CHURCH IS NOT A BUILDING – CHURCH IS THE PEOPLE OF GOD
WE WILL CONTINUE TO DO CHURCH – WE WILL CONTINUE TO BE CHURCH
2020 VISION – WE NEED TO SEE THINGS CLEARLY – FROM GOD’S POINT OF VIEW
HOW IS THE CHURCH GOING TO BE DIFFERENT?
PART 3: THE NEED FOR THE CHURCH TO MEET TOGETHER – A “BAND OF BROTHERS”
“MATURITY AND MISSION”
“THE GROUNDING AND THE GRACE TO BE HIS WITNESSES”
“BAND OF BROTHERS” – DEFUSING THE IED
Chris was a soldier in the Royal Engineers – trained and equipped to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan to defuse road-side IEDs (“Improvised Explosive Devises). On leaving the army he was employed by the United Nations to teach the army in Somalia to do the same job – an often-horrific experience that has profoundly affected him.
He had the calling from his commanders, and the innate ability, to do this job well.
But to be effective in doing such an intensely stressful job he needed the support of his “band of brothers” behind him.
This support took the form of intensive training so that he knew everything there was to know about the explosives he was going to have to deal with on a daily basis – this is the “grounding”.
But, as well as this, he needed the constant support structure to back him up – the companionship of those who knew what he was going through, the care of the ancillary staff back at base, and the compassion of those who understood what he was up against and that he was doing this dangerous work not for his own sake but for that of the innocent civilian caught up in horrific conflicts – this is the “grace”.
He is a hero – full of courage – but he can’t “do it” on his own – he needs his “band of brothers”.
So do we!
“BAND OF BROTHERS” – AN ARMY OF ORDINARY PEOPLE
The Book of Acts is about the disciples spreading the Gospel. We, the “Acts 29” disciples are called to continue this.
The Book of Acts is about the calling of the disciples to be Jesus’ “witnesses”. We, the “Acts 29” disciples are likewise called.
The Book of Acts is about the equipping of the saints with the Power of the Holy Spirit so that they can be effective in their calling – then they were “unleashed” from “lockdown” and scattered to spread the Good News to all the world. We, the “Acts 29” disciples are likewise called to be filled with the needed power of the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses.
And we, the “Acts 29” disciples are likewise being “unleashed” and will see a great harvest as we are scattered beyond the physical confines of our church building to spread the Good News to our families, friends and communities.
And we, the “Acts 29” disciples are like an army – involved in constant spiritual warfare – with Jesus as our commander and the Holy Spirit equipping us to do the job. And just like an army we need to be trained to be effective witnesses – this is our “grounding”; and just like an army we need to support one another and care for one another – looking out for one another – like a “band of brothers” – and this is the “grace”.
Like a “band of brothers” we need to have a strong, vibrant, caring base from which to sally out from. We need one another. We need to spend time with one another. We are the Church – this is the name of our army. And we need to meet together for “grounding and grace”. We need to come together in a “church building” – our “headquarters” for “grounding and grace”.
This is the message of the Book of Acts. Make no mistake – the vast majority of all the stories in the Acts concerns the scattered disciples being unleashed into the world, spreading the Gospel and making disciples of all nations. But, within this Book we have the clear instruction to be a “band of brothers” so that we can be grounded and graced to be His witnesses:
“BAND OF BROTHERS” – THE TEACHING OF ACTS
Acts 2: 42-47 tells us:
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 4: 32-37 tells us:
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there was no needy person among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Now, let us be clear on this. These passages are not “mysteries” that need explanation. They are simple and they are clear. They are the story of a church that is ensuring that it functions well for the benefit of all.
The key teaching here – for them and for us – is the following:
- That when we come together we should focus as a “band of brothers” – a church family – on teaching, fellowship, the “breaking of bread” and prayer. These 4 areas actually underpin the rationale by which we prepare and run our church services on a Sunday.
One way in which these 4 areas have been explained is that we are called to come together to be a “learning, loving, worshipping and praying” church.
This is the “grounding” that we need in order to be His effective witnesses
- That when we come together we should focus on sharing with and supporting one another – ensuring that no-one is in need, that all are provided for. As such, the things that are ours (yes – this is not a communistic mandate – our money and our possessions are still ours to steward) are given to us for the benefit of all – our focus is not on ourselves but on others.
As such, we learn to put the needs of others before our own needs. As such we can then transfer this care and provision for others in the church to the care and provision of those to whom we are unleashed and scattered.
This is the “grace” that we need in order to be His effective witnesses.
“BAND OF BROTHERS” – WHY WE SHOULD BE SUCH
Throughout the history of the church these two passages have been taken “stand-alone” as the guide as to what the church should be like.
Rather we need to understand them in the context of the WHOLE Book of Acts in which they appear. Ajith Fernando explains their power in this way:
“This shared life wasn’t an end in itself, because what united these people was a commitment to a mission: spreading the news of Jesus”
The togetherness of Acts 2 and 4 was to foster a community which was equipped to break out and spread the Gospel.
They needed the “grounding” to be able to do this – and this came through the teaching that they received – so that they would know the Truth and be able to speak the Truth.
And they needed the “grace” to be able to do this – and this came from fellowship, and worship, and prayer and sharing all things which prepared them to show this selfless love to those to whom they would be sent.
Meeting together – “going to church” meant that they no longer had a “me mindset” but a “mission mindset”. What about you? What about me? Is this MY mindset?
Now we understand the title “Maturity and Mission”: meeting together as church was to build them up to maturity (Ephesians 4:13) in order for them to be ready and equipped for mission.
“BAND OF BROTHERS” – CHALLENGES TO TAKE AWAY
The message of the world has always been: “pursue comfort, be consumers and you will be happy”.
The message of Jesus is: “Take up you cross and follow me” (Matthew 16: 24)
So – challenges are:
- What am I devoted to?
- Do I want the power of the Holy Spirit for MY benefit – to make ME feel good?
- Or do I want the power of the Holy Spirit to equip me to be His witness?
- Have I got a “me mentality” when I go to church?
- I want better coffee
- I want good conversation and fun friends
- I want more comfortable chairs
- I want brighter lights
- I want songs that I like to sing
- I want a more lively sermon
- Or have I got a “mission mentality” when I go to church?
- I want to be grounded in the faith so that I might be a better witness
- I want the support of fellowship
- I want to give God my worship
- I want to honour God with my prayers
- I want to serve and care for my brothers and sisters over myself
- I want all this so that I might be a better witness when I am scattered
I want the grounding of church to know WHAT I am witnessing.
I want the grace of church to know WHY I am witnessing