Summary: What did this church do to capture people’s hearts and attention? The first thing they did was that they could not keep their mouths shut about this man Jesus. In fact, the word “Christian” was coined at Antioch because these people could not keep quiet a
Reaching Our World
The Church that Captures the Heart of the Community
How would you answer this phrase, "I like church, but...?" Over time, what have been those "buts" in your life? When I was young, for me it was that the service was boring. I liked church, but it was boring. It was too quiet–you could hear a pin drop. As I grew up, I attended other churches and other "buts" entered my mind. "I like church, BUT I find some churches irrelevant." Or, "I like church, BUT people lack passion for God and for making his word known to others." In other churches, I’ve discovered that the issue was money. In others, they had turned inward and focused on themselves too much. Scripture wasn’t central to the life of the church. In other churches, I’ve discovered that Christian people are too critical and are very unloving.
What has been your experience. You like church and you love the Lord, BUT..." What are some of those "buts"? For the last several weeks we’ve been looking at the the first four core values of Meridian Christian Church - Welcoming; Worshiping; Growing; and Serving. This Sunday we’ll look at the last core value - Reaching.
The church in Antioch was a church that captured the heart of the community. They did so because of two important characteristics seen in Acts 11:19-30.
This morning, we will look at a church that I think really captured God’s heart because they captured the heart of their community–the church of Antioch. This is found in Acts 11: 19-30. Historically, Antioch was the third largest city in the known world at that time. It was extremely secular, but it was also extremely religious. They had a lot of churches. There was the church of men, a Greek deity, the church of Astart, the church of Artemis. A lot of people were going to a lot of churches. The culture, however, was very immoral and very worldly. In spite of a missionary’s worst nightmare going to a foreign culture that was extremely anti-God, within 40 years the Christian church became the dominant force in the culture, so much so that the center of Christianity moved from Jerusalem to Antioch. How is that possible? How could they capture the heart of the community like that? It would be like Meridian Christian converting the entire city of Lansing within 40 years, so much so that it becomes the dominant force in the society and the city.
The Church Talked to Everyone about the Good News
“19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.”
What did this church do to capture people’s hearts and attention? The first thing they did was that they could not keep their mouths shut about this man Jesus. In fact, the word “Christian” was coined at Antioch because these people could not keep quiet about this “Christos.” In vs. 19, it says that these people came from Jerusalem which was under severe persecution. They lost everything. They had to move from their homes because of their beliefs and their profession in Jesus Christ. They lost their jobs and incomes, they had to leave their friends and the community of which they had been a part for such a long time. Under that intense pressure, you would think that they would learn to shut their mouths, that they would be afraid to tell other people what God had done for them. Yet, they didn’t. They couldn’t keep quiet.
In Marquette many years ago I spoke to a man and his wife about a personal relationship with Jesus. Their names were Ed and Barb Gosselin. They had been raised in church and even as adults had gone to church – but Jesus was not their personal savior. We talked about Jesus and the good news and it was as if I had turned on a flood light. All of the years of dead religion was cleared away in the face of Jesus. Barb was so excited that she almost vibrated off of the sofa. As we talked over a couple of weeks I saw her emotions change and mix. She moved from excitement to one of confusion tinged with anger. “Why didn’t someone tell me about this before! I’ve been going to church all my life and all they ever wanted me to do was to sit in a pew and give money. No one ever told me about the good news of Jesus. I had to calm her down on more than one occasion! Last fall Donna and I went back to the Lake Superior Christian Church for the 30th anniversary and we saw Barb Gosselin and her daughter. Ed passed on a few years back. It was so wonderful to see how Jesus had grown and strengthened this lady into one of his mature and faithful followers.