Summary: What does a great church look like and how can we have one?
Leadership Magazine carried a story about 4 young men, Bible College students, who were renting a house together. One Saturday morning someone knocked on their door. And when they opened it, there stood this bedraggled-looking old man. His eyes were kind of marbleized, & he had a silvery stub of whiskers on his face.
His clothes were ragged & torn. His shoes didn’t match. In fact, they were both for the same foot. And he carried a wicker basket full of unappealing vegetables that he was trying to sell. The boys felt sorry for him & bought some of his vegetables just to help him out. Then he went on his way.
But from that time on, every Saturday he appeared at their door with his basket of vegetables. As the boys got to know him a little bit better, they began inviting him in to visit a while before continuing on his rounds.
They soon discovered that his eyes looked marbleized, not because of drugs or alcohol, but because of cataracts. They learned that he lived just down the street in an old shack. They also found out that he could play the harmonica, & that he loved to play Christian hymns, & that he really loved God.
So every Saturday they would invite him in, & he would play his harmonica & they would sing Christian hymns together. They became good friends, & the boys began trying to figure out ways to help him.
One Saturday morning, the story says, right in the middle of all their singing & praising, he suddenly said to them, "God is so good!" And they all agreed, "Yes, God is so good." He went on, "You know why he is so good?" They said, "Why?" He said, "Because yesterday, when I got up & opened my door, there were boxes full of clothes & shoes & coats & gloves. Yes, God is so good!" And the boys smiled at each other & chimed in, "Yes, God is so good."
He went on, "You know why He is so good?" They answered, "You already told us why. What more?" He said, "Because I found a family who could use those things, & I gave them all away." (www.sermoncentral.com)
Can you imagine what it would be like to be that generous despite your own needs? To be that caring, and generous, and helpful? More than that, can you imagine what it would be like to be a part of a church that was filled with people like that?
In our text today, we see that this was what the early church in Jerusalem was like. However, we also see that this church wasn’t perfect, that it also had its hypocrites and those that were greedy and selfish. And we see the reaction of God towards both of these attitudes.
As we examine this passage were not just going to analyze it, but we are going to see how to apply it to where we are today in our personal lives and in our church lives. We are going to see what it takes to construct a church of greatness and what it takes to destruct a church of greatness.
I. Pursuing a Helping Atmosphere
When we consider this church in Jerusalem, we are automatically hit with the fact that they were occupied with ministering to both those that were inside the church, and those that were outside. They had balance. There was an effort to care for everyone. There was an effort to help every one. When a person walked in among them, they knew right up front that they were in the midst of a helping atmosphere.
This is how we need to be. The Bible reveals that those without Christ are helpless and hopeless, and will remain that way until we as believers take the message of Jesus to them where they are. That is our mission, our mandate, and our objective.
But at the same time, we are aware that once a person is a believer, that that is not the end of all problems. We still go through difficult times - times of sickness, sorrow, failure, loss. And in these times we need one another. As Galatians 6:2 says, “to bear one another’s burdens.”
This early church had this balance. So, can we - but how? Notice how the passage begins.
“And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul…” (4:32a)
They were united. So much so it says they were one in heart are soul. They were knit together in the way they acted, in the way they felt, in the way they thought. This doesn’t mean they didn’t have differences in opinions. It does mean, however, that they were able to get the wrinkles out so that they could come together and maintain the helping atmosphere.