Summary: Many today seek the latest method for spiritual renewal among the church, and church growth. There are countless new conferences, books, and blog articles annually. While I appreciate the hunger for growth, I fear we have over-complicated the matter.
A Profitable Endeavor
Acts 8: 5-8
Our text today deals with a time of great excitement for the early church, and yet there was great uncertainty as well. Stephen had been stoned for preaching the Gospel. Saul continued to persecute the church, scattering them throughout the world, but they continued to preach the Word, Vv.3-4. These had received something gracious and wonderful, and they were unable to keep it to themselves. They were compelled to tell others about Jesus!
People are often most attentive when they are faced with great need. The world around us would have us believe the Gospel is no longer relevant today. They assume it has run its course, no longer needed in modern times. The enemy works against those who are committed to sharing the truth of Jesus Christ with a lost and dying world. We must understand the great need in our day. Just as it was in the days of Philip, our world is hurting and searching for a means of peace and comfort. All will not receive the Gospel, but their lack must not be the result of our failure to share the Good News! Many today would listen, if someone cared enough to share.
The text reveals the formula and result of a genuine move of God. I want to examine the details of Philip’s ministry as we consider: A Profitable Endeavor.
I. The Reference to his Ministry (5) – Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. Experiencing revival is a hot topic in conferences, books, blogs, and conversation among church leaders. We are continually bombarded with the latest and greatest approach for growth. While I appreciate their hunger to see God move among His people, I fear we have over-complicated the matter. This single verse reveals the formula needed. Consider:
A. The Location – Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria. I know this is hard to grasp, but we find that Philip went into the city of Samaria, where the people were located. At this moment in time, the majority of believers met in individual homes. They did not have large sanctuaries with flashing signs advertising their services. The Gospel message was relatively new within society. If they had any hope of sharing their faith, they had to go where the people were. Multitudes weren’t showing up at their door; the church went out into the communities to seek out unbelievers.
This has always been the biblical model. We were never commanded by our Lord to build a building, and sit and wait for unbelievers to come to us. I am thankful for the facilities we enjoy, but we cannot assume that our community knows where we are, and expect them to show up when we have services. Like Philip, we must go where they are, and engage them with the Gospel.
B. The Communication (5) – Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. Here we find the method Philip employed as he engaged those who needed Christ. He preached unto them. This has the idea of “heralding, proclaiming, or publishing, especially in regard to divine truth.” As far as we know, this is the only method Philip used to reach the people. As he encountered those who needed Jesus, he preached unto them.
I want to tread lightly here, because I fear being misunderstood. I am well aware of the need for other elements of worship and engagement while sharing the Gospel and reaching the lost, but our modern culture has abandoned the biblical model. I am aware that people don’t enjoy being preached “at,” but we cannot deny the method Philip used to reach many. Modern culture declares that preaching has run its course. They claim we need a different approach to be effective. Countless other avenues are being pursued, while preaching is being minimized. I know God can and does use other methods, but we must never shun or abandon the preaching of the Gospel. (That doesn’t mean the only time the Gospel is preached is when a pastor is standing behind the pulpit. We must be willing to proclaim the Gospel to a world that needs to hear!) Matt.10:27 – What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.
C. The Distinction (5) – Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. Here we discover the topic of Philip’s message – he preached Christ to them. He wasn’t running a rabbit trail about the difficulties suffered at the hands of the Romans. He wasn’t seeking to incite their emotions with a message of fear regarding the persecution they currently faced. He wasn’t promoting the First Church in Jerusalem. Philip simply, and effectively preached Jesus!