WHAT KIND OF CHURCH OUGHT WE TO BE?
It is good to remember – we have done that this morning with communion. God’s people remembering what God had done for them. This exercise can be a great encouragement –
God says to Joshua – “As I was with Moses so shall I be with you”
As Joshua remembered what God had done through Moses it gave him confidence for the future. BUT he was not to expect a repeat of the “Moses era” but that the same God who had been with Moses would be with him.
In fact God told Joshua not to sit around longing for the “Moses days” but to get on with the task at hand – conquering the Promised land.
Joshua 1:2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them — to the Israelites. (NIV)
While it is good to remember – it does not mean we live in the past! This was Jesus’ accusation against the religious leaders of his day – they were so busy protecting the traditions of their fathers that they couldn’t see the Messiah standing in front of them.
We can look back at the life of BC and praise God for his goodness over these many years – how this Church has grown and developed – how people (some of you) have come to know Christ personally.
BUT We must also look at where we are and where we are going; at who we are and what we are doing!
“What kind of Church ought we to be?”
Helpful to ask the question – “What kind of Church do we see in the NT?” – Not that we can go back and be like them – they, like us, were not perfect.
ILLUS. Sometimes people say “If only we could go back to the NT Church!” Which one?? Ephesus – they lost their first love! Laodicea – they were luke-warm (indifferent)! Corinth – with all their problems of taking each other to court and sexual immorality!
BUT we can learn from the early Church and ACTS 2 gives a good pattern.
They were a church that was growing and so it is helpful to look and the characteristics that contributed to that growth.
Acts 2:47 …….. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (NIV)
What kind of a church does God add people to? Clearly a healthy Church! When people become Christians they are spiritual babies and God is not in the business of putting new spiritual babies into sick churches!
So what are the marks of a healthy Church?
Learning the Lives
Fellowship that Functions
Worship that Witnesses
Service that Sacrifices
1. LEARNING THAT LIVES.
Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (doctrine)……
Notice the high degree of commitment from these disciples – being part of this new community of God’s people was not a Sunday past-time – it was not saying “Oh, I have a few hours each week that I need to fill up, I’ll try this new religious experience !”
NB the word “DEVOTED” – what does that suggest to you? a casual dabbling??! NO! total commitment!
Paul – “in Christ” = in church which takes expression in local congregations
What did they devote themselves to?
The Apostle’s teaching… Why the Apostle’s teaching?
NT not written yet! The Apostles had been with Jesus – he had taught them and given them the authority to teach – the early Church didn’t invent stories about Jesus – the apostles taught what Jesus had taught them – then in time what they taught was written down and became the NT. “Make disciples … teaching they to obey everything I have commanded you” Matt.28v19
What does this mean for us? We too must devote ourselves to the Apostle’s teaching –By devoting ourselves to the study of the Bible!
Thus small groups / Sunday services!! [YELLOW RESPONSE FORMS!!!!]
BUT with out this devotion to God’s Word we can become spiritually dry and ineffective – we stop growing – stop living! Many die at age 25 and are buried at 76½ !!
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (NIV)
The truth needs to be practical – to be lived – it must have an affect on our life!
ILLUS.: Man wins a cruise – sits in cabin eating sandwiches. After a week he discovers a seat at the captain’s table was included ….
Many Xns live like that – they have the riches of the gospel of Jesus – yet they live in spiritual poverty and no one knows that they are children of the king!
If what we learn in bible studies / sermons doesn’t have an impact on our lives in the week then there is something drastically wrong!
Learning that Lives! 1st mark of a healthy Church and Christian.
2. FELLOWSHIP THAT FUNCTIONS.
Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship …
This was not tea and biscuits after the service.
This, too, is something that they devoted themselves to.
This fellowship involved both Temple worship [in a big group] and breaking bread in HOMES [breaking bread – Lord’s supper and simply eating together].
Any group of people can get together to have a good time – clubs, social events …. – this is on a people to people level .
True fellowship has a vertical dimension as well – true fellowship can only happen between two or more people who each have an individual relationship to God.
This genuine fellowship can and does have and impact on non-Christians when they see Xns genuinely loving and caring for each other.
It is not therefore without significance that the NT is full of reference about how we are to relate to one another.
Romans 12:10 10 Be devoted to one another ..
Romans 12:16 16 Live in harmony with one another…
Romans 14:13 13 … stop passing judgement on one another..
Romans 14:19 … make every effort to do what leads to peace ..
Romans 15:7 Accept one another,..
Romans 15:14 … instruct one another. (NIV)
1 Corinthians 12:25 …. have equal concern for each other. (NIV)
Galatians 5:13 …. serve one another in love. (NIV)
Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens,…
Ephesians 4: 2 be patient, bearing with one another in love. (NIV)
Ephesians 4:32 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other…
Colossians 3:9 9 Do not lie to each other…
1 Thessalonians 4:18 .. encourage each other…
Hebrews 3:13 .. encourage one another daily,…
James 5:16 .. pray for each other …
1 Peter 4:9 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (NIV)
1 John 3:11 ….love one another. (NIV) [x6]
If this was how the early church were treating each other it is no wonder that they turned world upside down.
It we are going to develop these kinds of relationships with each other it won’t happen here on a Sun. am. and it WILL take time, effort, sacrifice, and personal openness .
This is becoming a greater and greater need in the society in which we live ..
READ Roy Clements in “the Church that turned the world upside down” p.31!!
Do any of these things ring true with you – “superficial friendliness” – “emotional isolation” – “social alienation” –
We look around the Church and see people who look so contented, and at peace and yet inwardly they can be crying out for someone to love them. Is that you?
There is confusion, and guilt and frustration and an inability to communicate even with family [sometimes esp. with family.] And the situation continues, on and on often because we are too afraid, too proud or too stubborn to admit that we are in need.
We need to break out of this facade and be REAL –
ILLUS. In the film Crocodile Dundee – Mick Crocodile Dundee from the Aussie outback is in New York – at a dinner party in the home of a Newspaper tycoon people are talking about their psychotherapists – shrinks –
“Why do they have them” he ask; “Because they need someone to talk to,” comes the reply. “Don’t they have any mates??” he asks
If we are to function as a fellowship we have to be mates!
The quality of our Christian life will improve – our church life will improve and the world will look on and say “We want what those people have; how can we get it??”
And we can say “Let us tell you about Jesus!”
In order for that to happen we need to have meaningful contact and be building genuine friendship with non-Xns!!
One of the reasons why we are changing how we use Sunday evening – no longer a traditional service – use for fellowship and relationship building with non-Xns.
Also why we have “Weekends Away” – seriously consider! Finance? Can be solved! So unless you are in hospital you really have no excuse – even if only as day visitor!!
3. WORSHIP THAT WITNESSES.
Acts 2:42&47 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. …… 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people.
True worship is not just and emotional feeling that raises the hairs on the back of your neck – some get that from listening to a symphony concert others get the same feeling and a rock concert. It is not coming away from the ‘Last Night at the Proms’ saying “we had a good time.”
We tend to confine worship to what happens at a Sunday service, in which we have a slot called a worship time! Some perceive worship as a particular style of service – e.g. Cathedral with candles, bells and Gregorian Chants OR a modern building with a band and much clapping and waving of hands.
Both these may or may not be worship! It is not the liturgy or style of service that constitutes worship.
Worship is only worship IF from a heart that is praising and acknowledging God for who he is & what he has done.
AND worship is not confined to one hour on a Sunday Morning – Worship is to be part of everyday life – it is to be seen in the mundane things of life as well as the so called ‘spiritual’ things – God doesn’t make that distinction.
ILLUS.: In OT – Malachi – the people and the priests where going through their religious rituals – coming to the temple, bringing their sacrifices, praying and singing – but their daily lives were characterised by cheating, lying, exploitation of the poor and immoral behaviour.
God said ‘I hate your sacrifices – I will take the dung from the sacrificial animals and smear it on your faces and throw you onto the dung heap with the offal – I wish one of you priests had the guts to shut the temple doors and stopped this false worship – no worship is better than false worship!”
Who can worship God
Psalm 24:3-4 3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. (NIV)
John 4:23-24 23 …. the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
4. SERVICE THAT SACRIFICES.
Acts 2:44-45 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. (NIV)
Some have labelled this ‘primitive communism’ – but this is not Marxism based on humans ideas.
The early church didn’t collectively own things and live in a Christian Commune.
This was not something imposed on the people by the apostles – like the Marxist Revolution. It did require a revolution but not from the barrel of a gun but by the power of the Holy Spirit transforming people’s lives from the inside.
You can’t build on this verse a teaching that says Christians should not own anything – clearly that is not so from the rest of the Bible.
However in our day with rampant materialism I think we tend to err the other way! The point is that they were prepared to sacrifice to meet the needs of others and advance the Kingdom of God. Are we prepared to do that – it will cost time, effort and resources!
The point is that their new found faith in Jesus turned them away from a preoccupation with self and made them look to the needs of others – If that is what we are devoted to we will find ways to express ‘Service that Sacrifices.’
Acts 2:47 ….. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (NIV)
Those who looked on at this early church saw the beauty – and they were attracted to Christ.
What is the pattern for the Church? A learning, fellowshipping, worshipping, serving community!
Serving each other in the community of the church BUT also and crucially serving the community in which the church is situated – that can take a variety of forms!
HOW? We have a unique opportunity situated where we are in Binscombe /Farncombe.
- Building – daily use as a centre! Meeting physical as well as spiritual needs.
- People – gifts and abilities.
- Finances – God has blessed us.
It will require a willing to be adaptable – When babies are born into a family things change! Toddlers make a mess – they drop food! Leave a trail of toys! Teenagers room often looks like a war zone!!
When spiritual children are born into God’s kingdom they have baggage and they can be messy – SO CAN WE!! – maybe some of us who have been in the church a long time need to clear out some of our religious excess baggage to make room for the new!!
May God make us into a people whose Learning lives, whose Fellowship Functions, whose Worship Witnesses and whose Service is Sacrificial – then we will begin to see him adding our friends and neighbours to his church.