Summary: Why do we do church? What is our goal and how do we accomplish that goal?
A man once told about his school’s Spring Break Trip to Italy. When they visited Rome they entered St. Peter's Basilica, the 2nd largest church in world. The tour guide explained, "This church is so large no man on earth could hit a baseball from one end to the other. Not Lou Gehrig. Not Babe Ruth. Not even Mark McGwire."
In the silence that followed, one of the girls in the group asked: "You mean they actually let them hit baseballs in here?"
I think she missed the point. Church buildings generally don’t exist for people to play baseball in. But why DO church buildings exist? Well… I can’t tell you about EVERY church building, but I can tell you about this one. This church building exists to be a tool to serve God.
(We videoed this sermon in the Older part of our building) The part of the building we’re in now was the OLD sanctuary. In fact, it was the Sanctuary, and the Fellowship Hall, and Sunday school classes, all rolled into one. Over there (the camera panned to the right) was where the stage and pulpit were. Right here to my left was a portable baptistry with a red fitted cover on top. When we had a baptism scheduled, we’d take of the red cover, remove the top, roll the baptistry over to the kitchen and fill it with water. We’d do 2 or 3 baptisms, empty the water, put the lid and cover back on… and roll it back to its spot in front of our sound booth.
Then there was our communion table. Most churches you worship at have an elegant table with words like “Do This In Remembrance” engraved in it and decorated with grape vines… but not ours. Our communion table was made by one of our members and was made out of hollow doors. That’s right – hollow doors. That made it easier to move around, but it wasn’t especially awe-inspiring. Everything about the building was basically functional. It wasn’t impressive, it was just “useful.” And that’s the way we liked it. The people who worship here were NOT in love with building… they were in love with Jesus. And this building was just a tool we’ve used to serve God.
When we weren’t shut down with COVID 19, we did all kinds of things here with the building. We had English and Spanish and Burmese worship services; we had a free lunch for the community once a month; we had youth groups and Bible studies (and so on). And we STILL have a food pantry and now we have online worship. The question is WHY would we do all that? Why would use THIS building in the ways that we have? Well, we’ve done all that because the building is a tool designed to help us accomplish GOD’S GOALS.
So what are God’s goals for a church?
1st – the goal of the church is to reach out to people who don’t think God would want them… or that He’d forgive them.
The Peter’s sermon in our text today was preached on Pentecost – 50 days after Jesus had been crucified on Passover. God got the audience’s attention, and then Peter stood up and explained to the crowd that Jesus had been the promised Messiah, He’d been crucified… and then He’d been raised from the dead. And then Peter told them they’d been guilty of crucifying Him. It was their fault He’d died on the cross. The crowd was so convicted of their guilt they interrupted Peter’s sermon that they literally cried out in pain: “WHAT SHALL WE DO?”
There are people in this world who aren’t sure they can do anything about their past. They’ve done things, and thought things, and said things that make them cringe inside. They don’t like themselves very much… so why should God?
ILLUS: Some time back I was talking with a man who despised a particular politician. He was so worked up about this that he spewed hateful comments and said “the man is evil.” Now I wasn’t completely unsympathetic to my friend’s comments, but I did mention that we should pray for this politician and that God might change this man’s behavior. My friend became angry: “That man will never change.!!!! He’s evil… and he’ll always be evil!”
But that’s NOT the message of Scripture. I explained that Jesus has changed the lives of men more wicked than politician. When he said he didn’t believe that, I asked if he knew the song “Amazing Grace”? Of course, everybody knows that song, but then I asked if he knew who wrote it? “No” he replied. “Well, do you know a man named ‘Wilberforce?’” I asked. “Yes” (he knew the name from the movie named “Amazing Grace” about the politician who almost single-handedly repealed the practice of slavery in the British commonwealth). “Well, the man who wrote ‘Amazing Grace’ was named John Newton, and he was the force behind Wilberforce.”