Monday, January 27, 2014

We Are The Church

                Our women’s group has been studying the book of Acts. If you have read any of my posts recently you will have already been aware of this fact. The book of Acts is an amazingly powerfully book about the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the lives of the early church. Many commentators that I have read have said that this book is the foundation of the Church; others say that it should have been called the Book of The Holy Spirit’s work, and some have said that it should be called the Book of the Apostles
Acts. All of them are true, and correct. The book of Acts is a book about the early church, it is a book about the Holy Spirit’s work in the lives of people, and it is a book that tells us what the Apostles and first believers in Christ did. But the book of Acts is more than just a historical account, the book of Acts is a book given to each individual believer to be a guide and an example of what ministry, missions, and service to our God is supposed to look like.
                The theme of Acts is found in verse 8. Jesus, getting ready to ascend to heaven, and take His seat on the right hand of the Father says to His disciples, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NKJV) Here, in these words, is not only found the theme of this book, but the purpose and the mission of every Christian upon this earth. We are to be witnesses for His sake.
                This has created quite a discussion among many of us who attend the study. We have talked about what it means to be a witness, what true ministry means, what the power of the Holy Spirit means in our lives, just to name a few. But one thing that has stuck out to all of us, as we have traveled from chapter 1 verse 8 into the next few chapters is the fact that the believers acted on what God spoke to them. They stepped out and stepped up and did the work that Jesus told them to do. They went out and they became witnesses for Christ.
                Sometimes I think we get so caught up in doing ministry within the church buildings that we forget we are the Church and we are to be doing ministry all the time. I may not have a title over my head, or a church building that supports the work that the Lord is doing through me, but I have a ministry none the less. That ministry is to serve the lost, the broken, and the lonely people that God is reaching out for. I think too
many of us think that it is the Churches responsibility to start ministries, to volunteer for certain needs, and to fulfill the needs of the lost. But Jesus clearly tells us in Acts 1:8 that it is our mission, because we are the church.
              We are the church. We do not need to keep our service to God limited within the confines of a building.  We are the body of Christ, we are His hands, His feet, His voice, and we are to be doing the work that He has called us to do- be witnesses for Him. Jon Courson writes about a church in France during World War II whose pastor understood the importance of being the body of Christ. “During World War II, a church in France was bombed by Luftwaffe. When the war concluded, the people in the community cleared away the rubble and found a statue of Jesus, the base of which was inscribed with these words, ‘Come unto Me, all ye that are weary.’ It was remarkably preserved except for both hands, which had been destroyed. Hearing of this, the sculptor whose work it was, immediately offered to replace the hands. But the pastor wisely declined. And so it was that the statue was returned to its original position in front of the church, but with a new inscription that read: He has no hands on earth but ours, for we are His body.” (Jon Courson, New Testament Commentary, Acts 3, pg. 635)
His hands are your hands. We do not have to wait for our local church to tell us about the opportunities to serve Him and to serve others. Step up and step out and be the church that Jesus is calling us to be. There are thousands upon thousands of people in our world today who need to see Jesus, who need someone to take a few hours out of their day to minister to them, give them warm clothing, pray with them, feed them a hot meal. Why has serving Jesus Christ become more about what the “church” allows, rather than what Christ desires? I have actually had a pastor of a church tell me “we don’t do that kind of ministry” in regards to helping the homeless. If we can’t offer a few cans of food and a few warm blankets to the homeless because it’s not the kind of ministry the church wants to do, then maybe we should find a different church.
                I hear so many women tell me that they want to serve God, they want to get involved and act on what the Lord is showing them, but their church doesn’t use them, or they don’t have a ministry that they can get involved in. In what place in the book of Acts does it tell us to only serve within the confines of a building? It doesn’t, because that is not what church was ever intended to be. Church is who you are- it is not a building, or a name, or a denomination- church is you. You are the church. We are His hands, His feet, His love, His mercy and His forgiveness, and we are to be witnesses to all those whom He sends our way. How many times have we seen an opportunity to serve within our communities but have walked away because our home church doesn’t do that kind of ministry? Why are we waiting on the leaders and elders of our churches to act before we do?
                I believe that we have become so focused on church that we have forgotten that we are the church. Instead of waiting for someone to help that homeless person on the corner, why don’t you? Give them a warm blanket next time you see them, or spend a few dollars and buy them a hot meal. Why is being the church so difficult for those of us being churched today? Because we have forgotten what it means to be the church. One of the things that I appreciate most about my pastor is that he encourages us to go out. He is constantly telling us that we are the church and we need to go out and be the church. If God is calling you to minister to the homeless, or to the elderly, or to the lost youth, wherever it is that you are feeling led to do, go, do what He is calling you to do. You do not have to wait for your home church to approve the ministry or to pray over whether or not that is a ministry they want to get involved in. You go and be the church.

                I am passionate about this, that is true, and I am sure that passion comes through in my writing. The main reason is that I see a lost, broken and hurting world full of people who need Jesus. And so many churches today are trying to play church instead of being the church. We have to step out of our comfort zones, we have to take church out of the box we have placed it in and become the church He has called us to be. We have to stop letting man lead us, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, just as He did the disciples and Apostles in the book of Acts. There is no power in the church today because we have placed that power in a box and put guidelines, rules and regulations on it. But God is calling each of us today to step out of that box and be the church. We are His hands, we are His feet. The question is whether or not we are willing to be the body that He has called us to be?

                I pray today that we would come to that place where we hear and listen for the leading of the Holy Spirit. That we would step out of our boxes and be the church, be the body of Christ to those whom He brings our way. May the Lord Jesus Christ through the power of His Holy Spirit give you the wisdom, the power and the strength to Act. In Jesus name, Amen and Amen.