I hope you enjoyed the message from Pastor Tim Hall about the days of revival ahead for the Church and particularly as it stands in Bendigo. I believe God is preparing us and even our facilities to be a place of revival and an increasing light of Jesus to Bendigo and beyond!
We have really covered some great ground on the subject of the Church so far in this series.
We have covered that the Church is the eternal plan of God to represent Him on planet earth. Its mission has never changed but is set in concrete – Helping people find life in Christ and then teaching them how to live the Christian life to the full.
The global Church is expressed through local contexts and groups of people. It is the collection of local churches that enable to Global Church to live out God’s intent and plan for it. Within the local context of people making every effort to work together in unity, we grow and mature into the kind of people God needs us to be to follow Him.
Today the pattern we are given for the Church and what it should look like is the New Testament and particularly the book of Acts which is about a 30year history of the birth of the Church.
- We see in it that there are noted points of health and growth which I want to look at today and next week
- God’s plan is that healthy things grow – we see it right across creation
- Therefore healthy Churches should grow and that is exactly what we see modelled in the book of Acts – so let’s look at what grew the churches
1. High personal commitment to their faith and mission
Acts 2:42, 47 (NIV)
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
47And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved
The very first ingredient we see here in the health, growth and expansion of the Church is the commitment of the believers to:
- The Apostles teaching – Word of God and growing in it
- Fellowship together – Church Sundays, gatherings
- Sharing meals – investing in personal relationships with other believers
- Connect Groups – Best plan yet… intentional investment into personal relationships.
- Prayer – Engaging with God in prayer
I suppose you could liken it to a sport a bit like last week.
- On one team they are devoted to what they do
- They train, sacrifice, work hard, work together, dream together, put in effort to train, grow, improve
- Compared to a team that is indifferent and it’s a thing they do on the side, but not what wakes them up in the morning
Which team do you think will grow, develop, mature and win?
Again, to refer to Ps Tim’s message last week, revival and moves of God do not come with apathetic or comfortable Christianity, but a willingness to engage with God personally with prayer and diligence.
For the Church to rise and be the growing, healthy and have world shaking influence it needs every believer needs to be devoted to their faith!
We won’t make a difference if most believers:
- Have their Christianity as a side thing
- A Sunday thing
- A when I feel like it thing
Remember two weeks ago – every believer has a calling and if we build our lives around the things of God and devote ourselves to it, then all together we can be the kind of Church God has called us to be.
It seems Churches grow and are healthy as people mature and devote themselves to following Jesus.
2. Lack of personal comfort
The Church in Acts 1 was commanded to go into all the world when the Holy Spirit came and then He came in chapter 2. But it takes till chapters 8 and 9 for any of the ‘going out’ to happen.
Acts 8:1,4 (NIV)
Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria…. 4 But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went.
We see then that the Gospel spreads like wildfire and these people who were pushed out of their nest end up bringing the gospel, to Samaria, Ethiopia and to cities everywhere.
When the believers were all of a sudden pulled out of their own comfort zone with persecution, there was an expansion of the Church and it was launched into a new time of growth!
To me it is sad that it took persecution to do that!
I will never forget my good friend Lucas Connell bringing me a prophetic word over a coffee one day. We were catching up talking about life and then out of the blue he said: “God told me that you are comfortable where you are, but God is calling you out of that. And if you don’t choose to get out of the nest – God will push you out of the nest!”
Another great leader in my life Pastor Paul Geerling told me – God uses discomfort to get us to step into His plans and purposes!
If we are comfortable and are not proactive in making ourselves uncomfortable – God will do it for us or allow circumstances that do it!
I think we need to be proactive about getting out of our comfort zone in:
- Faith steps – when was the last time we took a faith step that made us uncomfortable?
- Prayer – have we stretched in prayer or fasted or prayed big audacious prayers that require faith and action – or safe little ‘keep me safe’ prayers?
- I hate ‘just keep me safe mentalities’ – there is no faith or blessing in that!
- Sharing our faith – when was the last time we were willing to be uncomfortable to share our faith?
- In uncomfortable environments – we love comfort and often surround ourselves with comfortable people and places, but when did we last step out of that comfort zone for God’s purposes?
- The Church was never healthy and growing while ever they sat in comfort. Not to mention they were commanded to leave that comfort zone, and we have the same command today
- They had to get out of the upper room
- Then out of Jerusalem
- Out of their comfort zone
I honestly believe when God spoke to us about building a new facility it was part of God pulling us as a Church out of a comfortable, secure, safe season and into one of challenge, faith and discomfort so we could become healthy, outward focused and grow!
You watch as people take the discomfort of faith steps, all of a sudden we move into a zone of the miraculous!
3. Balanced understanding of God
Have you ever driven a car that has its wheels out of balance?
- Last year heading to the snow on a few occasions it is 4 hours both ways
- Unfortunately, I hadn’t had my wheels balanced for a while and there were certain speeds that the steering wheel would just shake
- I remember in an old cruiser I had, lending it to someone and warning them because it had such a violent shake you thought something was wrong, but really it was just out of balance
When things are about of balance it is not a healthy place to be!
Acts 9:31 (NIV)
31 The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.
We see two concepts of God that sometimes appear as opposing each other. They grew in the fear of God, but also there was an encouragement of the Holy Spirit…
Believers or Christians today, just like then, need to have a healthy fear of God in order to grow
Without it, God becomes:
- Santa Clause
- Good vibes
- A positive life message
- A great set of value
But God is none of those things, He is a saviour and friend yes… but equally a king and a judge!
Everyone listening today and those who are not will one day give account before God and be judged for how we lived on planet earth!
Jesus is clear in the Gospels that He demands:
- Fruitfulness in our life both natural and spiritual
- Growth and maturity
- Willingness to forsake all for Him
- That we build treasure in Heaven not on earth
- He gives commands to put Him first above all else
These are not up for negotiation and we will be held accountable for this.
People sometimes want to preach the gace of God but neglect the truth of God.
- Jesus came in grace and truth.
When we understand this, I think we become aware that we have a responsibility to:
- Share the Gospel
- Grow spiritually
- Disciple and lead others
We will be held to account for what we do and don’t do in regards to this stuff! These are not opt in and out for believers.
If we don’t balance this healthy fear with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit – we equally end up out of balance. If we do not also grasp the grace part of God, then we end up out of balance, legalistic and there is no joy and peace.
A correct understanding realises there are things God holds me accountable to, but He is also a kind, gracious, loving and forgiving God.
- He wants to bless us
- He walks the journey with us
- He helps us through our mistakes
- He loves unconditionally, He brings joy and peace
- He is not a driver like the devil but a leader like a shepherd
When we get this balance right, we can see the two outcomes.
- Church was strengthened!
- Church grew!
I often feel like one of the key things we do is try to help people see both sides of God instead of just one.
Don’t drive a faith car without balanced wheels of grace and truth.
Acts 11:19-21 (NIV)
19 Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews.20 However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. 21 The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.
At this point they only knew reaching Jews and preaching to the Jews who had a particular concept of God.
But, all of a sudden, some of them started breaking the mould, preaching to the gentiles and boom the Church exploded!
- It was controversial
- It was bold
- It was different
- They hadn’t seen that before
- God hadn’t done that before
But it opened the door for growth and revival.
If we try to do the same old, same old, we are not seeing that God constantly pushes for innovation in our ways of reaching people and discipling people.
The mission is concrete – helping people find life and live it, but how we do it and what it looks like – the sky is the limit!
Are we prepared to:
- Do things we haven’t done?
- Give up things we have done?
- Be willing to do what reaches people not what makes us comfortable?
- Try new faith steps and ventures?
What new methods of reaching people are yet to be discovered? What could Church look like?
- What things should we stop doing that have lost their edge and are not very fruitful anymore?
- What things should we start doing that have never been done before?
When someone says to me “We haven’t don’t that before..”, I think good, brilliant, maybe this is a new thing that will help reach more people!
The early Church was constantly adapting to changing environments, cultures, ways of communicating and leaders moving around.
- Don’t forget at this point they were still working out what this thing looked like!
- They held Church councils to ask ‘Exactly what are we asking of people following Jesus…’
- They thrashed out what we hold as sacred by change, trial and error, new concepts and innovation
When Churches don’t innovate, they stagnate and stagnant things soon become poisonous!
So as the Church today, with an even more accelerated rate of change around us, we must as a Church, innovate in order to see health and growth.
- We are heading into great days of growth and revival, but we must be willing to get ourselves into a space where we can be part of it
Each person has a part to play and I would encourage everyone listening to take seriously the days ahead in regards to the Kingdom of God.
I want to pray for those right now who have never made a decision to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
- Perhaps you always saw Jesus as a Santa and have never really lived committed to Him
- Perhaps you were pushed away from Him thinking of Him as judgmental and harsh and never knew His love and grace for you
- Whatever has kept people from relationship with Jesus today
Suggestions for discussion
- As believers, health, growth and expansion of the Church depends on our commitment to see it grow. Discuss what you can do to help this growth!
- As you watch people take the discomfort of faith steps, are you prepared for a move into a zone of the miraculous?
- What are you prepared to do when we don’t see that God constantly pushes for innovation in our ways of reaching people and discipling people? How much are you prepared to change?