Summary: The background of the Early Church, what set them apart and put them in position to see God move and work in truly miraculous ways that cannot be explained in human terms...
Back to the Beginning: It’s All Different!
Most of you know that I’m a pretty big sports fan. I enjoy playing and watching just about anything, but if I had to pick just one sport, my passion is definitely football. I love to watch football. I love to go out in the backyard and throw the ball around with my son. It’s much more fun now that he can actually catch the ball. A dad can only bounce a football off of his son’s face so many times before you start to feel bad. Most of you also know that I am a Browns fan. For those of you who don’t follow football, let me just clue you in here. The Browns are quite possibly the worst team in all of sports. They are the Hamburger Helper in a league of steaks! They would lose to about any decent college football team. Despite that, I love em. I know that all of you Bills fans can relate, but it’s hard to be a Browns fan. It’s even harder to be a Browns fan in New York State.
During my teen years in Syracuse, I felt like a fish out of water. I had moved from Ohio where I would watch the Brown and Orange play every week. Now, I was stuck in the land of the Bills and Jets and Giants. I was miserable. At school, all of the kids had Starter Jackets, they were the “in” thing. A Starter jacket is a team jacket and no one in the school had the Browns, including me because the colors aren’t exactly flattering. I felt out of place. This continued when I went to Houghton for my freshmen year. Again, I was the only enlightened soul among the many students there. I got a call from a friend of mine who was in school in Cleveland and he had tickets to the Browns game and wanted to know if I could go. I had never been to an NFL game, so it took me less than a second to decide that one, of course I wanted to go! I made the 4 hour drive to Cleveland, I hadn’t been back in a very long time. When we got to the game, I remember one overwhelming feeling, I felt like I belonged. After years of not having anyone else that shared my passion, here I was among 80,000 people of like mind. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a professional sports game, but there is a bond and a unity among those cheering for the home team. I was high fiving old ladies and having conversations with guys I’d never met in line for a drink. It didn’t matter where we came from or what our background was, we had something in common and that put everyone on the same page. I felt like I belonged and I liked it and wanted to go back.
If sports can do that, a meaningless pastime in the grand scheme of things, if sports can bond us and bring us together. If it can force us to concentrate on what we share and have in common instead of on our differences, how much more should we see that kind of kinship and bonding take place when our common focus, that thing that we have in common, that thing that is our passion, is Christ? Sometimes I think that a sporting event is more like the way church is supposed to be than most of our churches today. (besides the beer and cussing and stuff!) At a game, we celebrate together, we cheer together, we encourage one another, we console each other when things go wrong, we feel connected and a part of something and when we leave, we always want more. When is the last time that described church for you? What we see now, across the world, are weak, dying, churches, full of believers who say they want to impact the world but take no steps and make no effort in that direction. For many churches, there services more closely resemble a funeral than a celebration. The fellowship of believers, the gathering of the saints, the coming together of God’s people to learn and grow and do life together should be an exciting thing! But for many of us, the thought of church and the reality of church is just the opposite. In this place, here at Beartown Road, I want to be a ministry where people walk in and feel like they belong. Where they feel loved and cared for and have the opportunity to care for others and where they feel like they are a part of something, side by side with others who are on board with the same thing, the advancement of God’s Kingdom here on Earth.