I'm back from church now....
I think Stuart is right to raise questions about how we should see the house gatherings in acts 2 and 4 - of course, I'd add that the Jerusalem community is odd because it continued meeting at the temple as well as in homes.
we can be very sloppy in our use of labels and i think we need to be really careful if we are going to learn useful lesson from Acts for us in our context as we try to create and maintain communities of people who want to follow Jesus.
This morning we were looking at Acts 16 and the arrival of the gospel in Philippi. The believers met in the home of the richest woman (Lydia) convert. is this a good model? It seemed to work well for Paul. he used it in many of the cities he evangelised. we, of course, wouldn't dream of adopting it as a model for us today - though I'm not really sure it's any worse than any of the models we do use!
There is a fluidity about the movement of Jesus followers at this time, any structure appears to have been contingent on what was needed at the time. so when the leaders of the groups in Jerusalem and Antioch met in 49AD(ish) as recorded in Acts 15, they were trying to thrash out the answer to a key question - did you need to be a Jew to be a fully-fledged Jesus follower? The answer they arrived at was 'no' - Jews and Gentiles were welcome on an equal footing.
I'm not sure what kind of contemporary gathering this meeting is like - a church meeting? an association gathering? BU council? It's often described as the first church council - but was it anything like the gathering at Nicea or Chalcedon? I don't think so.
So, Acts 15 contains useful principles for us in settling differences, in deciding issues that might divide us unnecessarily, in moving forward together, accepting one another as equals whatever our cultural or racial background. In terms of structure and organisation, I'm not sure it's any help to us at all.
Does any of this make sense? I'll return to it in the week - and I haven't forgotten some mature thoughts about Tobias Jones' fascinating book on utopia; they'll come this week, too