God’s Idea of Church

How many of you have ever read the magazine called “Reminisce”? Several years ago there was an article in that magazine by a woman who told of her father having returned from the war. He, like many men, wanted to buy tools for his worksho, and one of the tools he wanted was a drill press. But tools like that were scarce and expensive.  He couldn’t afford to buy one, so he built his own and used some unusual parts to build it:
• an old washing machine motor,
• a Model A Ford transmission,
• a car jack,
• a motorcycle kick-starter
• and a burned out drill chuck.
She said that he used it for more than 50 years and… it still works.
(Bunny Murphree Reminisce 10/02)

Now I don’t know HOW that soldier put all of that together… but I was intrigued by the fact that this man knew WHAT he wanted and he knew how to build it. He wanted a drill press, but he didn’t build it out of parts you and I would have expected him to use. He used the materials he had on hand. He used common, unimpressive, used equipment.
Now I’m fairly certain it wasn’t pretty… but it worked.
In fact it worked so well… it’s still working.

Years ago, God knew what He wanted
He wanted to build a church.
And God (being God) could have built that church out of any materials He wanted.

I. A Good Ad agency would have told God to make sure He did it right!
They would have done a demographic study to find and target a specific age group.
They would have managed the message so that it would appeal to that target audience.

And they would have told God to make sure this new church had…
• The best music program and song leaders
• The best youth program
• The best ministries for young adults/ senior adults
Then there would be billboards to buy, flyers to pass out.
And they’d want to build an impressive gymnasium so they could have an athletic outreach to the community. And of course, there would need to be a building program so they could have a state of the art Worship Center and Sunday School space.

Now, (for the most part) most of that stuff is ok I guess. There are many good churches who do those very things are very successful for the Kingdom of Christ.
But – we all know God didn’t do it that way.

No, God didn’t follow the advice of a powerful Ad Agency or Church Consultant Group. In fact He built His church out of common, ordinary, unimpressive materials.
It shouldn’t have worked… but it did!!
And it still works!!!

But why?
Why did it work?
What was it about what took place on Pentecost that gave the church such powerful growth and success?

Well, 1st – God was in it.
Acts 2:47b tells us “…And THE LORD ADDED to the church daily such as should be saved.”

Many good churches can tend to overlook this.
I mean we create our programs, we stage our events, we schedule revivals, VBS programs, Upward Football and Cheerleading. We just had our Passover celebration and Easter services.
And those are all good things.

We should seize every opportunity we can to bring people to Christ.
We should use programs like Upward Football, and Friend Day and different forms advertising.

When Peter saw the crowd had gathered at Pentecost he seized that opportunity and began to preach to them. Just like Peter, we should always seize every opportunity we can to reach people for Jesus. But after having seized all those opportunities, we tend to ask ourselves…
“What more can WE do to reach the lost?”

Now that’s a legitimate question.
But it CAN overlook a more BASIC question:
“Where’s God in all this?”

When I read Acts 2:47 and it said “the Lord added to the church daily” my mind drifted back to a story in the Old Testament.

In Genesis 6:22 we’re told: “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.”
Noah did his part.
He built the ark,
He prepared stalls for the animals.
He brought in food to feed them and his family.
And as he worked, he preached to anybody who’d listen

BUT THEN we’re told:
“Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, CAME TO NOAH and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah.” Genesis 7:8-9

The animals… CAME to Noah?
He didn’t go out and get them?
Well, that’s what it says.

But if Noah didn’t go out and get the animals… how did they end up coming to him???
God brought them to him.
THE LORD added to the ark… such as should be saved.
When the animals came to Noah he seized that opportunity and put them on the ark

Now this is my point!
1. Noah did his part – he prepared for the ones God would bring.
2. God did His part – He brought the ones who were ready to be saved.
3. Then Noah seized the opportunity to lead them to salvation.

In the same way, that’s how the church will grow best
1. We need to do our part – we need to prepare for those God will bring
2. BUT then we need to depend upon God to do His part… bringing others to us.

Now – that being said – the question is… what should we do to do OUR part?
The answer is found in verse 42
We find there that the first thing they did was focus on the Apostle’s teaching

Acts 2:42 tells us “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…”
Not MY teaching.
Not the teachings of a famous author or preacher.
Not the teachings of a creed or a commentary.
Not the teachings of a prominent denomination.
Not the teachings of some Church Council or some Early Church Father.

Now a good teacher/ preacher MIGHT USE those resources as they prepare their lessons. But those resources should never be their MAJOR focus. The principal foundation for the teachings of any good teacher or preacher MUST BE the Apostolic teachings.
Now where am I going to get Apostolic teachings from?
The Bible… and specifically the New Testament.

Why would focusing on the “Apostles’ teaching”  be so important?
Well, if I focus on any other authority for the foundation of what I say from this pulpit, I run the risk of leading astray the people God brings to us.

ILLUS: For example, most of us have heard about the conflict between Galileo and the church of his day. The Church doctrine of that day taught that the sun revolved around the earth. But Galileo discovered that that wasn’t true – it was the earth that revolved around the sun. The Church didn’t take kindly to that discovery by Galileo, and branded him a heretic and made him renounce his findings under the threat of severe punishment.

Now – of course Galileo was right.
But ever since that day, skeptics have used that incident to accuse the church of having gotten their doctrine from their understanding of the Bible.
But they didn’t.

By the time of Galileo, the church had grown used to accepting the teachings of human experts and authorities of the past. Particularly impressive to them were the Greek philosophers and one of most prominent of those philosophers was Aristotle – who taught that it was the earth that stood still and the sun revolved around it.
Now this wasn’t the only time Galileo had clashed with Aristotle’s teachings.
Aristotle was wrong about many things.
But as opposed as he was to Aristotle, Galileo was convinced of the inerrancy of Scripture. At one point he wrote:
“The holy scriptures cannot err, and the decrees therein contained are absolutely true and inviolable…”

My point is this:
The early church misled many people – and gave ammunition to the enemies of God – because they abandoned the Bible as their sole source of authority and sought out human experts to guide their doctrine.
We must never allow that to happen to us.

So the first thing we can do – to do our part in the church in preparing for those God would bring to us is to cling to the Apostle’s teachings for our authority and guidance.

The 2nd thing we can do is devote ourselves to “fellowship”
Acts 2:42 says the early church “… devoted themselves to… fellowship”.
It doesn’t matter how good a church’s programs and events may be,  if the people don’t get along with each other – if we don’t create an atmosphere where people enjoy themselves & feel welcome – newcomers won’t stay.

The advantage here is – you folks take that seriously.
From the moment people step thru our doors, visitors (& members) are made to feel welcome.

Then, there’s our greeting time.
If Dave (our pianist) didn’t play a song to for us to sing and get you folks back in your seats, you’d still be out there shaking hands, and  I’d never have the time to preach the sermon. And folks here don’t just greet their friends… they seek out newcomers, shake their hand, and tell them how grateful they’re here. You don’t even have to be told. We don’t have to designate a specific person to do this – you just do it.

Then there are our in-home Bible studies.
The youth groups.
]The Ladies group.
The men’s prayer breakfast
The various get-togethers throughout the month.
And there’s always someone inviting new people to those activities.

But the early church didn’t just have “get-togethers”
Acts 2:44 says “All the believers were together and had everything in common.”
And verse 46 tells us “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts”

Church wasn’t just something they did on Sunday morning.
Being with other Christians wasn’t just something they did once in a while.
They were almost always TOGETHER.
Other Christians were the center of their lives.
In their spare time they preferred to be with their Christian friends.

But even more than that… they were there for each other.
Acts 2:45says they went so far as to “(sell) their possessions and goods, (so they could give) to anyone as he had need.”

ILLUS: A couple of years ago, we had a sizable amount of money set aside for our bldg fund. But at the annual meeting we almost unanimously voted not to build yet because of the number of unemployed people in church and we wanted to have that money available to help out those who were struggling.
What really caught my attention was after the vote was taken, everybody applauded!
I was never prouder to be a preacher of this church.

So the early church devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and to fellowship. But it also says “They devoted themselves to the breaking of bread.” Acts 2:42
They felt communion was important.

In Acts 20:7 tells us “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.”
On Sunday (the 1st day of the week) the church gathered specifically to have Lord’s Supper.
It doesn’t say they got together to hear a sermon (tho’ they did hear one from Paul).
It doesn’t say they got together to sing some songs (tho’ they might have).
They came together for the principal purpose of taking communion.

ILLUS: There are churches these days where that isn’t true.
There are churches where the Lord’s Supper has been shouldered to the side.
They either don’t want newcomers to take part in their special activity, or they feel that doing it in worship interrupts the “flow of worship”. And so they relegate it to a Sunday Night or Wednesday night so that it won’t interfere with their “seeker sensitive” worship services.

That’s truly sad.

Many modern churches don’t feel it is that critical.
They have more important things to do.
But the early church felt Communion was so important they met EACH SUNDAY to partake.

But why?
Why would the Lord’s Supper be so critical to “doing their part” to prepare for the ones God would bring to them for salvation?

Well, Paul wrote: “… whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:26

Every Sunday that someone comes thru those doors – they are confronted by the most important fact of our faith…
Jesus died for us!
There might be some mistakes in the bulletin… but Jesus died for us.
The song service might not move us … but Jesus died for us.
The sermon might not be a great sermon… but Jesus died for us.
Jesus died for us, and we proclaim that every time we take of communion.

ILLUS:  Donald A. Nash told the story of Robert Tinsky. Tinsky was raised a Jew. But he became dissatisfied spiritually, so he visited a Christian Church for the first time, seeking some religious truth. He was astounded by the observance of the Lord’s Supper. He didn’t understand it.  He asked some young people seated near him what it meant, and they told him the gospel story as portrayed in the loaf and cup.
He was amazed that there was a God who loved mankind enough to give His Son to die for us and at the wisdom that originated such a living memorial. As a result he became a Christian and a eventually a faithful preacher of the gospel.
(Christian Standard 1/30/2000)

So the early church devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread… but it was the last item listed in verse 42 that caught my attention. And it caught my attention because I felt maybe I haven’t done enough of this.

It says “They devoted themselves… to prayer…”
Now it’s not that I don’t pray.
And it’s not that I don’t pray a great deal.
It’s just that I’m pretty sure I don’t pray enough like they prayed.

Too often Christians simply focus on praying for the sick and hurting.
We often do that during our prayer time in worship.
And that’s GOOD praying – we ought to do that!
But I’ve become convinced that it’s the BEST praying we could pray

Paul wrote: “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, WORDS MAY

BE GIVEN ME so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” Ephesians 6:19
He wanted them to pray so that he might be given the words to seize every opportunity to bring people to Christ.

Again he wrote to the church at Colossae: “And pray for us, too, that GOD MAY OPEN A DOOR for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” Colossians 4:3
He wanted the church to pray for him that God would open a door so he could seize every opportunity to talk to others about Jesus.

ILLUS: Max Lucado told of a church in Scotland back in the 1940’s that was struggling to keep the doors open. A couple of its members were two older ladies who were invalids and couldn’t get out for worship any longer. But these ladies refused to allow their infirmities to get in the way of serving their God. They became convinced that their community needed Jesus desperately and they were going to do something about it. They were going to pray.
They determined to make their house a house of prayer.
Around the clock they prayed for God do something powerful.
Then one day, one of the ladies became convinced that God wanted a revivalist by the name of Campbell to come and hold meetings at their church. They talked to their preacher and he contacted Campbell… but Campbell was unavailable. He was booked up.
The women refused to give up in their prayers however… and it wasn’t long before – oddly enough – some of Campbell’s other revivals became cancelled and he decided to accept the invitation of that small church. He arrived and held 5 weeks of meetings.
The Revival was so well received that hundreds showed up each night. And lives were so changed that many of the local taverns had to close up because they lacked patrons.
One might think it was because of the powerful preaching of a renowned revivalist. But in reality it was because of the faithfulness of two invalid older ladies who dedicated themselves to prayer.

ILLUS: Something very similar happened here several years ago. About 12 years ago, three men broke into our church building here. They didn’t steal much, and they didn’t really damage all that much (they broke a couple of doors, and stole a few small items) but we called the police and reported the incident. After the police left, our youth minister at the time (Brad Taylor) and I were talking in the youth room and a thought came to me.
“Brad,” I said, “you know those guys are going to get caught some day. Wouldn’t it interesting if – once they were arrested – we got the chance to talk to them about Jesus?”
Brad agreed and we decided to pray for that specific opportunity.
The next day, the men were arrested.
And two of the men called US!
They didn’t call the other churches they broke into. They called us.
And they wanted to talk to me.
So I went down to the jail and the men told me they wanted to ask our forgiveness for breaking in. I responded that “Well, forgiveness is what we do… but would you be open to doing Bible study with me?” They jumped at the chance.
We met every week for the next few weeks, and as a result we baptized one of them, and – last I knew – they were involved in the church their family went to.

Like I said – I don’t think I’ve been praying enough for that.
So I want to set apart a time right now for us pray for God to open a door for us so that He might add DAILY to our number. And it is my prayer that many of you will not stop praying that prayer… but will continue to pray throughout the week


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