The Central Gospel Tabernacle (The first branch of the Missionary Alliance in Ottawa) The building is now owned by the Ottawa Chinese United Church.
I recently discovered that the history of my local church is both fascinating and exciting. I read a paper written by our children’s pastor on the history of our church, Cedarview Alliance Church. Because we have been studying the history of the early church in Acts for Quizzing, the parallels suddenly came very much alive for me. Here are a few of my thoughts:
A church goes through stages – birth, infancy, maturing etc. The early church in Acts was no different. Here is how I see the phases in both the early church in Acts and my own local church.
1st Phase – The birth of a new church or ‘honeymoon phase’
- in Acts – Peter’s sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2) and in the court, Stephen’s sermon before he was stoned.
- in Ottawa – evangelist such as the Bosworth brothers, Lucius Compton, Rev. Fred Clark and Rev. George Bell and Mrs. Agnew Demarest (General Booth’s grand-daughter) – “These meetings might be described as prophetic and evangelistic and left a deep spiritual impact on our people.” Fifty Years in Retrospect
Spirit-filled miracles and signs, healing
- in Acts – Acts 2:43 – And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. and in Acts 5:12 – Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles.
- in Ottawa – “Mr. Bosworth stressed physical heaing in all his messages and many responded and cures were reported, some of them extraordinary cases.”
Thousands of new converts.
- in Acts – Acts 2:41 – So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls v 47 – And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. and Acts 5:14 – And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, and Acts 6:7 – And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem,
- in Ottawa (Ottawa’s Banner Year) – “Between 10,000 and 12,000 made profession of saving faith in Jesus Christ. Nearly 6,000 were annointed for healing. Several hundred were baptised, 225 in one night. Attendance on closing night was 8,500.” Fifty Years in Retrsospect.
2nd Phase – An infant church or ‘still in the honeymoon phase’
- in Acts – they all had everything in common and everyone was of one accord
- one big family – 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. Acts 2:41
- everyone giving generously, to share with each other, (Acts – each had no needs)
- in Ottawa – members loaned a large sum of money for the church building.
So what was the problem?
- inward focus; – focus on local area – Acts 5 (still in Jersalem)
- not taking care of the poor, widows – Acts 6 (Hellenists complain the apostles are not taking care of the widows)
- the only community work was to win souls – Acts 6 – How can we stop preaching the Word to serve tables?
- no follow through or relationship building with new converts.
This is the very first christian church though. It is a church in its infancy and God will lead them down the path that they are to go.
Phase 3 Beginnnig to Mature – taking care of the poor, community
- Acts 6 – the Hellonists complained that no one was taking care of the widows so they appointed Stephen and some godly men.
- So now they are winning souls and taking care of the community. But they are still focused on Jerusalem
- So the superstar in the community gets publicly stoned to death and Saul starts ravaging the church causing them to flee out of Jerusalem.
- Would they have moved out of Jerusalem if they hadn’t been prosecuted?
- Philip goes into Samaria and starts preaching about Jesus and they are saved and baptized. The leaders in Jerusalem come to Samaria to pray for the Holy Spirit to fall upon them.
- The Gospel Tabernacle has an organization of believers who invested large amounts of money to establish a large church in downtown Ottawa.
- The Corporation is formed and is made of members who lent/contributed significant portions of money.
Phase 4 Growing up – Learning to handle conflict and persecution, Money issues, The First Split, resignations etc.
- Acts, Paul’s letters to the churches –
- In Ottawa – Members not in the corporation decided to start their own tabernacle (across the street?) the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
- The first church told the new church that they could not call themselves an alliance tabernacle as there could only be one alliance branch in Ottawa.
Things we can learn from the early church and Acts and our own local church history
- decisions can have long-term consequences – sometimes we have to contend with consequences of decisions made by those who came before us
- God can still use people, despite the mistakes we make
- The Enemy uses money to divide the church
Characteristics of a unified church
– focus on what you have in common – the fourfold gospel
– use one another’s gifting’s to ensure that the focus is not on just one thing – the gospel, community, relationships, missions, good stewards of resources,
– accountability and governance.