It is that time of year when churches are hustling, planning, and preparing for the new semester, the kick-off of the Fall activities. As we make those plans, it is vitally important for us as a church to know “who” we are, for us to know God’s purpose for this particular church. Many churches today are dying fast because they don’t have a clue as to who they are or what they are called to be in their community. Other churches are growing rapidly, but we need to understand that growth doesn’t necessarily mean that we are being faithful to God’s call for us as a church.
We could put together a great line-up of high profile celebrities and schedule them to appear at Britton Christian Church in the Fall. We could create a theme, something like, “Guess Who’s Coming to BCC?” We could follow the theme with a media campaign that gets the message out to all of Oklahoma City. How about lining up Kevin Durant for September? Think that would pack the house? Turning to October, does anyone know anybody that knows Justin Bieber? If we could get Justin to come to BCC we might have to pull out some chairs! How about November? November is “election season” so let’s think who we might get to come and visit us…Let’s shoot for the moon! How about President Obama and Mitt Romney? December means Christmas, right? How about we get Santa Claus to come and share his testimony in morning worship?
I will assure you that if we could secure that line-up that we would set all-time attendance records at BCC, but is that what God has called us to do? Is merely packing the house God’s purpose for us as a church? If our church is nothing more than a well-programmed social club or an entertainment venue for Christians in Oklahoma City then we’ve missed the boat. We need to focus on God’s business for Britton Christian Church and not the entertainment business.
According to Noah Webster, “Business” is defined as: 1. An occupation, trade, or profession. 2. Any of the various operations or details of trade or industry. 3. A commercial enterprise or establishment engaged in such operation; a firm, factory, store, etc. 4. Work; employment; serious pursuits.
Now it is not difficult for us to stop and assess the business of “big business.” Apple. AT&T. Chesapeake or Devon. The name of the game is to raise profit margins and reduce excess spending. Work hard, dream big, plan in detail, and execute the plan without flaw. In short, find a better, cheaper, more reliable, and more efficient way to build the “mousetrap.” This isn’t news to any of us is it?
It isn’t hard for us to talk about the business of education either. When Connie and I sent Annie off to school on Friday morning for the first day of school we did so with the utmost confidence that her teachers have a lesson plan for the year. Annie’s teachers know what they want to accomplish by the end of the year. They know what they want their students to learn. For Annie’s teachers to achieve their goals they are going to have to execute their lesson plans, they are going to have to communicate with the students in a way that is understandable, and they are going to have to be committed regardless of the price to be paid. As a teacher of students, any age students, the teacher must not only have a plan, but the teacher must also have a passion for what they are doing. We don’t have any problem talking about the business of education. As a matter of fact, we take seriously the business of education. Parents get up in arms when “business is bad” in the schoolhouse.
Although we are quite comfortable talking about the business of the world around us, many of us get quite uncomfortable when someone brings up talking about the business of the church. For many folks the church exists in a vacuum; immune and inoculated from the processes and procedures which hopefully all institutions and establishments employ in being faithful with the resources entrusted to them. Many Christians say “The church isn’t a business and we shouldn’t treat it like one.” I’m not suggesting that church leaders go to the Harvard Business School to learn how to be a more effective in leading God’s people. What I am saying is this: The Body of Christ must return to God’s Word if we want to be effective and faithful to the call of God for us in this world. This morning we are going to take a look at “The Business Of The Church.” Take out your Scripture and let’s read together from Acts 2:42-47.
(42) They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (43) Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. (44) All the believers were together and had everything in common. (45) Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. (46) Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, (47) praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NIV)
The believers that we read about and study in God’s Word were not wandering generalities who just stumbled into church on Sundays—they were folks with a purpose and a plan. They knew what they believed and they were so convinced of who Jesus was, and what He had called them to do and be, that two thousand years later that little group of believers has impacted the entire world. There is absolutely no reason why you and I can’t impact a city if we will only study, pray, witness, worship, minister to the many needs of those around us, and share our passion for our Savior with others. Do you believe it? I certainly do. We need to understand the business of the Church and then we, each and every one of us, need to commit ourselves to getting involved with the ministries of this local Body of believers. Let’s see if we can begin to define the “business” of the Church in the time we have left this morning.
The Business of the Church is Learning.
In Acts 2:42 we read, “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching…” For any church to be faithful it must be a studying church. For any church to be faithful and effective it must be a church that is committed to living out God’s Word. God has not called us to reach people with the Gospel, add to our numbers,and then turn around and walk away. He has given us the Bible as a guide to light our path as we move forward in this world.
For much of the Church in America today we have lost our way. We have made our primary goal filling buildings instead of changed lives. We have people who are joining our churches after years of wandering aimlessly through life, but all too often we welcome them into the church and never challenge them to truly become a disciple and a student of Jesus’ teaching. As a result, we have people, some of whom are here this morning, who know more about Lady Ga Ga, Kevin Durant, and Mark Zuckerberg than they know about Jesus. They know The Daily Oklahoman far better than they know the Bible. The reason for this is because they have a disciplined daily routine of reading The Oklahoman, but they haven’t picked up a Bible since the last time they were in church. I want you to know that I don’t necessarily count that as an indictment against you, but I do believe our churches have failed us in that it is the business of pastors and church leaders to make the teaching ministry of the church alive and meaningful. As a leader here at Britton Christian Church it is my responsibility to convey a sense of urgency to you so that you might have a greater desire to study God’s Word for yourself. I hope I continually communicate to each of you the tremendous need we all have for a daily disciplined study time in God’s Word.
I have heard so many people say, “I’ve tried to read the Bible, but I just can’t understand it.” There are so many new study helps which have become available in the past few years that we don’t have that excuse anymore. There are Christian bookstores with tons of Study Bibles and study aids to help you understand God’s Word. The internet is full of sites that are there for you and me to use to dig into God’s Word. Alongside of these helps, we have lots of Bible studies here at Britton Christian Church for those who want to learn God’s Word. We have Bible studies on Sunday morning for people of all ages. We have K-Groups that meet all over the city on Sunday night for those who want to grow in their walk with the Lord. There is a Young Mother’s Bible study that meets on Monday mornings and a Men’s Bible study that meets on Tuesday morning at 6:30 am. We offer Bible studies on Wednesday night for those who want to learn God’s Word and grow in their relationship with other believers. You will not believe the incredible things to be learned if you will only dedicate yourself to learning.
The Business of the Church is Fellowship.
In Acts 2:42, we learn that the early followers of Jesus devoted themselves to the “apostle’s teacher and to the fellowship.” The word “koinonia” means “fellowship, common, or shared.” Fellowship is not just a gathering of people. People gather for many different reasons; some good and others not so good, some joy-filled, and others riddled with pain. Every single day there are gatherings that happen all over our city. Some gather at the hospital to pray for their loved one and listen to the doctor’s diagnosis. Others gather at the glass to get a peek at the new born bundle of joy while others gather at the cemetery to bid their last goodbyes through tear-filled eyes. Kids gather in the gym to play basketball. Employees gather around the vending machines during break time. Recovering addicts gather at AA and NA meetings all over town. Athletes gather around their coaches and students gather in the classroom.
Each gathering place presents a common focus which draws the people to the gathering. We who are followers of Jesus have gathered here this morning with a common focus as well. We have had our lives changed by Jesus. Our lives have been changed by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our lives have been changed by the love of our Savior who willingly gave His life for each of us. The “koinonia” which has caused you to roll out of bed this morning while others simply rolled over is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. That one event draws each of us, from all walks of life, to gather together for the purpose of sharing our Christian walk together. Our fellowship consists of praising God together for His wonderful grace and mercy, encouraging one another, sharing our victories, and comforting one another in our setbacks. The business of the church is fellowship. Let’s move on.
The Business of the Church is Communion.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread…” If I were to conduct a poll this morning and ask each of you to name the business of the church I am certain hardly anyone would list the Lord’s Table as one of the priorities for the church. Communion is vitally important for the church because it is in communion that we as individuals withdraw from our frenzied daily routines of rushing about and taking care of business into the quiet solitude of being alone with the Lord and reflecting on our lives in relation to Him. During communion I am alone with God yet united with the Body of believers who claim Jesus as Lord of their lives. The business of the church is communion.
The Business of the Church is Prayer.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The first century Christians knew they did not have the power to go out into a hostile world, stand tall, and move forward with the Good News they had gained. They had to trust in God to give them the strength. Jesus had set the example for them in the three years He had taught them about the Kingdom. Listen to this…
(23) After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. Whey evening came, He was there alone… (Matthew 14:23 NIV)
(13) Then little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. (Matthew 19:13 NIV)
(24) Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (25) And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. (Mark 11:24-25 NIV)
(12) One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. (Luke 6:12 NIV)
(1) After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” (John 17:1 NIV)
If there is a need in our church today it is for people to commit their lives to prayer. How many of us have taken time to lift someone up to God in prayer this week? We must discipline ourselves to fellowship with God through prayer. Prayer is not simply a time when we go to God with our “wish list.” It is also a time when we get direction and guidance from God concerning perplexing situations in our life. If we will “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10) then God will speak to us in prayer and guide us down the right path.
There is tremendous power in prayer. I hope you get a glimpse of God’s power as each Sunday we reach our hands out to one another and lift our hearts up to God. As we join together we are strengthened and encouraged to continue on because we are not alone. The business of the church is prayer.
The Business of the Church is Action.
In verse 43 we read, “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” Things happen in the church. The early Christians were filled with “awe, reverence, even fear” when they considered their powerful experiences with God. In the beginning of Acts 2, it wasn’t the perky personality of Peter which moved the masses of people on Pentecost; it was the power of the Holy Spirit of God moving and working in the lives of the people. God worked in the lives of the people and demonstrated His power in a unique way. God’s power did not cease at Pentecost. It didn’t fade into nonexistence when Paul was executed. God’s power was manifested through timid Timothy. The kindness of Onesiphorus displayed the power of the King. Priscilla’s work with the people demonstrated the mighty power of God. God is at work throughout the world today. In every corner of the globe you will find followers of Jesus whose love for their Savior has led them to action.
We can begin right at home. Do you know what is going on at Britton Christian Church? Did you know people are finding long awaited hope after years of hopelessly wandering aimlessly through life? Did you know each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, and into the evening, students, from grade school through high school are gathering here at Britton Christian Church to do their homework and to get help from tutors who volunteer their time? Those who volunteer their time do so because they know that 50% of the kids in this neighborhood will never graduate from high school and that is unacceptable to them. Our volunteers believe that God has gifted the kids in our neighborhood, they are bright, smart kids, but they need help. They also believe that God has called them to sacrifice their time in order to help. God is at work at Britton Christian Church!
Do you know that beginning in just a few weeks there will be over one hundred folks who will leave their homes each Sunday evening and come together in one of our K-Groups? We began our K-Group ministry last year and I couldn’t believe the stories I heard on a weekly basis about how the Lord was working in the lives of those who gathered to study His Word, pray for one another, and share life together. I can’t wait to see what the Lord is going to do this semester!
Did you know that each Sunday morning following our worship service there are a group of folks who gather in the Parlor to pray with the sick? There are folks who are suffering from all kinds of ailments who find hope and encouragement as these committed prayer warriors take time to lift them up in prayer. God is at work at Britton Christian Church!
The Business of the Church is Sharing.
In Acts 2:44-45 we read, (44) All the believers were together and had everything in common. (45) Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” I have heard some folks talk about the comparison of verses 44-45 and communism, but let me point out one major difference — the sharing of the believers is voluntary, not forced. We as followers of Jesus have been challenged to give when we see a need. This is an awful hard pill to swallow for many people. I’ve heard some say things like, “I’ve worked hard for everything I’ve got and if someone wants nice things, let them get it the same way I did — let them earn it!” “I see the programs on T.V. about the night shelters and food pantries, but I just have to believe they are in their shape because they want to be.” Those of you nodding your head and saying, “Amen” would probably have a problem with me saying, “You need to be every bit as concerned about the man or woman on the street or your next door neighbor as you are yourself.” If you’ve got a problem with me then you would really have a problem with Jesus. When Jesus told the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, He said, when talking about the Goats,
(41) “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (42) For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, (43) I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” (Matthew 25:41-43 NIV)
The business of Britton Christian Church is sharing. For the longest time many of you have probably gotten tired of hearing me say, “Britton Christian Church is called to be the lighthouse of hope in this community.” I haven’t stopped saying those words and I won’t because I believe it with every fiber of my being. The Church today has turned away in many respects from being who we are called to be, but I don’t want us to make that mistake. We are called to reach out to those that no one else is willing to love, serve those that nobody else is willing to serve, and share with everyone the Good News of our King! Let it shine!
The Business of the Church is Worship.
In Acts 2:46 we read, (46) “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” A church without worship is like a flower without water, a frog without a pond, a boy without a dog, and the sky without the sun. You have probably heard me say many times, in as many settings, “We are to go into the world with ready hands — sharing, working, helping, praying all during the week, but on Sunday we come to celebrate.” Sunday is the time to celebrate! We are worshipping our God for His mighty love and compassion on His people and this world. It is so important for us to never neglect the privilege of worshipping our God. The business of the church is worship.
The Business of the Church is Joy.
(46)…“They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, (47) praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” Did you hear that? “Glad and sincere hearts.” Are we a people with glad and sincere hearts? It is so important for us to be people who possess a genuine joy about life. So many folks wouldn’t know joy if it ran over them, much less possess it. The reason for this is because joy comes from Jesus — not from financial security, relationships with loved ones, or community prestige. All of these that I’ve just mentioned only provide momentary joy and happiness. Those who find their joy in Jesus are the like the Macedonian believers that Paul described in his letter to the folks in Corinth. Paul says,
(1)And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. (2) Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. (2 Corinthians 8:1-2 NIV)
Their joy was mixed in with the most severe trial and extreme poverty and yet the result was something no one could have imagined…rich generosity. Can you imagine? It is joy of Jesus which enables us to rise above the daily hassles and pains of this life. The experiences of life can certainly make you bitter, but with the joy of Jesus mixed-in, life can make you better. Lemons will rain down from the sky to try and make you sour, but with the joy of Jesus mixed-in, lemonade will sweeten your life. The business of the church is joy.
When the church goes about its business and actively seeks to live in fellowship and harmony with God’s will for the Body then folks will come. At the end of our Scripture this morning we read, (47)…And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47 NIV) It is my prayer that we will be about the business of the church beginning today. I am certain God will greatly add to this congregation those who need to hear Good News, hope, faith, mercy, and direction for their life. Offer your life before the King and allow Him to use you in the life of the church so that others might come to know Him and grow in their walk with Him.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
August 19, 2012