Dwell co-founder Dennis McCallum’s new book, “Experience the Book of Acts,” is now available in paperback. at three Dwell locations–Main Campus, the Warehouse, and 4th Street. It’ll be available on Amazon in a few weeks.
Dennis answered some questions about this new book, and his deep-seated love of Acts.
Why did you decide to write a book on Acts?
I’ve had a special relationship with the Book of Acts dating back to the first year I began to walk with God. I went to a Bible study at the student union and the teacher was teaching Acts. So it was the first book I learned straight through. I was quite taken with it. I could see a vision of the church and mission there that was so different from the conventional church. I realized this picture was something I could invite my friends to. It ignited a thirst within me to see a New Testament-style church established.
I remember our teacher saying, “It’s not that the New Testament-style church has failed. It’s more like it’s never been tried.” I think that’s a bit overstated, but I certainly didn’t know of any such church. I spontaneously began to dream of an Acts-style church. As I met and befriended some other believers, we took it upon ourselves to try to be that church.
Do you think that quest has been successful?
Not completely, but I think if you read this book you’ll recognize a lot of the things you see in Acts because those same things are evident in Dwell. During my study for this book, my heart was filled with joy and thankfulness that we’ve been able to come as close as we have. At the same time I felt challenged to excel in some of the areas where we’re soft.
Were there other events that became stimuli for writing this?
Yes. I’ve been privileged to take two classes on Acts while an undergrad. One was an extension campus with a believing professor. The other was in the History Department, also with a believing professor. He set me and Gary up with an individual research project tracing the transition of several features of the church in Acts to their second and third century versions.
Then, we took another class in California and did another personal research project where we read a bunch of books on the church reporting and assessing each one. Then, we each wrote a paper containing our theology of the church. My outline later became the skeleton for Members of One Another.
Later still, we took a class at Ashland Seminary on Acts from Dr. Ben Witherington. So, that’s something like six different classes I’ve taken on Acts.
And all that doesn’t include the eight or ten times I’ve taught my way through the book, reading multiple commentaries along the way.
What do you say to people who argue that there’s no necessary reason that we should imitate the early church? After all, conditions have changed in two thousand years.
Yes, and we are free to innovate, of course. But when I think about that question, I consider how much ink was spilled telling us this story. God must have had a reason for including this narrative in His word. That suggests to me that He wanted us to learn something from it.
And, there’s another argument as well. If we trace the history of the early church up to the end of the first century, experts like Barrett believe the Christian movement had reached a million people in less than seventy years. From a starting point of a few hundred before Pentecost, that is easily the most fruitful period in the whole history of the church. So why discard their way in favor of some other way?
Would you describe your book as a commentary?
No. It’s storytelling with careful observation of details and explanations where problems come up. Hopefully you’ll feel like you’re there. The ultimate perspective in Acts is God’s; launching and driving His plan in the face of fierce opposition.
Who do you expect will find this book most helpful?
I’ve already read it with a disciple, and it was great for that. We also read it around, one or two chapters at a time in our cell group. The guys loved that.
But I also think it will be a great book to go through during your own time with God. You’ve got almost the whole text of Acts there, along with things to consider. I think it would also help anyone preparing to teach Acts.
How long did it take you to write?
I’ve been working on this one for about three years.
I’m working on another book on the Book of Luke. If I make it through that, we’ll have Luke-Acts as a set. I’d appreciate prayer that I can push through work on this—the biggest book in the New Testament. In fact, Acts is the third biggest book, so together, these two books amount to over 30% of the New Testament. That’s more than all of Paul’s, Peter’s, or John’s writings, put together.