Eugene Peterson – The Pastor: A Memoir (HarperOne, 2011).