Summary: A series on the church and what it is called to be and do.
THE CHURCH YOU’VE ALWAYS LONGED FOR:
“CAPTURES THE HEART OF THE COMMUNITY”
TEXT: Acts 11: 19-30
Sunday, September 15, 2002
How would you answer this phrase, “I like church, but....”? Over time, what have been those “buts” in your life? When I was young, for me it was that the service was boring. I liked church, but it was boring. It was too quiet–you could hear a pin drop. As I grew up, I attended other churches and other “buts” entered my mind. “I like church, BUT I find some churches irrelevant.” Or, “I like church, BUT people lack passion for God and for making his word known to others.” In other churches, I’ve discovered that the issue was money. In others, they had turned inward and focused on themselves too much. Scripture wasn’t central to the life of the church. In other churches, I’ve discovered that Christian people are too critical and are very unloving.
What has been your experience. You like church and you love the Lord, BUT ....” What are some of those “buts”? From September through November, we are going to take a look at becoming the church that we’ve always longed for. What would that be like? If I were to draw a picture of the perfect church, what would it look like? What is the church of your dreams? Perhaps the real question is, “What type of church does God dream about? What type of church does God desire?” We are going to look at this question.
What’s God’s vision for his church? Not my vision or your vision but God’s vision for his church and for White Clay. Perhaps his vision will create for us the church of our dreams.
This morning, we will look at a church that I think really captured God’s heart because they captured the heart of their community–the church of Antioch. This is found in Acts 11: 19-30. Historically, Antioch was the third largest city in the known world at that time. It was extremely secular, but it was also extremely religious. They had a lot of churches. There was the church of men, a Greek deity, the church of Astart, the church of Artemis. A lot of people were going to a lot of churches. The culture, however, was very immoral and very worldly. In spite of a missionary’s worst nightmare going to a foreign culture that was extremely anti-God, within 40 years the Christian church became the dominant force in the culture, so much so that the center of Christianity moved from Jerusalem to Antioch. How is that possible? How could they capture the heart of the community like that? It would be like White Clay converting the entire city of Newark within 40 years, so much so that it becomes the dominant force in the society and the city.
What did this church do to capture people’s hearts and attention? The first thing they did was that they could not keep their mouths shut about this man Jesus. In fact, the word “Christian” was coined at Antioch because these people could not keep quiet about this “Christos.” In vs. 19, it says that these people came from Jerusalem which was under severe persecution. They lost everything. They had to move from their homes because of their beliefs and their profession in Jesus Christ. They lost their jobs and incomes, they had to leave their friends and the community of which they had been a part for such a long time. Under that intense pressure, you would think that they would learn to shut their mouths, that they would be afraid to tell other people what God had done for them. Yet, they didn’t. They couldn’t keep quiet.
This challenges me because when I talk about God to other people, they might roll their eyes at me, they might tell me they don’t want to talk about it, but I haven’t lost my job. I haven’t been forced out of my home and lost my possessions. So often, I keep quiet about my faith. Why am I so afraid to tell people what God has done for me when it doesn’t cost me anything. For those for whom it cost everything, they still couldn’t keep quiet about him. That’s a challenge.
I wonder sometimes whether the myths in our heads are really true. The myths in our culture are that people don’t really want to hear about Christianity. People are satisfied with their lives. They have everything and they don’t need the Lord in their lives. They have another religion, and they don’t need us to convert them. I wonder if those words in our heads are a lie. When I look at the church in Antioch, they always professed Jesus Christ. Throughout the history of the church, people have discovered that they need him. People have listened and they will listen. People have responded and they will respond. They responded in Antioch in great numbers, and every time the church caught fire and talked about their faith, people began to listen.