Summary: Within 3 years of its launch, the early church faced persecution and death. And yet the church not only continued to survive, but thrive. How did it manage to do that?
OPEN: April 11, 1970, 3 men set off on an adventure.
They were the Apollo 13 crew, and their adventure was to be the 3rd manned moon-landing.
Their spacecraft look like this artists drawing
(We put a picture of the spacecraft on the screen).
• The main module (the Odyssey) was designed to be their home for the journey to and from the moon
• and attached to that was the “lunar module (the Aquarius) that would allow 2 of them to land and lift off the moon.
A little over two days into the flight, they contacted NASA with these now famous words:
“Houston, we’ve had a problem”
Now that was something of an understatement. What they’d had was an explosion. Exposed wires had set off an explosion that destroyed one oxygen tank and damaged a 2nd.
Now, they still had enough oxygen to breathe, but those oxygen tanks were also used to power the fuel cells in the main craft. With those tanks gone, the fuel cells would be increasingly depleted to the point where the crew would never be able to make reentry into earth’s atmosphere.
BUT, if they could power down the Odyssey and then move into the landing module… they just MIGHT make it home.
But that created a new problem.
The landing module wasn’t designed to hold 3 men that long.
The biggest issue was CO2.
The lunar lander was equipped with scrubbers designed to clean the air for 2 men for 2 days…not 3 men for a 4 day trip. If something wasn’t done soon, the constantly increasing CO2 in the landing module would poison their air and they’d die long before reaching home again.
Now you’d think: Why didn’t they just change the filters on the scrubbers?
Well they would have, except they didn’t have any that shape.
The scrubber filter in the lander was round… but the spare filters they had were square.
(We showed a picture from the movie “Apollo 13” which showed the two filtlers).
They literally had to fit a square peg into a round hole.
NASA worked round the clock to find a solution.
Ultimately they came up with a jimmy-rigged contraption made of, duct tape (yes they had duct tape on board), cardboard, plastic bags and hoses from their space suits.
The crew followed NASA’s instructions… and made it safely home.
Apollo 13 was 1000s of miles away from home.
The crew was in a hostile and unforgiving atmosphere.
But they survived because they had been trained in the basics.
And they survived because they asked for the help of mission control.
Thus, they overcame the impossible and they survived where ordinarily they would have died.
APPLY: Now, that brings me to our text this morning.
Acts 2 tells us all about the dynamic launching of Christ’s church.
About 3000 people were baptized into Christ and began the adventure of a lifetime.
But just a short journey into the faith – just like Apollo 13 – they faced “A PROBLEM”
Within a mere 3 years’ the church was faced with INTENSE persecution and cruelty:
• The Apostle James was executed
• Peter was jailed
• Philip was stoned to death
• And a great number of believers were arrested, beaten & sometimes killed for their faith.
Such conflict and persecution should have destroyed this fledgling church
And yet the church not only survived - it thrived.
Paul wrote the Colossi with these words: “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.” Colossians 1:6
The church was growing and thriving “all over the world”.
In fact, even their enemies declared:
“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” Acts 17:6
The Church grew.
And as it grew - it bore fruit all over the place.
It literally turned the world upside down.
But how did it do that?
How did the church not only survive - but thrive in such a hostile atmosphere?
Well, the church was able to do what they did because (from the very beginning) they were trained in the basics. It was these simple things that trained them - that gave them their “Staying Power”
What did they do to train themselves to be a strong church?
Acts 2:42 tells us “…they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
Now they did other things too, but these were the basics. These were the 4 activities were what gave the early church their endurance and strength.
Now, here’s the deal: Church can be an adventure.
It can be exciting to know we’ve been part of something that really matters. It can be an exciting to know God can use us to turn the world upside down. But we live in a world that’s not excited about that idea. A world that is literally hostile to God and His Kingdom. When we find we are faced with this reality we need to realize how critical these 4 things are to us as a church.