Summary: The 10 characteristics of a God-honoring church, based on a look at the first century church of Acts 2.
INTRO>We’ve all heard the little saying (show the actions with hands locked together, fingers entwined upside down) ...This is the church, here is the steeple; open it up (wiggling fingers) and see all the people.” However, that is NOT the way it really is...this way is actually upside down from what it should be. The saying SHOULD say, “Here is the church, it’s made up of people, and where they meet together, sometimes there’s a steeple.”
I invite you to open a Bible and turn once again to Acts, chapter two.
--ILL>Have you ever tried to travel across the country without a map? I know some of you ladies are probably elbowing your husband right now, reminding him of how he seems to take off and travel without knowing for sure where he’s going. Actually, it’s not a smart idea to head off somewhere until you know which direction you’re supposed to go.
--ILL>Have you ever put a jigsaw puzzle together? My mom is a big puzzle fan. The secret, of course, to putting together a thousand-piece puzzle is to first get a look at the picture you’re trying “assemble” with the pieces. Without “visualizing the goal” it’s going to be virtually impossible to put together the puzzle.
<>In the same way, we need to “visualize the goal” of where we’re to go as a church. We need to see the correct picture, the Biblical picture, because there are a lot of wrong pictures, wrong images, wrong ideas floating around of what a church should be like, what the church should be doing, how they should operate, and how we’ll know when the church is doing what God wants us to do.
--ILL>Since we’re only a week away from the Super Bowl, today I want you to imagine with me for a moment that you’re a sideline reporter watching four different teams in four different football games leading up to the Super Bowl.
----TEAM #1: The team can be seen huddled together on the sideline before the game, heads bowed in prayer with the coach in the middle. Suddenly they give a great cheer, and the coach trots out on to the field by himself, while the other players go and sit on the bench. Now, as a sideline reporter, you go up to a 300-pound offensive guard and ask him, “What’s the coach doing out there?” “Oh,” the guard replies, “he’s going to play today.” “All by himself?,” you ask. The guard explains: “Sure, why not? He’s had a lot more experience and training than the rest of us. We’ve got a lot of rookies on this team and we might make mistakes. Anyway, they pay the coach well. We’re all here to support him, of course. And look at the huge crowd that’s come to watch him play!” Of course, as the opposing team kicks off, the coach catches the ball, valiantly charges up-field, but is buried under eleven opposing tacklers. He’s carried off half-conscious.
----Sound crazy? The same is true with the church. God has called all of us to serve. God has given us pastors and teachers and leaders, but their role is prmarily to EQUIP the members for doing the work of the ministry. Never is the pastor or staff supposed to be “carrying the ball” on every play, doing all the work, and trying to defeat the foe all by themselves.
----TEAM #2: This team realizes they all have to be players, so they’re on the field in a huddle. They huddle, and huddle, and huddle, and huddle. The referee calls a penalty for delaying the game and moves the ball back five yards, but the team STILL huddles, and huddles, and huddles, and huddles. The referee calls penalty after penalty, until finally the ball is moved all the way back to their own goal line. The quarterback then yells back to the sidelines, “Hey, Coach! This is the greatest huddle I’ve ever been in! What a group of guys! We have the best fellowship...and some of these guys are amazing students of the play book...some have memorized over a hundred plays! We learn so much in this huddle!” But you holler back to the quarterback, asking him, “But why don’t you get up on the line and play?” He responds, “Why should we? What we want is bigger and better huddles! Besides, this way no one gets hurt. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. And it makes us really feel good to be huddled together.”
----TEAM #3: This team brings every player out on to the field, and breaks out of its huddle, just like a team is supposed to. However, instead of lining up against the opposing squad, they break into groups of two or three, arguing with one another. Soon they start shoving, and two of them actually get into a fight! As the referees call a penalty for delay of the game and are moving the ball backwards, you run out on to the field and ask one of the players, “What’s wrong?” The player, walking off the field in disgust, explains, “That bunch of malcontents can never agree on anything! Those two over there are arguing over the color of the uniforms. A couple of others are quarreling over the right way to kneel in the huddle, and I’m quitting because I can pass a lot better than that other guy, but they won’t let me be the quarterback.”