Sermon notes

‘Steps to being a Missional Church'

...studies in Acts about the life of the Early Church

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship,

to the breaking of bread and to prayer.'       Acts 2 v 42 (NIV)

Part 1 – ‘Church United' – Acts 2 vs. 42-47                                                              8th January 2017

We started with a reflection on the upcoming 'Week of Prayer for Christian Unity,’ and commented that this was still needed because we remain far from united as Churches. Reflecting on the overall scene in early Acts, we asked why? We noted that their concern lay with teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer – there didn't seem to be anything else that was important and they were absolutely united by these ideals – it was what made them 'the perfect church.’ No other has ever had that phrased used of them that 'every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved. Our conclusion really was that 'intentional time' should be sought and savoured with friends from other Churches around us.

Part 2 – ‘Church Bold' – Acts 4 vs. 23-31                                                                15th January 2017

We considered the aftermath of Peter & John's first arrest, and the fact that rather than being more careful – they prayed for even more boldness. They did so reflecting on God's Lordship, the Gospel they had been charged to preach and the power that was upon them to perform miracles. We faced up to the questions of today in our 'politically correct' society, and concluded that – still today – nothing should prevent us from being bold in speaking for Jesus. The Church has always grown in such times, and we should take no account 'who' we are speaking to. The Early Church makes no distinction and everybody needs Jesus. We also considered that lifestyle and behaviour were 'no barrier' to having access to the preaching of the gospel. Lifestyle questions come 'much later'...

Part 3 – ‘Church Authorised' – Acts 6 vs. 1-7                                                         22nd January 2017

Our next reflection on the Early Church saw them deciding to appoint assistant leaders – or Deacons – this was a crucial moment, as the Apostles had for obvious reasons, always been in charge. We observed that whilst these men were appointed for 'book-keeping,' they were intentionally chosen as those with a strong faith and character and full of the Holy Spirit. Often we want to choose people for different tasks based on 'the task that needs to be done,’ rather than the person of character who is there. All Christians are called not to do a job for the church, but to fulfil their ministry under Christ. We also talked about the importance of the Church Members’ meeting, with its understanding that all have a right to be a part of the ministry of Bethany.

Part 4 – ‘Church Taught' – Acts 8 vs. 4-13                                                               29th January 2017

To consider what was the basis of the teaching done by the early Church, we looked at Philip's ministry in Samaria; the infamous area between Judah and Galilee which had become a by-word in Israel for the heathen ('The Good Samaritan'). Philip went there, and simply preached 'the Messiah' – Jesus 'the man' – not one Saviour or one answer, but 'the answer.’ We observed that his teaching came 'with power,' and however 'powerless' we might feel – speaking for Jesus always has the intrinsic power of God. We also noted the incident with Simon, who himself had influence and power in that region – but saw a 'great power' in Philip and his ministry. We noted that still today other powers may be around us, and have a great deal of influence, but they are still dwarfed by the power of God in Jesus Christ our Saviour – and this is the script we should stick to always.

Part 5 – ‘Church Fellowship' – Acts 11 vs. 19-26                                                   5th February 2017

In a specific consideration of what 'missional fellowship' might look like, we certainly moved away from our closed understanding of tea and coffee 'together,’ and toward an assessment of 'who we are reaching out to.' We looked at the inspirational character of Barnabas in the Early Church - a man who was always in the background, but yet inspired thousands by his simple faith, and practical encouragement. Upon his first arrival in Antioch, he observed that God's power was with those preaching 'creatively' to Gentiles and encouraged that. He didn't take over, or presume them to be in error. If God's power was seen in them, he simply encouraged them. We concluded by this that real fellowship has a consideration of who God is working within, and where his power lies.  As we meet together, it must be to seek out God's will and directive for the Church. Everything else is not really proper fellowship!

Part 6 – ‘Church breaking bread' – Matthew 14 vs. 13-21                                 12th February 2017   

Whilst this emphasis clearly included Communion, we observed a wider application of the term to include all 'fellowship meals.' The early Church seems to have always shared Communion 'after' a regular meal altogether.  We looked at Jesus' incentive toward his Disciples at the incident of the feeding of the 5000, where there is a clear challenge that they should feed 'bodies' as well as souls. This was after a day of intense work and we noted that Jesus compelled them to 'go the extra mile' with the food in spite of tiredness. We reflected that we may have lost the ability simply to eat together and we have certainly lost the ability to share food 'for our Community.' Times may have changed but people's needs have not. We also noted that Jesus was able to profoundly bless 'even a little' offered in love. When we go the extra mile to feed someone, and they see it – God can multiply what little we do within them.

Part 7 – ‘Church at Prayer' – Acts 14 vs. 21-28                                                      27nd February 2017

What exactly was the Early Church in Acts praying for, and about? We know they spent much time in prayer, but it is not really elaborated on. We considered the journeys of Paul and Barnabas and the fact that they appointed Elders in each Church, and with 'prayer and fasting' commissioned them to serve, to lead and to inspire the congregation. We considered the poor state of corporate prayer in Bethany overall. The prayers that are offered generally only really seem to focus on persons in need in the fellowship, and never for its leaders to truly lead and guide the church under God. We looked at the types of leaders appointed in those congregations and really focused on the Minister and Elders who are the 'spiritual leaders' of Bethany. Corporate prayers, when they are looking missionally, should begin with our existing spiritual leaders.