Summary: This message looks at the challenges of a growing changing congregation.
July 14, 2013
Opening words: After a one week absence we return to the Books of Acts. You know the story. Jesus was executed on a Friday. Everyone thought it was over. However, everyone was wrong. (I love it when everyone is wrong!) It was just the beginning. On Sunday morning a few women showed up at his tomb to pay their final respects. They made a discovery that changed the world. Jesus was alive! For forty days walked the face of this world in his resurrected state. During that sacred time period, he did two things. First, he proved his was a bodily resurrection. In other words, he wasn’t a ghost. Second, he taught about the Kingdom of God. As Jesus ascended into heaven he entrusted the ministry to the disciples. On their own, the task of evangelizing the world seemed impossible but when the Holy Spirit arrived everything seemed possible. The church was created and the divine helper was changing lives. For example, on a single day 3,000 people claimed the name of Jesus and were saved. They devoted themselves to the apostles teachings, to the fellowship and to worship. The apostles were changing too. They were learning how to trust the Holy Spirit. With the help of the Holy Spirit, Peter healed a man who had been crippled from birth. For this act of kindness, Peter and John were arrested and interrogated by the Sanhedrin. Upon their release the church prayed. As we learned two weeks ago, the one thing the early church would not accept was hypocrisy. That leads us to today.
We are in the sixth chapter. The church continues to grow forcing the group dynamics of the church to change. You know it is true. Everyone says they want church growth but not everyone likes change. How do you feel about church growth? How do you feel about change? I will warn you now. This message hits close to home. May God give you ears to hear this morning’s scripture lesson, Acts 6:1-7. Let me call this message Growing Pains.
Acts 6:1-7 1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
How do you feel about church growth? How do you feel about change? About a year ago I purchased a brand new picnic table. It replaced our old picnic table that has serviced my family for over a decade. There was nothing wrong with the old picnic table. It looked just like it did when it was new. It was round with a frosted plastic top. Her four chairs were comfortable and secure. Time had not changed it. My wife, Kathryn, ruled it had to go for one reason, change! In October of 2011 my daughter, Sarah, married, Vic, and the four seated picnic table wasn’t big enough for our new five person family. The old picnic table, that was just fine, was donated to a local rummage sale and the new one new sits in my backyard. Listen to what I am about to say. The new picnic table seats eight! It like the new picnic table, except for one thing, you have to sit on a bench. There is no support for my aging back. The old picnic table had seats with backs. I am not sure I like this change. I will admit it. It sounds selfish. There are some days I sit there and wonder if it was worth it. Maybe Sarah should have never have married and died an old maid so I could have a back on my seat? How do you feel about change? I am not so sure I like it. If that makes you think say, “Amen!”
Today, I want to talk about one of my favorite topics in the ministry, church growth. There is no topic in the church today more relevant then church growth. I have never met a pastor who didn’t want to experience it. I have never met a church that didn’t want to experience it. In the text for today the early church is growing. Everyone should be happy but there is conflict in the church. It is the first recorded conflict in the early church. I have been in the ministry for over thirty years so I am qualified to make the next statement. That conflict was predictable. In my opinion, the conflict is not about feeding widows. That is only an excuse. The conflict is really generated by the changing dynamics of the early church. Have you ever been part of an established organization which added new members? The answer is YES! My With a little editorial work, their story is our story. I hope we find ourselves in their story. I have prepared my thoughts around three statements: