Summary: The church must continue to proclaim the good news!
August 2, 2015
Opening words: Bob Woods tells the story of a couple who took their son, 11, and daughter, 7, to Carlsbad Caverns. As always, when the tour reached the deepest point in the cavern, the guide turned off all the lights to dramatize how completely dark and silent it is below the earth's surface. The little girl, suddenly enveloped in utter darkness, was frightened and began to cry. Immediately, her brother replied, "Don't cry. Somebody here knows how to turn on the lights." Can I state the obvious? Our world can be a dark place. That is exactly why the church must continue to preach the Good News.
This is sermon number twenty-eight in my sermon series called Church Planting. During the summer months, I have been preaching through the Book of Acts. This is no small task, because Acts has so much to offer. I believe the Holy Spirit is vital to our future success. Human effort and determination are not enough to revive the church. It is the Holy Spirit who created the church originally, and it must be the Holy Spirit who revives the church again. With this understanding, let us look at our scripture lesson for today, Acts 14:1-7. Let me call this message They Continued.
Acts 14:1-7 1At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. 4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5 There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the gospel.
It sits at 702 Mahoning Avenue. It is located next to absolutely nothing. However, at one time it was considered “out in the country” next to the once proud city. It is the home of the Victorian Players, one of the community theater groups in the area. I have been inside several times because Kathryn has been in several of their productions. It wasn’t built as a theater, it was built as a church. It doesn’t take much imagination to imagine the good old days. The audience sits in uncomfortable pews. The chancel area has been replaced by a small flat stage. The fellowship hall in the basement has been converted into tiny changing rooms. Every time I go, I ask the same question, “What was the name of this church?” Every time, I get the same answer, “I don’t know.” The next line has nothing to do with the quality of the productions. However, it has everything to do with the unknown church. Every time I walk into that building, I grow sad. That building was not built for entertainment purposes; it was built to proclaim the word of God. That building was built to tell people about Jesus. That building does not stand alone. There are other church buildings that have been “repurposed”.
It is located at 3525 Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh. It was the home of the Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church. The name on the building has been changed to the Church Works Brewery. The congregation is long gone because the neighborhood is long gone. People come now for dinner and a malt beverage. I will admit, I have been there. The large structure remains, but everything else has changed. The pews are gone, replaced by tables and chairs. The altar has been replaced by vats, producing several kinds of beer. The priest has been replaced by a brew master. It is supposed to be a fun place, but I find it to be sad. That building was not constructed to be a microbrewery. That building was built to proclaim the word of God. The building was built to tell people about Jesus. You don’t have to go into the city to find it to be the case. You can find repurposed church buildings in our own neighborhood.
When I came here, there were several operating churches in this area that are now closed. The buildings have been repurposed. One of those congregations was St. Andrews. It was an episcopal church. I was in there several times for a variety of reasons. The congregants were not old, no one was 58! I considered it to be a younger congregation. That is why I was so surprised to hear the news. The church was closing and the building was being put up for sale. The congregation did not die off; they gave up. They grew tired of all the fundraising and pastoral changes. One day they locked the door and never looked back. Today, that building is a counseling center with a wonderful pipe organ. Every time I drive by that building I am sad. It wasn’t constructed to be a counseling center. That building was built to proclaim the word of God. The building was built to tell people about Jesus.