Summary: The church has many purposes or functions. These purposes hang on a two-fold mission: the Gathering of the Community for Worship, Instruction, Fellowship and Evangelism Training and the Scattering of the Community in order to fulfill both our cultural a
Opening Statement: I read the story of the little girl who was asked to describe the parts of a man. She said, "Man has three parts: the brainium, the chester, and the abominable cavity. The brainium holds the brain, the chester holds the heart, and the abominable cavity holds the bowels, of which there are five: a, e, i, o and u."
Transition: People seem to be as confused over the purpose of the church as that little girl was over the parts of a man’s body.
Key Word: The church has many purposes or functions. These purposes hang on a two-fold mission: the Gathering of the Community for Worship, Instruction, Fellowship and Evangelism Training and the Scattering of the Community in order to fulfill both our cultural and missions mandate.
Title: The Gathering and the Scattering of the New Community
I. The Gathering (of the Community for Worship, Instruction, Fellowship and Evangelism Training)
A. Text: Two summary statements are given in the early chapter of Acts to indicate what was happening in the early Christian Church. Those who had responded to Peter’s offer of release from sins and the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost gathered together.
1. Acts 2:42-47 "all things in common"
2:42 They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers. 2:43 Reverential awe came on everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles. 2:44 All who believed were together and held everything in common, 2:45 and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need. 2:46 Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts, 2:47 praising God and having the good will of all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved.
2. Acts 4:32-37 "there was not a needy person among them"
4:32 The group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that anything that belonged to him was his own, but everything was held in common. 4:33 With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on them all. 4:34 For there was no one needy among them, because those who were owners of land or houses were selling them and bringing the proceeds from the sales 4:35 and placing them at the apostles’ feet. The proceeds were distributed to each, as anyone had need. 4:36 So Joseph, a Levite who was a native of Cyprus, called by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated “son of encouragement”), 4:37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and placed it at the apostles’ feet.
B. Explanation: They loved what was happening in their Gatherings so much that they sacrificed their personal property for the good of the whole group. They were enjoying life. With the exception of a few conflicts (Acts 4 & 5), life was great for them!
C. Illustration: One of the first descriptions of a Church service which we possess is that of Pliny, the Roman governor of Bithynia, who sent a report of the activities of the Christians to Trajan the Roman Emperor, in an attempt to get some advice on how to treat them under Roman law. In that report he said, "They meet at dawn to sing a hymn to Christ as God."
D. Application: Have you ever dropped out of the Church Gathering for a time? Someone said an unkind word, or failed to say a kind word. Work or travel schedules prevented regular attendance. Something or someone made you angry...perhaps even God. Did dropping out make you a better person? We need the gathering! Many good things happen when God’s people gather.
E. Transition: Taking part in the gathering is only half of the job. Having gathered together, we are now prepared to do the other half of what the church is called to do - Scatter!
II. The Scattering (of the Community in order to fulfill both our cultural and missions mandates)
A. Quotation: Chuck Colson makes this point well: Gen.1:28 & Matthew 28:18-20
B. Text: There’s two passages that tell us what happened after Stephen, the early churches’ first martyr, was killed.
1. Acts 8:1-5
8:1 And Saul agreed completely with killing him. Now on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the
apostles were forced to scatter throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. 8:2 Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. 8:3 But Saul was trying to destroy the church; entering one house after another, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. 8:4 Now those who had been forced to scatter went around proclaiming the good news of the word. 8:5 Philip went down to the main city of Samaria and began proclaiming the Christ to them.