HOPE THROUGH RESURRECTION – THE TWO-FOLD GOAL OF THE LOCAL CHURCH
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
A church was looking for a new pastor. They got a resume from one and promptly sent their search committee over to hear him preach. He preached a wonderful and challenging message on our need not only to talk about, but to do missions. They were impressed and eventually decided that he was the one they wanted to recommend to the church. The pastor came for his trial sermon and preached the SAME sermon the committee had already heard. That was OK, though, because it was such a good sermon. They wanted the rest of the church to hear him at his best. The church overwhelmingly voted to call the man as their pastor. On his first Sunday he preached the SAME sermon again. People began to wonder whether or not he remembered that he had already preached that sermon, but they decided not to say anything to him so as not to embarrass him. His second Sunday he preached the SAME sermon again. Now this was the fourth time the pulpit committee had heard that sermon and the third time the rest of the church had. Something had to be done. So the deacons asked if they could meet with the preacher that afternoon. At the meeting they told him how much they had enjoyed his sermon, but that it was now time to move on to something else. The new pastor shook his head, no. “I’m going to preach that sermon on missions and KEEP preaching it until you quit LISTENING to missions and start DOING them!”
What on earth should the local church be doing? By church I mean you and me.
The church, according to Acts, is a missionary church that responds obediently to Jesus’ commission, acts on Jesus’ behalf in the extension of his ministry, focuses its proclamation of the Kingdom of God in its witness to Jesus, is guided and empowered by the same Spirit that directed and supported Jesus’ ministry, and follows a program whose guidelines for outreach have been set by Jesus himself.
“God had an only Son and he made him a missionary.”–David Livingstone.
Our text Acts 1:8 forms part of the last words of Jesus Christ before His ascension.
The disciples were now to be witnesses, and their definite work was to bear testimony to their Master; they were not to be theologians, or philosophers, or leaders, but witnesses. Whatever else they might become, everything was to be subordinate to the idea of personal testimony. It was to call attention to what they knew of Him and to deliver His message to mankind. I read the words of Peter in Acts 4:20 “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard”
Throughout the Scripture, I find that the basic goal of the local church on earth is summed up to this: to glorify God and to display who He is and what He is like.
This morning as we wind up our series for the month we will look at the two-fold goal of the local church.
- THE LOCAL CHURHC IS GATHERED TO GROW
The local church is composed of believers, you and me who gather together to accomplish the goal of edification of believers–Eph. 4:11-16.
. . . Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
The purpose of all these gifted leaders is to prepare the rest of the saints to minister and so build up the body of Christ, the church. “Equipping” means preparing, mending, or restoring people to their proper use. The role of these leaders is to minister the Word to the saints in the church so the saints can minister the Word in the world (1 Tim. 3:15). All the saints should participate in service, not just the leaders.
How do we grow when we gather?
Acts 2:42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
- Corporate Worship
- Instruction of Word
- THE LOCAL CHURCH IS SCATTERED TO SOW
One out of every 52 verses in the Bible is about reaching the lost. This would mean that missions should be the subject of 615 verses.
The local church must be scattered in order to accomplish the goal of evangelism of unbelievers—According to the Scriptures, we
“We are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal to the world, to the unbelievers, through us (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Let’s look at the game of football; there are two basic events which occur—the practice and the match. I’m told that practices are a time for evaluating what the previous games have accomplished in the past and for mapping (working) out strategy for the next game in the future. The match or the contest occurs on the field and is the actual performance of the team in the present. The principle is that both are needed. If the team only stays in the practice, the game is not played, but is lost by forfeit. If the team only plays the game, it cannot evaluate or plan.
Our Christian faith is similar to this; it is made up of both practice and playing the match on the field. There are no benches in God’s game; all the believers are or should be involved. In the practice we learn and grow together; we work on strategy; we evaluate past failures and successes. This is the church gathered–ministering to each other. Yet many of us are comfortable in the practice time and never get onto the field where the game is being played. Where are the games played? In the home, at school, at work, next door, etc.–wherever people are. Note that the coach (pastor) and the assistant coaches do not do all the playing. It is a team effort involving both Edification and Evangelism.
A healthy church continues to build itself up, but also seeks naturally to reproduce in evangelism and missions.
I think it is important for me to differentiate these two terms here:
Evangelism–presenting Christ Jesus to sinful people in order that through the power of the Holy Spirit, they may come to put their trust in God through Christ, to accept Him as their Savior, and to serve Him as their King in the fellowship of the church.
Evangelism is speaking to anyone anywhere the gospel. You don’t have to succeed at it. Evangelism is happening even if somebody is not getting saved. But you need to say it.
Saying the gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone is evangelism. It could your brother or your sister. It could be your mother or your father.
Missions–is presenting Christ Jesus to sinful people by crossing a culture. It usually involves learning a language, learning new cultural things where there is no church in which people are doing evangelism of those in that culture. They don’t have any access to the gospel.
If we are to remain a healthy church, we need not to just occasionally mention evangelism and missions; but evangelism and missions need to be a vital part of our church life. A church which is only interested in building itself up is a very sick church. Studies have shown that one of the surest ways for a church (and Christians) to become spiritually healthy is to become involved in outreach, so that evangelism and missions are the normal expression of life.
As Herbert Kane has well said, “A church which does not emphasize missions [and evangelism] has lost its reason for existence; it has denied the faith and does not deserve to be called a New Testament church.”
- To Proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ
- Be Witnesses of Jesus Christ; to speak about what we have heard and seen.
- To Serve
We need the balance between GROWTH and OUTREACH (Missions and Evangelism)
In a nutshell, we as a local church are gathered to grow and scattered to sow; we seek to win the lost to Christ and disciple the saved to grow in Christ.
According to Matthew 28:18-20, we have a responsibility to take God’s good news of peace, restoration, and reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ to all people no matter who they are or where they live–whether next door or to another culture.
We may not all be goers—crossing a culture a planting a church where there is none; but we can be senders—we can pray for and commit our resources to support the goers [share a testimony of one a sender].
This Gospel ends not with a command but with a promise, or rather a fact. Jesus will be with us, His disciples as we carry out His will. This is His great commitment to us. Immanuel is still God with us. The expression “to the end of the age” literally means “the whole of every day.” Jesus promised to be with us every day forever.
How are we going to respond to the call of God?
I pray that we will all be either goers or senders, and that none of us will be neither. Because to be neither a goer or a sender is to disobey the Master.