A. What do these pictures have in common?
1. They all have support – that which holds up the rest of the structure (Use a collage of different items with supports such as overpasses, bridges, etc.)
2. And in a spiritual sense the church needs support if it is going to hold up Jesus to the World.
B. Oh no, not another message on giving or tithing
1. Calm down, let me set your minds at ease – I am not going to preach on giving money or tithes
2. But this would be a good time for me to commend many of you, our giving is doing pretty good.
3. As a whole this church has not had a very big giving problem.
4. Financially, we support a lot of ministries
- This churches ministries
- The Illinois Children’s Home
- The Christian Activities Center in East St. Louis
- The Concerned Christians – providing food & financial assistance to those in need in our community
- Missions, both foreign and domestic: through a number of different avenues
C. But as I said I’m not going to preach about this type of Church Support
1. There is much more to be seen in the area of Church Support
2. And a large amount can be seen, or not, right here in our own congregation
3. Each of us have needs – needs that can be supported by the church and it is important that we support each other
4. This is especially true if the individual is a new believer.
D. If you were here last week you know we looked at Saul’s conversion
1. It was a miraculous and wonderful act of God’s grace
2. And we touched on the needs he had for discipleship and fellowship as part of the local group of disciples (church)
E. As I read though the passage in preparation for this morning message I noticed some things the church held out to Saul that we should take to heart
1. And it is these things that I see as Church Support
2. I found four areas of support that need to be present if we are going to be a good church – we need to
a. Furnish Strengthening
b. Provide Protection
c. Offer Friendship
d. Encourage Ministry
3. Lets ask God to help us see the needs of others and be willing to meet those needs as we are given the opportunity.
As we begin this morning we will find that the church should be a place that is able to
I. FURNISH STRENGTHENING, Acts 9:19 & 22 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus…But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.
A. We Begin By Looking At Saul’s Need for Strength
1. Saul had just converted to Christianity – in the three days prior he had taken no food, and I am sure he was weak
a. He could not go to his “own” people for he would be an out cast as soon as he spoke the name of Jesus and gave testimony of his salvation, besides he would have to go to the synagogue, which he probably did not have the strength to do.
b. So the disciples there fed Saul
c. The word strengthen in verse 19 is contextually aligned with the phrase “received meat.”
d. Hence we can presume it is because of the food that he gained his strength.
2. However in verse 22 the word “strengthen” has its association with the ability to preach the gospel and therefore, probably speaks of strength in the word or Spirit of God or both
3. It would seem that the disciples of this local body (who are the church) furnished Saul with what was needed to give him strength, both physically and spiritually.
B. And so it should be with the church today: we need to be about furnishing that which will strengthen those around us.
1. The scriptures are filled with the exhortation to feed the poor, house the homeless, provide for physical needs, etc.
a. Prov 14:21 & 31 are examples: He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he…He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.
b. And this is especially true for those who are brothers and sisters in Christ,
c. Paul writing to the Galatians said, …let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.  As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:9-10
2. But not just the physical – our families need to be strengthened spiritually.
a. Again, that is why we have biblical teaching on Sunday nights, that is why we spend time, money and personnel on having a Sunday School.
b. That is why I encourage you to have a time of personal Bible study and even a family Bible study.
c. The word gives us a number of passages to this effect:
1) 2 Tim. 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2) 2 Tim. 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
d. Notice how this last verse takes us back to the good works we talked about earlier!
We not only need to furnish Strengthening, we are to
II. PROVIDE PROTECTION, Acts 9:23-25 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:  But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.  Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.
A. Saul (here after referred to as Paul) was preaching the gospel – he was doing kingdom work and many did not like what he was preaching so they set out to take care of him.
1. Just as a side note here remember Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
- What Paul had been sowing he was now reaping – God’s word is true universally
2. Back on track – there was no way for Paul to escape on his own – it was going to take others, other disciples (the church) to help him through this and provide protection, which they did.
B. And so it should be today – the church ought to be a body that provides protection
1. In some cases it will be physical protection , as was the case with Paul
a. If we go on the internet and look at news articles from around the world we see that is the case in many places
- Nairobi, Kenya, a church is burnt down as the body tried to protect refugees running from roving gangs
- Birmingham, England, churches are providing protection for those who are refugees from many countries.
- Cairo, Egypt, all Saint’s Cathedral Episcopal Church providing protection to refugees who have fled from a number of other African countries – they are Christians and non-Christians
b. In the church of the first century, the body of Christ endangered themselves as they tried to protect new believers
2. But there is another avenue of protection – protecting against doctrinal heresy!
a. Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians to help protect them from the Judaizers
b. Jude, brother of James and half-brother of Jesus wrote, Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. Jude 1:3
c. Part of my charge as your pastor is to preach and teach to protect the flock from heretical movements of our day and false doctrine – and so it is your duty as well
d. We are to provide protection.
The church needs to Furnish Strengthening, Provide Protection and thirdly,
III. OFFER FELLOWSHIP, Acts 9:26-28 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.  But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.  And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.
A. Paul experienced this fellowship on two levels
1. First, from an individual who accepted him fully, Barnabas
a. Barnabas took the risk to befriend Paul and gave him his attention, even though he did not know him (he had heard the rumors) and even though Paul was very different from himself.
b. Barnabas was not worried about their differences, he centered in on their commonality – they both acknowledged Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior and that was good enough for him!
2. Paul also experienced the fellowship of the body of Christ, notice the last phrase, And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.
a. Paul must have welcomed and enjoyed the fellowship of other believers
b. He was constantly with them – but that did not keep him from being a witness!
B. And how much more do we need this type of loving fellowship in the church today
1. We need the one-on-one friendships to help give us accountability
2. We need to be a body that is willing to accept any and all who come into our midst, loving them as the Lord Jesus would do.
3. Are some people hard to love? Yes, but that does not give us an excuse not to
4. Do some need more time and attention than others do? Yes and that means we are to do what needs to be done.
5. Imagine if the disciples had not befriended Paul – what might have been different? And remember Jesus did not give up on Peter.
6. We need to be in fellowship with one another, thereby glorifying God
This brings us to the final area of support we need to give as a church, we are to
IV. ENCOURAGE MINISTRY, Acts 9:29-30 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.  Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.
A. When the Lord was finished with Paul in one area he always gave him a reason to move on – often it was persecution.
1. But notice the words of Acts 9:30 Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.
2. They sent him back home to preach – back home would be the toughest assignment of all, but they sent him, no doubt encouraging him all the way!
B. And so I encourage you in the ministry of this body.
1. If the Lord lays a ministry on your heart and provides the direction, please do not try and get out of it by coming to the pastor and saying, “Pastor I think we (meaning YOU PASTOR) should do this. Follow the Lord’s leading, and by all means let me know and I will support you any way I can and we will bring it to the church and see what God will do.
2. Those who God leads out in ministry need others to come along side to help accomplish it, and that is where you can be an encouragement – join in where the Lord is working!
3. Let me encourage you in your ministry to your family, it will probably be some of the hardest ministry you encounter
4. Lets encourage one another in the ministry: encourage people to follow God’s guidance in starting ministries and jump in and help where we can!
A. What a church that would be!
1. Notice verse 31: Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied. Acts 9:31
2. What does this mean – was Paul the sole problem to the church?
3. I don’t think so – I think the church started to jell
B. If we where this type of church I think we would see
1. The church edified
2. The church walking in the fear of the Lord
3. The church being comforted in the Holy Ghost
4. And the church being multiplied!
C. What a vision for our church! We want CHURCH SUPPORT!