Summary: Exposition on Acts 20:1-16 regarding the ministry of encouragement and edification that Paul had to the early church
Text: Acts 20:1-16, Title: Why Not to Sleep in Church, Date/Place: NRBC, 2/1/09, AM
A. Opening illustration: Just in case your boss catches you asleep at your desk, be ready to blurt out one of these excuses: *They told me at the blood bank that this might happen. *This is just a 15-minute power nap like they raved about in that time management course you sent me to. *I was working smarter - not harder. *Whew! I must have left the top off the whiteout. *I wasn’t sleeping! I was meditating on the mission statement and envisioning a new paradigm! *This is one of the seven habits of highly effective people! *I was testing the keyboard for drool resistance. *I’m in the management training program. *I’m actually doing a Stress Level Elimination Exercise Plan (SLEEP). I learned at the last mandatory seminar you made me attend. *This is in exchange for the six hours last night when I dreamed about work! *Darn! Why did you interrupt me? I had almost figured out a solution to our biggest problem. *The coffee machine is broken .... *Someone must have put decaf in the wrong pot. *Boy, that cold medicine I took last night just won’t wear off. *Ah, the unique and unpredictable circadian rhythms of the workaholic! *I wasn’t sleeping. I was trying to pick up my contact lens without my hands. *The mail courier flipped out and pulled a gun so I was playing dead to avoid getting shot. *Gosh, I thought you (the boss) were gone for the day. *Amen!
B. Background to passage: our text today comes on the heels of a riot in Ephesus on his third missionary journey. Paul is about to head for Macedonia and Acacia before going to Jerusalem and on to Rome then to Spain. His intention is to take a offering for the struggling church in Jerusalem then to evangelize the Latin world having preached and planted churches in most of the Greek world. But one of the overlooked components in Paul’s ministry is his pastoral concern for the churches. And so he makes an effort to revisit and stay with a few of the churches already established, and be assured that they are continuing in the faith. Just like Paul we should have a concern for encouraging others, and his ministry serves as a model.
C. Main thought: In this text we will see three ways that Paul had a ministry of encouragement, 3X, meaning
A. In presence
1. The first thing that he did after the riot in Ephesus was get back together with the disciples. Then he left and went to the troubled church at Corinth, and there he stayed three months. It was wintertime, so it was probably a necessary stay. And he probably did some evangelism in Illyricum during this time, but primarily, he just spent time with them. Then while in Troas, he joined the church in worship on Sunday (go into some of the other things that we can learn about the early church), and taught/preached until midnight. Then the little interruption of a young boy falling out of the window, dying, and being revived. Then he still stayed up and continued the worship and teaching until daybreak.
2. 2 Cor 11:24-28, Titus 2:2, 6,
3. Illustration: the conversation with Ross about how little time pastor’s spend discipling other believers, spend time investing in intimate fellowship with church members, tell about the difference in purpose between traditional bible studies and the triad groups, Then he looked at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?” One eager student raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!” “No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.” What are the “big rocks” in your life?, tell about the visit that Alan Knox had with a former church and all the people that he wished he could have catch up with, John Ortberg pinpoints this in his article, Taking Care of Busyness. He says, "For most of us, the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them."
4. Paul is a busy guy! He has the whole known world at the time to evangelize, plant churches in, and strengthen. He is trying to keep a schedule to get to Jerusalem. And he was in his fifties or sixties, and getting close to the avg life expectancy with the eternity of the whole world in the balance. But with all these things weighing on him, he went and spent time with the churches. Our lives are busy, and few of us will get down to the end of our lives and wished we would have watched one more episode of CSI, or worked a little more overtime. Most of us will wished we could have spent more time investing in the lives of others in our lives. The early church was all about sharing life together, but yet most of us don’t spend time with each other unless it is because you are related. And most Christians have never had anyone sit down with them and intentionally disciple them. And what waste to have godly saints that have been walking with God for years never sit down over time with a young believer and pour out life into them. Remember it’s not even having all the answers as much as it is simply being there.