On Sunday, January 17, lead pastor Jeff Noble launched our new study called Acts: The Sent Church [podcast here]. After a multiyear study of the Old Testament books of Kings and Chronicles concluded last summer, our church has been eager to study Acts. Whereas the former study focused on the history of the people of God as Israel, the Acts study focuses on the people of God as the church.
Jeff introduced the study with this short video by the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama:
Jeff said as we study this book of the record of the birth, life and growth of the first century church, it would not only be informational but inspirational for us as the 21st century church. He listed the following areas as particular ways that we would grow in our application:
- God’s Glory
Ultimately, there is no other means that God has given humanity for them to know Him except through the church. Scripture was given through the church. The mission is accomplished through the church.
Studying Acts is an essential foundation for our understanding of what it means to be the church! First century Christianity has much to offer the reinvigoration of 21st century Christianity.
What this means is that Acts is a book that outlines how we can magnify God as life’s ultimate joy. We ignore it at our own loss of joy. As we study the lives of people within its pages, we’ll see that the growth of the church and the glory of God are not exclusive of the suffering of His saints.
Jeff quoted Michael Green, author of Thirty Years that Changed the World, who said about Acts, “It rebukes our preoccupation with buildings and ministerial pedigree, our syncretism and pluralism, our lack of expectancy and vibrant faith.”
After walking us through an overall outline of the book of Acts, Jeff offered several questions which the early church dealt with which will also be powerfully relevant for us as well:
- How do you lead thousands to become mature Christ-followers in a short amount of time?
- How do you keep the main thing the main thing? (making disciples of new people, everywhere)
- Even deeper, how do you overcome racial and societal prejudices as diverse people are reached?
- How do leaders release authority to new leaders?
- How do you organize for effective ministry?
- How do you equip and train every believer to find a place in life and ministry to glorify God and bless others?
- How do you deal with crushing disappointment?
- How do you handle intentional antagonism and even persecution?
- Where is God when it hurts?
Emphasizing the church in Acts was a church on the move, he urged us to remember that God’s purpose in forming the church, in having a people dedicated to Himself has always been one of mission.
“The Church is the pilgrim people of God. It is on the move – hastening to the ends of the earth to beseech all men to be reconciled to God, and hastening to the end of time to meet its Lord who will gather all into one… It cannot be understaood rightly expect in a perspective which is at once missionary and eschatological.” (John Stott)
After reading Acts 1:1-4 and highlighting Luke as its author, Jeff said that the timeframe of Acts, from Jesus’ ascension to Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, covers about 30 years. It’s amazing what God did through His people in that short amount of time! In fact, by the end of the first century, scholars say there were about 25,000 Christians, and by the year 300 AD, almost 20,000,000. How did they do it? That’s what the Acts series will address.
“If those first Christians could accomplish so much in so short a space of time with such skimpy resources, what might the worldwide church today accomplish if only it was prepared for the vision, the faith, and the dedication they exhibited?!” (Michael Green)
Jeff closed with comments by the “theologian” Dr. Seuss from How the Grinch Stole Christmas:
“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
Jeff had rewritten the Grinch’s dawning realization this way:
The intelligent, prosperous, connected 21st century Christian stared at his screen with his feet in his Uggs, puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?! The church grew without Twitter, without Facebook or movies. It grew without websites or Chris Tomlin tune-sies. It grew without Matts (Chandler, Redman or Smay), . It grew without conferences, buildings or tats. And the intelligent, prosperous, connected 21st century Christian puzzled and puzzled ‘till his smartphone distracted him once more. When he gathered his senses, he thought, what if church doesn’t come from a meeting? What if church means a whole lot more?
We are excited about the launch of the Acts series! Join us on Sundays in the days ahead or keep up with our podcasts on it.