Summary: With the Pentecost Sunday around the corner, to focus on the factors which contributed to the resounding "success" of the Early Church with the primary focus on the responsibilities of the Church Leadership
It’s time to get our “Act” together -I
Let me begin with the equivalent of a Democrat Presidential candidate giving a thumbs up to his Republican counterpart and vice versa!!! Boy, this would jolt even the sound sleepers from sleep. Have you caught up with what’s buzzing in the media now a days or to be more precise what’s buzzing in the Indian car market. A media report says that the Nano car bookings (now it’s ultra-competitive price of just Rs1.00 lakh is sensational by all accounts) have crossed the 2 lakh mark, what with its manufacturers-Tata motors- already netting 500 million dollars account bookings. The bookings are still bound to go up courtesy the burgeoning number of eager prospective car owners hopelessly hooked to its price tag. Is Nano car the best thing to happen to the middle-income group? Difficult to say NO really, considering that car ownership adds to one’s standard of living besides augmenting the feel-good factor all around, principally in a nation’s economy.
With nervous competition looking over its shoulder, predictably Tata motors (whose stakes are very high in this venture) is leaving no stone unturned going for flashy full-page ads in the print media highlighting the features of its “wonder car”. Now let’s “change tracks” and “motor down the road” of yet another related subject… “Product-advertisement”. Again quite predictably, as every manufacturer is expected to blow his trumpet about his own product, Tata motors raving about its own Nano is not a strange phenomenon at all. But consider hypothetically the occurrence of the most unlikely phenomenon…Maruthi Suzuki the chief competitor of Tata Motors unwittingly paying a compliment (to its business rival) such as “ Oh Nano has turned the World of Car market UPSIDE DOWN”. If it really does, everyone would sit-up and take notice and most importantly Nano’s stock would further soar-up, as receiving an endorsement from the most unlikely source… its arch rival is the BIGGEST ADVERTISEMENT any player in a market, can hope to get. For this to happen (getting such a lofty compliment from a competitor wittingly or unwittingly) it goes without saying, Nano ought to have caused an earthquake measuring at least 8 in the Richter scale of the Car Industry!
Now lets switch tracks hitting the “spiritual road”, as it were, and “zoom” back in time to 1st century AD and what do we see? The early Christians are getting the highest compliment ever paid “ These men have turned THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN” (Acts 17:6-KJV) not from its friends or well-wishers but from its MOST BITTER ENEMIES. Oh boy, oh boy, what a compliment, which is not so much inked as engraved in World history! Now consider the fact that disciples were not “selling” Gospel of down-to-earth, cheap, Nano-like price but one which required shelling out a “high price” of “cross-bearing” (suffering and even martyrdom -Luke 9:23/Acts 14:22) albeit with Holy Spirit empowerment (John 15:5-6) and the magnitude of their achievement would loom large before our eyes like a towering landscape. Add to this fact the point that disciples were not from the well-educated, higher, spiritual echelons of society boasting of impressive, lengthy CVs’ and the truth that God delights in showing His strength through weak folk (II Cor 12:9) blares out loud and clear. With Pentecost Sunday around the corner, let’s focus on a paramount subject. With the ever-present God’s power NOW available to them WHAT DID the early Church (both its leaders and laity) DO to tick despite odds stacked against it so much so, its most bitter enemies unwittingly paid it the highest compliment of having turned the World topsy-turvy (honestly the Early Church turned the world of its time which was upside down spiritually, right side-up)? The answer is as profound as it is simple. Even as they were empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit (the upper room ethereal experience was the turning point – Acts 2:1-4) we see them, most importantly in the Book of Acts, GETTING THEIR ACT TOGETHER. Not only they had clear-cut priorities but they also went about it in right earnest (oh, how many have fallen in recent times despite being given various gifts). In this Sermon – a two-part series- let’s firstly focus on
a) Priorities that defined the Ministry of the Early Church leadership and then
b) What constituted building blocks for success of the laity in their victorious Christian living.
Firstly the Leadership…
Were not disciples called to be “Fishers of men” (Matt 4:19), their mission further fuelled by the Great commission (Matt 28:16-20)? Now the Peter and co. in their “spiritual capture business” were unlike normal fishermen. If the professional fishermen of the worldly realm in order to make a living, spread their nets to capture and kill the fish eventually to fry them in the hot oven, then the spiritual fishermen of the First century in stark contrast even gave-up their lives in the process of “fishing” in order their “captured fish” ended up in cool heaven.