“The Church You’ve Always Longed For...
Empowers the Individual for Ministry”
TEXT: ACTS 18- 24-28
We’ve been doing a series on “The Church You’ve Always Longed For.” More important, we are trying to get a sense about the church God has always longed for. What is God’s call to us as a church? Are we called to be a burden, to drain people of their energies, or are we called to empower people. Jesus said that we are going to continue his ministry. His ministry is to help people acquire a vital connection with God. If a person is connected with God through Jesus Christ, Jesus said certain things will happen in your life:
John 10:10 - “I have come that you may have life and more abundantly.”
John 6:63 - “The spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing. The words
I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”
What happens when people come into relationship with the God of the Bible? Their lives are empowered. Moses turns from a defeated shepherd with a checkered past and becomes a deliverer and transcriber of one of the highest moral codes to ever be transmitted. Sarah is transformed from a barren woman to the mother of a nation. Thomas is transformed from a doubter to someone who becomes a missionary to India and a martyr for his faith because he cannot deny who Jesus is.
When we become connected with God, he empowers our lives. How can we as a church become less of a drain and more of an empowering community? Let’s look at Acts: 18: 24-28 where we hear a story of a couple who become power chargers in the life of a young man names Apollos. We get some hints about what they did and about what we as a church can do to empower one another for service:
What did Priscilla and Aquila do in this young man’s life to empower him for ministry? First, I would say that they saw in Apollos God’s potential. They saw Apollos the way God saw him. A couple weeks ago Pastor Patti quoted this verse: I Samuel 16:7 says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks upon the heart.”
That’s exactly what Priscilla and Aquila did. They looked at the heart of Apollos, and when they looked at this young man they saw someone with zeal for God. He left home to become a missionary, proclaiming God’s word. He was great in debate and could defend the faith. He had a tremendous mind, and he put that mind in service to God. He had tremendous potential to become a great evangelist and teacher, a great apologist which is a person who defends the faith against those who are critical of it, and a great pastor. Due to this couple’s encouragement, Apollos became these very things. You can read his story in I Corinthians chapters 1, 3, 4 and 16 and Titus 3:13.
This is very reminiscent of what Jesus did in people’s lives. For instance, look at the way that Jesus saw Matthew versus the way other people saw him. The Pharisees saw Matthew as a thief and a sinner whom God couldn’t possibly use. Jesus saw in Matthew a religious man, a disciple, someone devoted to God, a church leader, a writer of scripture, and a missionary to Ethiopia.
I wonder, when we look at each other, how do we see each other? What do we think in our minds? Are we looking at the outward person, or are we looking at a person and praying, “God, what do you want to do in this person’s life? What gifts and talents can I help unleash and encourage? What part can I play in this person’s life to help them grow in their faith to the point where they become one of your servants?”
Is that how you think when you look at someone? It is a tremendously empowering thing to have someone believe in you, to trust you, and to see great potential in you. Have you ever had anyone like that in your life? Perhaps someone said, “I see in you the potential to become a great dancer, a great musician, a great worship leader, a great artist.” Isn’t it empowering to know that there is someone who believes in you? Isn’t that why we have coined a phrase called the “The home field advantage.” Why is it an advantage to play at home? Because everyone is cheering you on. It is empowering to know that someone believes in you and they are cheering you on. It is so powerful that it enables teams who would normally lose to win when they play at home.
Have you ever been in a race where you are just exhausted and want to give up? All of a sudden you hear the roar of the crowd, and it empowers you to believe that you can finish. It is empowering to know people who see God’s vision for your life.
Contrast that with what they could have thought or how we typically see people as human beings. They could have looked at Apollos and said, “He’s young. What can I learn from this young punk?” During my entire ministry, I have fought this issue of being too young. There was a person who no longer attended my church because he said that he couldn’t learn from someone younger than him. Yet, this didn’t stop Priscilla and Aquila. Rather than looking at Apollos’ age, they looked at what God wanted to say through him. Age does not necessarily produce wisdom. You can be an old fool, too, can’t you? What makes you wise is God.
From the outside, Apollos may have looked arrogant. He was preaching with passion, authority and conviction. From the human perspective, it could be interpreted as arrogance or cockiness. What’s the difference between the two? It all depends on who receives the glory. A person who is cocky and arrogant gives himself the glory and claims that it is all about his gifts and abilities. The person who has authority and conviction gives God the glory for what He has done in his life. Apollos knew that his gifts and talents came from God.
People could have claimed that Apollos was infringing upon Paul’s ministry in Corinth, but it is Paul who comes to Apollos’ defense. This became a real point of division in the church. You can read about it in I Corinthians 1 and 2. The church became divided over their pastors. One group claimed to be the church of Paul, and the other group claimed to be the church of Apollos., and another group claimed to be the church of Peter. The truth is that this is the church of Jesus Christ, and anyone who serves him is someone we need to listen to because God put him there for a reason and we can receive from him.
I’m hearing that White Clay is doing the same thing with its pastors. One group says, “I love Pastor Richard.” That’s great! Another group says, “I love Pastor Patti.” That’s great!! You can get a lot out of both of us, but we don’t have to split over this issue.
Paul says to the Corinthian church that it can have more than one pastor. One does not diminish the other, there are simply different gifts and different styles. Both are there to help broaden the faith. The same thing is true here. You can have more than one pastor. One does not diminish the other–they are just different. You can receive a greater understanding of the faith when you hear from people who are different.
The church in Corinth did not always agree with the things Apollos said, and what did they do? In Acts 17:11, Paul says, “Now the Bereans were more noble of character than the Thessalonians for they received the message with great eagerness and they examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” That’s a good guide. If you are unsure of what a person said of if you don’t agree with it, then go to the scriptures and check it out.
The twelve disciples did not always agree with Jesus. In fact, he talked about marriage and divorce and they were getting to leave him. In fact, there was a crowd of people who did. When Jesus talked about the level of commitment for his disciples and that it meant that they had to follow him and bear the cross, a whole crowd of people left him because they didn’t agree with what he said. Yet, think about what they missed. They couldn’t agree with one phrase, one statement, one teaching, and they rejected him altogether. They missed the ministry and teaching of the Messiah. How foolish, how short-sighted.
Priscilla and Aquila refused to do this. They knew Apollos had to grow and become knowledgeable, so they mentored him, encouraged him and taught him. As a result, in verse 27 it says that Apollos became “a great help to their church.” He was of great benefit. He was able to do things that they couldn’t do. They couldn’t defend their faith to a secular population, but Apollos could. If you want to grow in your Christian faith, you will never find a single pastor who has it all right. You will never find a church or denomination that has it all right. But I can tell you that you will get a lot of great teaching 95% of the time that will benefit your life. Don’t cut off God’s sources once he’s provided for you. You can receive from anyone and everyone.
Priscilla and Aquila invested in Apollos’ life. They took him into their home and provided for his physical needs so that he could concentrate on his ministry. They mentored him, they completed his education, and then they encouraged him. They were looking, not at his faults, but at the things that were right. When he wanted to leave and continue his ministry, they encouraged him to go.
As a church, we need to empower people’s lives. If you are wondering what direction White Clay is going to take, I can tell you that very clearly. White Clay is going to become a church that empowers people’s lives. We are getting very close to paying off the mortgage, and I encourage you to continue your level of giving right where it is. We could have an extra $120,000, and think about what we could do as a church if we took that money and invested it in people. I’m not against investing in buildings, but I’m not really a builder of buildings. My passion is to build into people’s lives.
I know a lot of the members and elders have envisioned taking the money and investing it in the community through acts of kindness and touching people with grace. What a new image that would create. We could put some of that money towards advertising so that we can tell people the good things that God is doing here that could benefit their lives. Imagine being able to afford a full-time youth pastor, a person on staff who could focus totally on the youth of our church. We have only caught a glimpse of what God can do in our youth ministry. I even see a vision for getting a part-time retired pastor to help develop our older adult ministry, making sure that everyone in the church is cared for and that no one falls through the cracks. I know Susanne Larson has a vision for a full-time Christian education director. Think of the ministry that could be poured into people’s lives.
Another area we can invest in is training people for leadership. There’s nothing more draining than to be asked to do a job and then having no one tell you how to do it. Isn’t that frustrating? My commitment to you is this–if you want to do something in church ministry, we will not just shove you into it without encouragement, support, resources and the finances to do it. If people want to do something in the church, we should make it possible.
Think of all the things you would like to do. Do you want to become a great worship leader? We can help you. Do you want to be a collection counter? We can teach you how to do that. It is very important for the church to invest in people’s lives and help them be successful.
The last thing Priscilla and Aquila did was to release Apollos into service. At some point in time, they had to say, “Go and minster.” He may not have had everything perfect at that time, but Priscilla and Aquila encouraged him to try his wings. They were there for him if he fell to pick him up and dust him off.
One of the frustrating things in the Presbyterian system is that people want to control the ministry. Here’s how it happens. Say you want to start a single’s group. You have to go before the Session, which is 17 people that you may not know, and you have to provide all the statistics and information. You have to convince 17 people who don’t have a passion for the area of ministry you are looking at that it’s the right thing to do. How draining is that?
One thing about the Presbyterian church in general is that we love reports and statistics. I don’t see that in the New Testament church. If someone had a passion and a plan and the personnel to do it, the New Testament church supported it and released that person to do ministry.
We ask people to join committees because we say we need their help, but then we don’t listen to their ideas. If we are going to ask people to join committees, we should have the courtesy to listen to them. That’s empowering and releasing people for ministry.
If the church is called to release people for ministry, they need some people to release. We can’t release anyone if no one volunteers. Are you doing at least one thing in your church? If not, I ask you to pray about this. Look at the list in the bulletin this morning and ask God what he wants you to do. You may have a concern for the youth ministry or the children’s ministry or the finances or the mortgage payment. That may be God’s calling to you. He has put that passion there for a reason–invest yourself in that ministry.
Nothing is more draining than having only a few people do all the work. What’s empowering is when everyone shares a little bit of the load and we can carry it together.
What kind of church do we want to be? Do we want to be energizers or drainers? If we want to be energizers, then there are some things we can do. We can become each other’s encouragers. We can be a church that invests in people. We can volunteer and share the load. We can release people into meaningful service.
There’s nothing more empowering than being involved in church ministry. When a person comes to you and says that because of you they discovered faith in Jesus Christ, there’s nothing more empowering than that.