Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Church - Set & Sent


We know that the New Testament is a snapshot of one Church, the first Church, and the evangelistic work they accomplished in their generation.

Jesus chose 12 men to be with Him … (Mark 3:14) – called Disciples

These Disciples were the makings of His new Church

Jesus said “Upon this rock I will build My Church …” (Matthew 16:18)

Then He was arrested, tried, sentenced, executed, buried, and rose again on the 3rd day victorious over death, hell and the grave.

The primary thing on the mind of the “Victorious” Jesus is readily recognizable … the building of His Church, which is His Body.

The last words Jesus spoke were clear instructions to begin the building. These instructions are the only marching orders we received from our Lord.

Matthew 28
18  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19  "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20  "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

The heart of this “Great Commission” is simply to go and make disciples – why … because only disciples will make the Church unstoppable so that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the family of God in the earth.

Knowing that the New Testament covers a period of only about 40 years, one generation, we realize that it is a snapshot of what every generation is called to accomplish. We have heard this over and over but for the sake of those who may be hearing it for the first time allow me to reiterate.

The Old Testament covers a period of about 4000 years, from the creation in Genesis to the coming of Messiah. It is a God inspired, God ordained, God empowered narrative account of God bringing Messiah to a lost and hurting world … a 4000 year account.

The New Testament however, is a picture of only about 40 years. If we begin with Jesus calling His first disciples all the way to about AD67 when the Apostles Peter and Paul had already been martyred and the volume of the New Testament had been penned, that’s about 40 years.

Now during that 40 year period those disciples whom Jesus chose began by forming a home group. They taught them the Word of God, how to pray, the power of unity and the burden of ministry. This home group began to send out witnesses first to the streets of their city, on to the surrounding cities and states and then finally around the whole world.

During that one generation those initial few followers of Jesus took the Gospel and won souls, planted churches and made disciples in Jerusalem, Samaria, Caesarea, Cyprus, Turkey, Asia, Rome, Corinth, Philippi, the regions of Galatia, Thessalonica, Pergamos, Laodicea, Ephesus, Athens, Antioch, Ethiopia, and the whole known world … in only 40 years they reached the world with the Gospel … and not even one of those boys owned a bicycle!!!

How did they do it? Discipleship … by following the instructions of Jesus. You see, Jesus has a strategy … He knows that by making disciples we build the church – we make disciples, disciples make the church.

Allow me to show you what I mean: (References in the NT)

KJV                          Disciple*          Church*

The Gospels                  233                    3

Acts                              31                     22

Epistles & Beyond            0                     90

The “Great Commission” accomplished the “One Vision” of Jesus in the first generation. His Church was built on Disciples. Making Disciples still builds the Church … Disciples become the Church!

Two great truths about the Church that Jesus builds – the Church Jesus builds is:

1.  A God Set Church

1 Corinthians 12:18  But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

It is evident that a Church filled with Disciples, a Church that is built on Discipleship, those who are fully devoted followers of Christ, would be a God established, God ordered, God called, God ordained, God disciplined, God set Church.

2.  A God Sent Church

The Great Commission is still the only marching orders God ever gave the Church.  Certainly there is order and structure and discipline in the Church, just as though it was the Army of God – but the order is for purpose … so that the Kingdom can be enhanced through discipleship and advanced by missions.

Acts 15:22 Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.

No greater pattern was ever given the Church than the example provided by the Church at Antioch. Theologians from all ages of the Church agree that the Antioch principle was set forth by the Holy Spirit to be our guide for Kingdom Expansion and the furtherance of the Gospel so that the Church of Jesus can continue to be built upon the Rock where the gates of hell cannot prevail. What is the Antioch Principle?

Acts 13
1 ¶  Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
2  As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
3  Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

The challenge for every believer is to trust the truth – trust not only God’s Word but also God’s way.

God wants to set you in the Church as it pleases Him. You might say … “How do I know which Church God wants me in?” Good question –

Church is family. There are three basic ways to become a part of a family.
·        Birth
·        Marriage
·        Adoption

Some of you have been in other Churches in the past, churches no doubt where you felt like family and some perhaps where you didn’t. Church is designed by God to be like family.

Just like some of you have been in other Churches in the past, some of you have also had the experience of being in other families in the past as well. In fact, if statistics hold true, one half of those of you who are married have been married to someone else before being married to the person to whom you are now married … providing you are now married.

The question we might ask God concerning which Church He wants us to be set in might well be asked in the same light as to “Who do you want me to be married to?” – or – “Which family do you want me to be a part of?”

I can tell you with all confidence and assurance, God’s best, if it is at all possible, is for you to be a part of the Church to which you are now joined just like He wants you to be a part of the family to whom you are now related. Family hopping, spouse hopping or Church hopping is never the best idea. If something happens to alter the family relationship – let it be something God does and do not uproot your own life.

That is what it means to be “God Set” … what about “God Sent”?

There are times when families branch out and children leave home to birth or be joined to a new family. These times should be times of joy, expectation and agreement. Far too often however, families and Churches are split and relationships lost and future joys forfeited because of disagreements which cause separation. These things ought not to be in families and neither should they be experienced in the Church of the Living God. Divorce is a tragedy and even though there is life after and many go on to enjoy great blessings in life, nonetheless it was not God’s will from the beginning.

So, what am I saying concerning this Disciple filled family of God we call the Church? …
·        Let God set your heart where you are
·        Decide that only God will ever send you

Then, just simply follow the Bible pattern – be a disciple of Christ and build the Church!

(Some are set and sent … others just got and went!)