Summary: The first part of a series based on Charles Swindoll’s Bible study of Acts. This message deals with the nature of the Church.
Stephen N. Collins
Being the Church
Part 1: What is the Church, Anyway?
Icebreaker: (Strike a match) 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem, a small flame was lit. That small flame spread and became a little bigger, then a little bigger, then it started spreading quickly, consuming the minds and hearts of all who would receive it. The book of Acts records the beginnings of this blaze.
-There are a few things in life that I am really passionate about. These are the things that I spend a great deal of my time doing or studying or thinking about. They include God, loving people, football, and the Church.
-Yes, the Church. What do you think of when you hear that term, “The Church?” Maybe you think of a building, like these: (Show pictures).
-I love the Church because I believe with all my heart that the Church is the last great hope of the world. I love the Church because I have seen people’s lives turned around because of her. I love the Church because the Bible calls her “the Bride of Christ.” And despite all the negativity the world hurls at her, and despite all the mud that has been flung to try to tarnish her, and despite all the skepticism that is runs rampant in the attempt to discredit her…she is still beautiful to me.
-Maybe you see things from my point of view. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re here this morning and all you have are negative feelings about the Church. Couldn’t say I blame you, much. Over the course of the 2,000 years she’s been around, the Church has been hijacked several times by corrupt men who used her for their own selfish gain. A thousand years ago, Pope Urban II manipulated the Church into fighting in the Crusades. Last century, we all saw flamboyant televangelists, with their extravagant lifestyles, telling people that God would bless them if they sent more money to their ministries. More recently, we’ve watched in horror at the scandal involving child abuse has unfolded within the Roman Catholic Church. Politicians see the Church as just another clique of voters who they need to win.
-But underneath all of that, she’s still beautiful to me. Why? Because of who she is. Because of her nature. That’s what I want us to talk about today as we kick off this series of teaching through the book of Acts. What is the Church, anyway? I hope that in the next few minutes, you’ll begin to see the Church for who she really is.
-The book of Acts was written by Luke as a sequel to His Gospel. So really, if you’re going to be able to fully appreciate the things that happen in this book, you need to read through the Gospel of Luke first.
-The book of Acts is a study in revolution. Not a simply a political revolution, but a spiritual revolution. A revolution that changes people from the inside out. A revolution that started 2,000 years ago and that every follower of Christ is part of in 2008. It is a revolution that, when carried through, impacts every level of society. That revolution is the Church.
-You see, Jesus established His Church to be a dynamic force that transforms culture. And He calls every true believer to be a part of accomplishing His mission here on earth.
-And this really all goes back to the nature of the Church. Who she is. What she’s about. Where she’s been and where she’s going.
-So today, we’re going to talk about the 4 dynamic elements of the Church that you must understand if you’re going to see her for who she really is.
4 Dynamic Elements of the Church You Must Understand
1. The Church is not a symbol, but a reality. (1:5)
Illustration: (Jordan’s “Airman” symbol, Kobe Bryant jumping over car.)
Questions: Have you ever noticed how these ads promoting shoes are always endorsed by superstar athletes? But let me ask you something: if you go out and buy those shoes, will you be able to jump like Kobe Bryant? Why not? Because there’s no real power in those shoes. They are just a symbol.
Main Point: But people fall for these gimmicks all the time, putting all their hope in something that’s has no power to make their lives better.
-And some people view the Church this way. As nothing more than an archaic symbol that is completely out of touch with the rest of the world. Many Christian even fail to realize that the Church is not just symbol, but a reality. And there is a real power to be found in this reality.
Scripture: Acts 1:5 (NIV)
“For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”