CHURCH AS GOD INTENDED

As narrated in the Book of Acts, the New Testament Church is both a prescriptive and descriptive account that illustrates a pattern for contemporary congregations.

The following are 7 essentials the contemporary church must embrace for missional movement.

Acts 1 shows how 120 disciples of Jesus spent 10 days together in prayer, comparing Scripture and making leadership decisions. This ensured that the foundation of the burgeoning movement would be secure. Their goal was to work towards oneness as it related to the understanding and preaching of the Good News of the Messiah.

Without this period of waiting upon God and reflection, the massive spontaneous addition of 3,000 people after Peter’s first sermon could have resulted in chaos and destroyed the movement. The contemporary Church must take adequate time every season to wait upon God in prayer and biblical reflection in order to be ready for the Gospel’s movement.

Acts 2:42 says that immediately after the Day of Pentecost, the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ doctrine, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Visitors to Jerusalem that converted, abandoned plans to go back to their homeland so they could sit under the apostles’ teaching.

This apostolic doctrine shaped their social gatherings, common meals, and corporate prayer. Without this, the activities of the Church would have been based upon subjective experiences and opinions of gatherers. The contemporary Church must also establish believers in the first principles of the faith if they are going to experience a prolific Gospel movement.

Acts 5:1-12 relay the narrative of the judgment upon Ananias and Saphira.

This illustrates how the standard of holiness and the fear of the Lord must be maintained to ensure the health of the Church. If God allowed them to continue lying, manipulating, and receiving honor deceptively through giving gifts (which amounts to dirty politics), it would have spread like yeast and eventually would have corrupted the Church.

It is not an accident that God began to do extraordinary miracles as soon as this couple was removed from the Church (Acts 5:12-14). The contemporary Church must understand that we limit the capacity for God to move through us whenever we allow unbiblical standards to permeate our Church.

Acts 6:1-7 Almost immediately after the birth of the Jesus movement, ethnic sectarianism and bias reared their ugly head. This took place when the Greek-speaking widows were being overlooked when food was being distributed. Peter had enough wisdom to appoint 7 men of integrity and wisdom who would oversee this ministry, resulting in every widow’s needs being met, the Word of God spreading, and the number of disciples multiplying.

Acts 7:54-60 The martyrdom of Stephen, demonstrates an amazing pattern for us to follow in the contemporary church. God cannot bless a Gospel movement if the saints are unwilling to give their lives to advance His kingdom. Even Paul said that he was always given over to death so that the life of Christ might manifest through him (2 Corinthians 4:11). A contemporary church filled with people who only gather to have their felt needs met will never advance the Gospel. Jesus said we would have power after the Spirit comes upon us to be His witnesses. The word witness comes from the word martyr. Hence, a faithful witness overcomes the enemy when he is not willing to shrink from death (Revelations 12:11).

Acts 7:58, 8:8 The early Church did not skip a beat but continued to thrive after mass persecution broke out against them. Even though they were forced out of their homes and lost everything, their mind was on spreading the Gospel! Wherever they were scattered, they preached the Word. This resulted in major churches being planted in the cities of Samaria and Antioch and resulted in their chief antagonist, Saul, being converted and becoming the greatest of the apostles. The contemporary Church must persevere amid persecution (similar to the powerful Gospel movement we see today through the persecuted churches in Iran, China, and India).

Acts 13:1-2 Instead of being bogged down with endless church committees and deliberations, the Antioch church elders spent adequate time ministering to the Lord and fasting. Giving God space to move upon them, released a divine strategy that changed the entire world. The contemporary Church must also prioritize seeking the Lord and waiting for the strategic Spirit to illuminate our hearts so we can labor for the things God ordains instead of asking God to bless our agendas.

Adapted from article ”8 lessons churches can learn from the book of Acts” by Joseph Mattera, Christian Post Feb. 20

THE UNSTOPPABLE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST

In the Book of Acts the Gospel bearers face threats, persecution, imprisonment, internal conflict, theological controversy, litigation, storms and shipwreck, but none of these impede the Gospel’s progress. The Gospel is the powerful instrument the Holy Spirit uses to produce believers – in Jerusalem, Samaria, Cyprus, Lystra, Derbe (city of Galatia) and throughout Europe. In rural areas (Acts 14) and philosophical centres (Acts17), the Gospel is equally at home, with the Holy Spirit revealing the truth of the Gospel.

All three persons of God are involved in redeeming mankind: God the Father, Jesus His Son and the Holy Spirit

Luke gives us statistical summaries to show the growth of the church (Acts 2:41; 4:4) and comments throughout on the health of the Word. In Chapter 6, when dissension breaks out in the church, Luke tells us ‘the word of God continued to increase and spread’ (v.7). In Chapter 12 when Herod has James killed, the word’s health is contrasted with Herod’s wormy death (v.24). In Chapter 19 when people burnt their magic scrolls to ash, the Word, he says, ‘continued to increase and prevail mightily’ (v.20).

If the title of the book of Acts were to be changed, I would suggest a title which included ’the unstop-ability of God’s Gospel’. What a refreshing encouragement to read this Holy Spirit-inspired book and be reminded that God’s purpose prevails.

“The purpose of God is to glorify himself by saving a people of his own, through hearing and believing the Gospel of his Son, as it is carried to the world by his Holy Spirit-empowered people”.

This abbreviated and slightly modified inspiring article by David Cook is from AP – Reformed Thought for Christian Living

CHRISTIAN INSTITUTIONS

It is profoundly wrong that so many Christian institutions seem to be deliberately set up to insulate their leadership, from any private or public criticism, and designed to keep bad news from seeping out. It is past time for our institutions and our institutional leaders to act in ways that demonstrate they recognize and believe that our sinful nature applies to them as well to ordinary people.

Watchdog groups such as MinistryWatch and the Roys Report have extensively noted, many Christian ministries are run like family businesses. Ravi Zacharias’ ministry was a family affair: it was named after him, and his wife and several daughters were on the board or employed by the ministry at six-figure salaries. The same is true at Liberty University, where Jerry Falwell Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps and his son is a vice president. I could name many other similar Christian celebrities. The reality is the Christian celebrity culture is toxic.

Ravi Zacharias was the head of an international, $40-million-a-year apologetics ministry devoted to explaining and justifying Christianity to a watching world. The position brought him international fame and fortune. When he died there was an outpouring of hagiographies of him from Christian circles.

But increasingly, evidence shows that Ravi Zacharias was guilty of significant levels of adultery and sexual abuse, and lying. Ravi lied about his academic credentials, claiming degrees from Oxford and Cambridge, along with a fake doctorate. Worse was his years long sexting scandal with a married woman that he repeatedly lied about and, more recently, the discovery that he was a part-owner of a number of “massage clinics” where he sexually abused women.

Zacharias and his ministry apparently spent years denying, obfuscating, and covering up piles of evidence of his misconduct. Finally, after Ravi’s death, the executive committee of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries has admitted that there is credible evidence that he engaged in sexual misconduct for many years. In a statement clearly designed to claim a show of transparency, the board noted: “We are heartbroken at learning this but feel it necessary to be transparent and to inform our staff, donors, and supporters at this time, even while the investigation continues.”

In truth, the board seems to have been far from transparent. Only now, almost a year after Ravi’s death, and after years of obfuscation, has the board finally admitted that the stories about Ravi are true. To its credit, the board hired a law firm that has already investigated and authenticated many of the allegations and has engaged victim-advocate Rachael Denhollander as a consultant and a separate compliance firm to evaluate RZIM’s board. But frankly, for many, this comes far too late.

All about making disciples who in turn will make disciples

Thank goodness for the Francis Chan’s of this world who recognise that Jesus did not want an Institutional Church. He walked away from his church of 5000 to set up Home Churches without paid pastors or buildings. These churches are set up as the church is described in the Book of Acts. Look at the requirements Paul outlines for church leaders there. Also, the ante-Nicene churches were simple and free. They found their unity in wholehearted devotion to Christ, not in a systematic theology or set of doctrines.

The Last Reformation Movement initiated by Torben Sondergaard is a good example of what God is doing in these last days. Take a look at my recent post “Obedience and Listening to the Holy Spirit” and watch the video. It gives two great testimonies of the type of people God is using to complete the Great Commission before Jesus returns.