I wonder what comes to your mind when you think of “church”? Religious institution might be the #1 answer. Maybe you’d say it’s a social justice agency (e.g. help the poor, feed the hungry, etc.) or perhaps a social club (it’s all about the relationships). All of those have merit. None of them gives the full picture.
And if I were to ask unchurched folks what they think of the church, the answers would more often than not be dismissive (the church is antiquated and irrelevant), or cynical (they’re a bunch of crooks), if not angry (there’s been so much abuse in the name of God). And, let’s be honest, some of those feelings would be entirely justified.
So, what is the church? The best and primary source to define and describe the church is a New Testament book called The Acts of the Apostles which recounts the founding and earliest days of the church in the first century A.D. Written by a physician named Luke, it is the second half of his two-volume set that starts with The Gospel of Luke. It tells the extraordinary story of those first apostles and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in them, using them to preach the gospel and plant churches around the Mediterranean world.
But it isn’t just a history book. As we wrestle with what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ in the 21st century, what Dr. Luke wrote two millennia ago resounds with prescriptions and principles, examples and inspiration that give us the most complete picture of what the church is to be today. And there is no better way for us to launch into our 19th ministry year at Harvest Barrie than to look intently into this book and open ourselves up to whatever God has for us. We've started this Sunday in Acts 1:1-11 with a message titled “You Will Be My Witnesses.”
The Acts of the Apostles | Chapters 1–7
You Will Be My Witnesses
Pastor Todd Dugard
September 8, 2019
About the book:
Author: Luke, a Greek, a physician, and travelling companion of Paul.
Recipients: Theophilus; the global church.
Date: Circa A.D. 64.
Purpose: Provide certainty with an orderly account of the continuing work of Christ (cf. Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1).
Genre: History of the spread of the gospel and the establishing of the church worldwide by the work (acts) of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles and other believers; it is the sequel to The Gospel of Luke.
Content: Episodes, speeches (sermons), summaries, travel narratives.
Themes: Kingdom/gospel, witness, mission, power of the Holy Spirit, church, inclusivity.
Main characters: The Apostles (esp Peter and Paul), the church, the Holy Spirit, Jesus.
If we’re to fulfill the mission and be witnesses of Jesus Christ to the world, we must...
…believe the proofs (v. 1–3)
The term “missionary” is understood as describing the activity of “mission”, defined as the activity of individuals who distinguish themselves from the society in which they live both in terms of religious convictions and social behavior; they are convinced of the truth of their belief and actively work to win other people for their convictions and for their way of life, “sent” by God and the risen Jesus Christ to proclaim the gospel.
Eckhard J. Schnabel
1 Corinthians 15:3–8
…trust the promises (v. 4–5)
…receive the power (v. 6–8a)
Outline of Acts:
Chapters 1–7: Jerusalem
Chapters 8–12: Samaria and the surrounding regions
Chapters 13–28: Mediterranean; Rome
The Acts 1:8 Strategy:
1. Start close
2. Reach beyond
3. Go far
…follow the plan (v. 8b)
A river reaches places which its source never knows. And Jesus said that, if we have received His fullness, “rivers of living water” will flow out of us, reaching in blessing even “to the end of the earth” regardless of how small the visible effects of our lives may appear to be.
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
…feel the push (v. 9–11)