Published November 1, 2012
Acts 13:1-4; 14:21-28
Bible Studies for Life, Nov. 18
I used to hang up on telemarketers a lot – until I became one.
One of my first jobs was working for Idleman Telemarketing – a now-defunct company in my hometown of Omaha, NE. My job was to cold call random people and sell them Sprint long distance service.
I got hung up on a lot, but also realized when they listened to me it was: 1.) Because they already had a relationship with the company, and 2.) I was offering them something better.
Back then I loathed such jobs. But now I recognize they were tools God used to prepare me for Kingdom purpose.
Transformational churches do not just sign up “members.” They make disciples. And yes, the difference is huge!
Often the church is like the random telemarketer who makes hundreds of fruitless phone calls before randomly landing on one or two that produce a positive result. Many local churches are being busy without being productive.
Many congregations place little emphasis on intentional relationship-building and disciple-making outside of the church – save an occasional door-to-door “cold calling” evangelism method.
And that has its place. But if the church is to be intentionally transformational in Kingdom building, it must also be strategic in where it goes, what it does, and Who it depends on.
Go where God sends - Acts 13:1-4
In Acts 13:4, we see that Barnabas, Simeon, Lucious, and Manaen were sent out by the Holy Spirit with Saul to a specific place to perform a specific ministry. They weren’t just randomly working and traveling. They made their way to Salamis for one reason: God told them to.
How did they know it was God? Verses two and three paint a picture of authentic worship to God as a prerequisite to receiving direction from Him.
A question I get asked is “How do you know God’s voice from another?” I often answer back with a question: “How do you know my voice from another?”
“Because I’ve talked with and spent time with you enough to learn what your voice sounds like.”
Then they often smile, knowing they’ve answered their own question.
We cannot go where God wants if we are not hearing God’s voice. We cannot hear his voice if we have not spent great amounts of time in His presence by prayer, fasting, worshiping, and studying His Word.
In Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest,” he wrote: “If we are to be disciples of Jesus, we must be made disciples supernaturally.”
In Jeremiah 33:3 God said: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”
These words are relevant to today’s Church that seeks to know the direction of God in Kingdom building efforts.
Grow people through teaching - Acts 14:21-22
When Paul and Barnabas got to Derbe in verse 21, then Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, Scripture tells us the method used to first bring people to Christ, and then grow people in Christ. It wasn’t through schemes or technology in a structured worship service. People in Derbe came into salvation simply through Paul and Barnabas’ preaching, while those in the other cities came into spiritual maturity through the apostles’ teaching. Evangelism and discipleship go hand in hand.
Paul and Barnabas did not preach a watered-down message for the sake of padding worship numbers or gaining popularity. When in their preaching and teaching they said to the people: “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (verse 22), they were giving the real, unbiased truth about life with Jesus. But with it, they also shared how the power of the Holy Spirit could help them thrive.
Statistics tell us that in the city of Atlanta, where I pastor, approximately 80 percent of the 5.2 million people are either unchurched, unsaved, or both. That means that those of us who pastor and serve here have our churches in the right places.
But perhaps our churches suffer to be transformational congregations because we are doing the wrong things to reach new souls despite being in the right place. We seem to quickly find many substitutes for the pure, unadulterated Word of God.
These apostles of the early church were successful because they worshiped God enough to hear His direction and obeyed God’s Spirit in their methods of ministry, building Word-centered relationships with new disciples despite the hardships Kingdom building often brings.
Connect to the Kingdom - Acts 14:23-28
Paul and Barnabas preached the Gospel to unbelievers, taught the Word of God thoroughly to help establish new believers, but then helped develop these believers into church leaders that would continue the transformational process.
We cannot perform the arduous task of Kingdom building alone. God desires all people to be saved through His Son, Jesus (1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). And in order for churches to become transformational through discipleship, they must be filled with people who are taught to share this same love for every sinner they meet.
After the Apostles finished their ministry, they hurried back to Antioch where the rest of the saints were gathered. They gladly shared their testimonies of the fruit of their ministries, giving God all the glory.
No doubt, hearing these spiritual success stories spurred the Church on and motivated others to find people with whom they could build transformational relationships with that were centered on the Word of God. By this, the Kingdom would be sure to continue expansion.
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