I preached Sunday, March 30th at Clayton Presbyterian Church in Clayton, North Carolina. My text was Acts 11:1-18 as part of a series in the book of Acts. I would argue that this is one of the most important texts on the church in mission in the New Testament.
The iTunes link is Clayton Presbyterian Church Podcasts (will only work if you have iTunes - a free program - installed on your computer).
The direct link is Clayton Presbyterian Church Sermons - you can download the sermon there or listen to it streaming.
I have also made a copy of the recording and put it here.
In the sermon, I suggest we appreciate the passion for un-churched people that seeker-driven churches embody. I also suggest, however, that there is real value in churches that are very diverse and ignore the seeker-driven philosophy of reaching a specific target audience. I suggest that Acts 11:1-18 (which essentially retells Acts 10) in which Cornelius, the Gentile centurion comes to faith in Jesus, exemplifies what mission in the church should be like. Not only are unbelievers reached but diverse ones. I suggest that the Acts 10-11 narrative can serve as a paradigm as we think about the mission of our churches.
Here are some of the points I draw out from the narrative: Change is hard. We all like to stay in our comfort zones. Prayer is where it starts but our prayers are often weak. We are prodded by the Spirit to obey what is clear. We are to do this work with others. The message of Jesus is simple. The Spirit goes before us. What can we do to get out of the way so that people can see Jesus?
Additional notes on some of the examples in the sermon:
- I mention Donald McGavran - one of the founders of the Church Growth Movement
- Saddleback Church - I reflected a bit about Rick Warren's book The Purpose Driven Church at Strengths of the Purpose Driven Church and Sober Advice For Those Considering the Megachurch.
- I reflect more on this issue of having a target audience at: Why pastors should be both goal-setting fanatics and goal-setting cynics
- Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community in Pittsburgh, PA
- I mention in passing the difficulty of change in organizations (including churches) and list a number of business book titles that try to address this problem. Perhaps the one to start with is: Kotter, John P. Leading Change. Harvard Business School Press, 1996.
The quotes I used in the message that you might enjoy.
There is the old pastor’s legend about the pastor who wanted to move the piano to the other side of the sanctuary and the way he got away with it was by moving it an inch every week. Source: I can't remember where I heard this one.
Pastors often overestimate what they can change in one year but underestimate what they can change in five years. Source: I first heard this from Sandy Millar at Holy Trinity Brompton Church but I don't think it was original to him.
Erik Erikson “all change is perceived as loss.” Source: internet.
If you find the perfect church, don’t join it or it will no longer be perfect. Source: I can't remember.
Like Noah’s ark, it stinks being inside but it is still better than being outside. Source: I can't remember.
Mark Twain: "It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand." Source: internet.
- G.K Chesterton: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” Source: internet.