Title: Discipleship: Getting the Job Done
Text: Acts 11.19-30
CIT: The Church at Antioch had been Evangelized and Discipled so well, that they naturally wanted to serve when the time came.
CIS: that we as a congregation, and as individuals would be looking for that one person to ‘disciple’
Introduction: A Marine recruiter took the stage in front of a high school assembly after the other service recruiters had given long-winded speeches about why the students should join their respective branches.
The Marine recruiter simply looked out over the audience for a few seconds and said:
“I don’t think I see anyone in this room that has what it takes to be a United States Marine. But if any of you think you can prove me wrong, I’ll be at that table over there.”
The Marines got more recruits that day than all other branches combined.
There is something about a challenge – Or should I say there is something to being challenged. Most people want to do better than others. We want to feel that we’re above average when we’re compared with others. It doesn’t stop as individuals. We do this as members of teams and owners of businesses. We do this as churches.
Ill.: It seems to me that when I’m asked about Calvary, the question that is asked most is: how big is your church? Translation: how many people come to your church? Well, I’m not convinced that numbers alone is the measure of a healthy church.
Today we’ll look at a church and how it found success. And, to be quite honest, I was surprised at what I found:
Turn to Acts 11.19-30; In this text we’ll find three parts to an healthy, active church;
- Evangelism (19-21)
- Discipleship (22-26)
- Mission/Ministry (27-30)
This is the outline, but I’ve structured it differently… evangelism and evidence. 1st,
1. Evangelism (19-20)
exp.: rd v 19a; A persecution arises and forces many believers to flee. I like the Greek – it paints a picture with the words; the word translated scattered is a farming word. It is what farmers would do when sowing their seed. It’s as if the writer is letting us in on what God is up to behind the scene. You can almost picture God’s hand sowing the seeds of faith in broader strokes. Rd 19b; These persecuted believers were at first sharing only with Jews, but something cool happens in the next verse; rd v 20; for the 1st time, we see a concentrated effort in sharing Christ with non-Jews;
1st, let’s look at this word: Hellenist. It’s found in 6.1, in reference to the Greek speaking Jewish widows being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. The 2nd time we see it is in 9.29, when Paul comes to Jerusalem after his conversion and preaches Christ to Jews who are only Greek speaking. The context gives us a clear understanding of this. But when we come to Hellenists in 11.20, we see the context leads us to understand that for the 1st time, someone other than Jews is being targeted with the Gospel. There is greater emphasis placed on this with the word εὐαγγελίζω – preaching boldly in the name of Jesus. If you transliterate that word, εὐαγγελίζω, you get Evangelism;
ill.: C.H. Spurgeon is credited with saying: In the Roman Empire, all roads led to Rome. In the Bible, all texts lead to Christ. No matter what Scripture you’re reading, there is a message of hope and something that points us back or toward Christ. And so when reading Scripture – What a great opportunity to εὐαγγελίζω!
app.: Here is a simple reason to commit to reading the Bible with someone: Evangelism. Sharing the good news. Did you know that many people don’t want to go to a church. They’re uncomfortable with it. However, many people wish they knew the Bible better. Believers and non-believers alike.
t.s.: now, there a second part to this and it really runs inside this first point; however, for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to make this point #2 and it is:
2. Evidence (22-26)
exp.: rd v 21; note the two parts: 1st, God’s favor is upon them and 2nd their numbers show that! The 1st part of this echoes my verse for this year: Ps 90.17: Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! That has been my prayer since I came across it on Sabbatical. I pray it almost every day. Will you pray that with me? …that God’s hand would be with us and that we would begin to see people committing their lives to Christ? We can do our part, but if God doesn’t bless – it’s all for naught. Pray: Indeed, Lord, Let your favor be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! And 2ndly, Let this evidence be found in us! May we see untold numbers of people committing their lives to you!
Look at v22; in v 22 we find set of words most common to the LXX; you get the idea of what this means when you read Mt 10.27: 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. Jesus is of course speaking there. But here, there is this idea of whispers about the church at Antioch coming to the ears of the church in Jerusalem – Did you hear that Believers are sharing Christ with Gentiles – and some of them are actually getting saved? “Whispers in dark”; this adds weight to our thought about these Hellenists being non-Jews, that is Gentiles. This is something new, something different.
So, what do they do? They send Barnabas – good, ole Barnabas – Son of Encouragement – to check things out. Why? Who are they? There is some wording here that doesn’t really translate into English. It’s the idea that this church in Jerusalem, being what it was at that time, when they heard of this, sent Barnabas. I think that’s an interesting statement by Dr. Luke. How would that apply to us?
Well, 1st off: we have a responsibility to check on those who are coming to faith through our ministry. Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s a huge responsibility. We’re recording this, so I want to be careful. But let me ask: how are we following up on the people who get saved through our ministry. From Pine Cove to the Pacific Rim, how are we actively following up on reports that someone has accepted Christ? I’ve heard some reports about people being saved. You have, too. Let’s ponder that for a while – while I push on into verse 23.
Rd v 23; What did he find? Evidence!
- He saw the grace of God! He saw God’s favor had been poured out on these people. Which of course, echoes the above statement that God’s hand was with them. Next,
- He rejoiced! He was glad.
- He encouraged them to remain faithful to the Lord w/ steadfast purpose.
Ill.: Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, tells the story of a church being revitalized. It was during his tenure teaching at a seminary. He was asked to step in and fill the pulpit. So, he did. It was a hard experience, but it was well worth it as many people were reached.
On my last day at the church, Harold, the over 80 year old deacon chairman poked me in the chest and said, “Preacher, I still don’t like the music and the kids are breaking everything.” And he was right. The more activity you have in a church, the more likely things are going to be broken.
Any disconnected church that seeks to reengage with their community will find the experience to be messy. There may be mud on the carpet, smudges on the walls, dirty bathrooms, or broken vases. The way of church life to which your people had grown accustomed will suddenly change.
So there we were, Harold with his finger in my chest and me looking at him trying to figure out this confrontation. Still making eye contact, he teared up and said, “I still don’t like the music and the kids are breaking everything, but it was worth it.
App.: a church that chooses to reach out to its community and to the world needs to know that this work is messy. It is. But like Harold said – It’s worth it.
I think Harold is a bit like Barnabas – able to see the good in things. I made a few notes about Barnabas, that I felt like each person who chooses to disciple others, should emulate:
- His Character: Wisdom, joy, encouragement – that is, an encourager of others. 2nd, his…
- His Attributes: rd v 24; good; full of the Holy Spirit; Full of Faith – faithful, yeah, but I like full of faith; rd v 24; another attribute – discernment: seeing what is needed; and having the wisdom to act on that. His Character, His Attributes, His Sacrifice. Rd v 25-26a;
- His Sacrifice: Invest in the lives of others…
- Yourself – What I mean by this is: it takes someone – why not you? Most of us like the group setting; probably because we don’t have to go very deep – just let others do the talking. Consider one to one.
- Your time – rd v 26; a whole year; ;
- Meet together – this isn’t a fb Bible study; sorry ladies, I mean no offense; but, I’m asking you to do more than ‘friend’ someone. I’m asking you to sacrifice yourself on the behalf of another; sacrifice your time; give of yourself – be vulnerable, be transparent;
Here is an area I think we’ve failed at as believers. We’ve tried to make people think that being a Christian means everything perfect. It is not. Indeed, my guess is that we have just as many problems, concerns and issues as the rest of the world. The difference comes in how we handle those problems, concerns and issues. We don’t respond like the world does. And, that’s part of what you’re teaching when you meet with someone. And that’s the next area where sacrifice is made.
- Teaching – Specifically, God’s Word; As I’ve repeated over the past couple of weeks: this is our standard – the measurement by which we measure our lives.
ill.: We’ll delve more into this on May 17th for those that are interested, but for the moment let me just add what it means to meet and teach someone.
- Read the text – This is what it says.
- Discuss the text – This is what it means.
- Apply the text – this is what it means to me.
app.: There are believers out there who would like to grow in Christ, but don’t know how. Spending time reading God’s Word with them will open doors for you to teach, share and invest in their lives. Discipleship; this is our main area of focus this morning – investing our lives in someone else.
t.s.: this text concludes with one last section – mission/ministry
3. Mission/Ministry (27-30)
exp.: rd v 27-30; Maybe this is another area of evidence? I think Calvary is doing this well. Sunday night, May 17th, I’m going to invite you to the church to talk about reading the Bible one-to-one. I want to challenge you now to find someone and invite them to meet with you regualarly – one a week, once every two weeks, at lunch, on Saturdays for brunch, just whenever you can make the time. The goal isn’t to meet with someone to encourage you and then to meet with someone who needs your encouragement. We’re just trying to start something here. I’m calling it DNA (Discipleship and Accountability) Sunday night May 17th, we’ll meet to talk about all of this. To conclude, I want to give you 4 reason to consider DNA.
Conclusion: let me ask: Why participate in DNA?
- Salvation: each of us knows someone who is lost and needs to be reached. This just might be a way to present the gospel.
- Sanctification: no doubt each of us needs to grow. None of us has arrived.
- Service: Right now, would you think of one person you are pouring your life into? Maybe it’s your kid. Maybe it’s your sibling. If there isn’t someone you’re meeting with regularly, will you begin to pray about doing just that?
- Substance: This comes back to the issue of a superficial church. How involved are we in the lives of others? Who are you meeting with regularly to share life with – as it pertains to Scripture? I basically want to challenge you to begin praying about developing a relationship that takes you beyond the superficial. Our Church is only as strong as a weakest link.