What comes to your mind when you hear the word church? Buildings? Meetings? Music? Sermons?
What comes to your mind if I say, “Let’s do church”? What would you do?
If you are not sure, if you even have to wonder for a moment, after this message you will know.
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Acts 17, verse 1, they’re going…if you look at that verse number 1, Paul and his band of evangelists are in Thessalonica and they’re going up to the synagogue, and Paul…it says in verse 2, went in and it described this phrase here, “…as was his custom.” He actually had a pattern, a methodology, a strategy that he did, and on three Sabbath days, three different weeks, he reasoned with them. Notice what he reasoned with them from what? I can wait… The Scriptures.
This is the foundational point he moves from.
Now, when you read Paul’s missionary methods, this is what he does. He says, “I try to find common ground with every man that by any means possible I may win some.” That was his strategy. I go in. I try to find what we have in common first.
Now what he did here is with these Jewish people, they had in common the Torah. They had in common the Old Testament. They had in common an understanding of the Messiah. Now in their world, their idea of the Messiah was not a suffering servant. It was not an idea of atonement. It was one who was going to come in, restore the kingdom, restore the kingdom to Israel, restore the throne to David, and in their mind that was what the Messiah was supposed to do.
What he does here, notice verse 3, “explaining and proving” that it was necessary for the Messiah. This is the king, the one who was prophesied in the Old Testament to suffer and to rise from the dead, saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Messiah.” Now that was his method. That was his methodology. He went in and found out what they had in common.
They did not have an inaccurate knowledge; although, it was partially inaccurate. They had an inadequate knowledge of who Jesus was. They shared some common ideas. They knew that God was YHWH. They knew God was… it monotheism. They knew the Old Testament was true. And he moved in and he landed on that hard common ground that was easy to start with. Then he used what they knew, and what they didn’t know…he moved them to that knowledge.
So many times our first approach is apologetics and polemics. No, that’s important. You may not know those words, but that’s kind of an important idea because sometimes…apologetics means this is why I’m right. Polemics means this is why you’re wrong. Okay. Now what if you’re right and they are wrong? How many of you are married? How many of you know that’s not really the best place to start? Yeah. You know, if you start there you’re moving backwards. It’s going downhill from there.
Now, if you start with, “We both love the kids. Alimony is expensive. Lawyers…I hate them.” Not specifically, just in general. Now that may not be much to work with, but it’s somewhere. Right? Amen? Now you’re saying, “Are you guys getting a divorce?” No, I’m not. But sometimes you have to say, “I love you, you love me. Remember why we got together.” Now here are what they… If you start off…it doesn’t work in marriage, it doesn’t work in business, it doesn’t work anywhere, but often times when it comes to sharing our faith, that’s what we want to do. We want to just go and, “Here’s why you’re wrong. Here’s why I’m right. And by the way, you’re going to hell.” And we say, “I wonder why things aren’t working too well?”
Well, you know what, when Jesus talked to the disciples He said this, “In the same way that my Father sent me, I am sending you.” Jesus is not just the message…He is, but He is also the method. It’s important. What Paul did was he took Jesus’ methods and the mandate, and he superimposed it on the very pattern of missions.
Some of them are persuaded, in verse 4, and they join Paul and Silas. And a lot of the Greeks were there who had not converted fully to the Jewish faith, but they were called God fearers. They had become monotheists. They weren’t quite ready to go all the way and become Jewish. In order to do that you had to get circumcised and it discouraged some of them. You think it’s hard to get people baptized.
Some of the leading women… And then it starts this whole…really a riot. One of the believers named Jason, in verse 6, when they couldn’t find Paul and Silas they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the civil authorities…now notice, these men, who have turned the world upside down have come here also. Wouldn’t you like that to be said about Grace? Wouldn’t you like that to be said about you? These people…they’ve turned the world upside down.
Do you ever have those moments when you just feel…glimpse…where everything feels right? Just like all is right with the world. For you young mothers, it’s probably when that baby goes to sleep. You know? And you kind of just take that deep breath. Or maybe you’re sitting out on the back porch eating homemade peach ice cream, and you say, “Yeah, everything is good.” I love…I know not everybody shares this. I love Atlanta. I like the humidity. I know I’m insane, but I love Atlanta. I feel like this place…I’m like a plant in its native soil. I love it.
Jody and I were downtown last night at Piedmont Park watching Paul McCartney…Sir Paul. It was raining. We had this blanket over our shoulders, and I’m listening to the rain hit the blanket, and my mind goes back to when I was a kid, and we would go camping up at Lake Lanier. Sometimes it would rain, and you’d just be laying there listening to the rain. And you’re family is in this little tent, and you say, “Yeah, things are right.”
And we were standing there under that blanket, and Paul is blazing out Baby I’m Amazed, you know, and I’m thinking, “Yeah, this is good. This is good.” And I’m looking out in front of me, and this guy comes wandering by, and he’s obviously really confused…an older gentleman. And he’s trying to find his folks. I reached out, and I put my hand on his shoulder and I said, “Hey, man, you okay?” He looks at me and says, “My name is Dave.” I said, “Hey, Dave.” He says, “I can’t find my people.” I said, “I’ll be your people.”
He obviously had Alzheimer’s, and I said, “Don’t go anywhere. Hang out right here. They’ll find you. There are a couple of songs left. Just don’t go anywhere, man. Stay right here with me.” He says, “My name is Dave.” I said, “Dave, you’ll be okay, man. Stay right here, man. Don’t go anywhere.” He said, “No, I have to go.” And he goes walking off down through the crowd.
You ever have those moments when you say, “That’s not right. That’s just not right.” Where you realize that all is not right with the world. We live in this messed up, broken…really, really broken world. Where there is homelessness and sickness and divorce and disease. We live in a town where they say it’s the number one city in the United States for child human trafficking. You might glimpse this beauty, these echoes of Eden, these moments where beauty breaks in and as soon as you enter those moments, you hear that brutality, and the reality that we are in, not Eden, but we are in a broken Eden.
We are in a broken world where some of our best and brightest are in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is something inside of us that cries out. Notice what verse 7 says, “And Jason has received them…” Look at this, “…and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” There is another king. Now, here’s what I want you to hear. We’re going to talk for a few minutes, but this is the major message. There is another king, and he is Jesus.
When you look at the Bible, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John…they are all called the gospels. When Jesus came, He announced the gospel. That word gospel…we’ve tried to figure out ways to translate it into the English, but it’s a little difficult because it’s not in our world. It’s the word euangelion. It was a Roman word. When the Roman Empire went into a place, and they took it over for Rome, they would ride up to the gates of the city, and they would announce the euangelion. The kingdom has arrived. The empire has arrived.
They didn’t actually knock on the door and say, “The empire has arrived, if it’s alright with you.” No, the empire is here. Probably the closest words we might find, or phrase that might fit, “It’s time for a regime change.” Let me tell you something, this is where it all starts. Some of you think you can be your own king. It’s time for a regime change. The empire is here. The king is here. The kingdom is here. When Jesus came, that was His message. He is the Messiah. He is the King, and He is a lovely King. He is an amazing King, and you aren’t big enough to be king. You’re not smart enough to be king, and He is.
Now, here’s what I want us to talk about. See your handout sheet there? That is called 123 Church. When you read the book of Acts, Jesus comes on the scene, and He stays post-resurrection 40 days with the disciples. You know what it says? “And He talked to them about the kingdom.” For 40 days…that’s what He talked about…about the kingdom.
When Paul went out into the world, and preached the message, the message that people understood him to hear, “There is another king.” At the close of the book of Acts, Paul is in prison, but it says for two years he preached the kingdom of God. That’s what he preached, the kingdom.
How many of you remember a couple of years ago, maybe four, I preached this sermon on Baseball and Church. Good, some of you remember. I had this event happen at the house. We have house churches…lots of them. We were doing a house church retreat, and he comes up and he says to me, “We’re doing a house church retreat this weekend. Anything you…” I said, “Well, make sure you do 123 Church.” He says, “What’s that?” And I said, “I’m a failure. I’m a total failure. You’re on staff. You live in my house, and you don’t know this. I’m just a total failure.” And he says, “No, no, no you’re not.” And I said, “No, I am. Sit down.”
It convicted my heart that we are not communicating this well. When you think of the church, what comes to your mind? Is it buildings or programs or budgets or land? Now, here was the baseball metaphor. Remember the baseball metaphor? If I say to you, “Let’s play baseball,” you don’t say to me, “Who will sell the hotdogs?” Do you know you can do baseball without hotdogs or an umpire? How many have played baseball in backyards without an umpire? Yeah. You can do it without.
How many played baseball where first base was a tree? Yeah. You know, if I say to you, “Let’s play baseball.” You don’t say, “Well, who’s going to open the stadium and sell the tickets?” No, you don’t need a stadium. You don’t need tickets. You don’t actually even need a glove. You need a bat. But you don’t even have to have a real bat. You can wad stuff up. How many of you played baseball at school with a wadded up piece of notebook paper, and a desk? “What are you guys doing?” “We’re playing baseball.” We know how to do that.
I told this guy… “Oh, that will work. That’s good.” So he went to do this retreat, and he said, “How many of you all play baseball?” Only one-third of them had ever played baseball. So, he said, “How many of you ever played kickball?” Now, how many of you have played kickball? Everybody. Oh please, tell me, if you haven’t played kickball you were a deprived child. Actually there are kickball leagues, did you know that? So he had to change the metaphor to kickball.
I want to come back and look at this for a minutes, because when you look at the Scriptures the church grew exponentially. When you look, just go through sometime and circle the church numbers. What happens in Acts, chapter 1, there are 120 people in an upper room. I’m not going to hit you. You’re trying to move, aren’t you? There are 120 people in the upper room. Acts, chapter 2, Pentecost comes along and guess how much the church grows? To 3,000. Now, you know what? That’s exponential growth.
Then it says the church grew daily. Every day the church is growing. I mean every single day, not just Sundays, not just new member classes, no, every day the church is exploding. It actually even changes the math from adding to multiplied. The church multiplied.
The church has this little group, a huddled band of believers, 120 people and it explodes to 3,000, and it multiplies out until by the end of 20 or 30 years it has grown to 20 million people. There is not one part of the Roman Empire it had not penetrated, into the palaces, into the ghettos, everywhere around. It had gone everywhere to the point where you couldn’t even beat it back anymore. That’s an amazing thing. They were illegal. They were killing people, and it was still exploding.
Now, let me say something to you, and I want to be just absolutely as kind as I can. I actually think…the Bible says, “When two or three are gathered together I’m there in the midst.” I think there is something absolutely amazing and intimate about house church. I don’t even like to call it house church too much because we have churches that meet in cars, and schools, and coffee shops, and all of those kinds of things, but I’m actually not content with 3,000. I want everybody. I’m sorry if you’re sitting there saying, “This church is just big enough.” Sorry, it’s not. There is one lost person out there, and I’m knocking on their door. That’s just how I feel about it.
If you are somebody who says, “I just don’t like big numbers.” I’m going to tell you something, you’re going to be miserable in heaven. You are. The church was never actually that small. It started with 120, and literally exploded to 3,000. What would it be like if you gave birth to a teenager? That’s what happened to the church, and it wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t perfect. It was just like, “The kingdom is here.” Kind of off track here…
I need somebody to roll me the ball. Hey, are you a good roller? Do you know how to play kickball? Okay, go back about in the middle there. Well, here you go. Now roll me the ball. Don’t bounce it. Have you not played kickball? Now look. You don’t do that. You can’t kick a bouncing ball. You roll it. Yeah, there you go, but that wasn’t even a strike. That works.
I need a kicker. Do we have a kicker here? I want a kid kicker. Come here. I need a kicker. Come here. Now then, don’t kick this in anybody’s face. What’s your name? Ben, okay. Now Ben, I want to show you something. No, don’t you do it. I want a kick about like that. I don’t want him to get a face full of that ball. Roll. Kick. What is he supposed to do now? Run. No! That way! Isn’t that fun?
Now, remember baseball. What is first base? Does anyone remember? What is first base? If you’re doing church, what is first base? Somebody has it. Yes, love God. So how do you know that? Because they walked up to Jesus and they said, “What is the most important command?” He didn’t say, “I have to think about that. Do not steal…do not commit adultery.” No, here is what He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your might.” Right? Say yes.
Yes, listen, base one is…love the King. Love the King. Get to know the King. Let the King be the King of your life. And listen, it’s not even like a major sacrifice. You are not a good king. You’re not good to yourself. We need a king. Amen? Some of you here this morning have all kinds of theological ideas in your head. You know all kinds of stuff, and you can sign the creeds, but you know what? You are running your life, and you are trying to manage your own life. You’re trying to manage your own way. Listen, it doesn’t work.
Number one: get this one down straight. Before you try to figure anything out, He didn’t say, “Oh, what was the most important command? Tithe, that was it. Tithe, yes.” No, love the King. What’s number one? Love the King. Well, the King is God. Love the King. We’re going to go with that one.
I need another kicker. Who is going to kick for me? Do we not have any kids? I need a kid. Give me a kid. Come here. Give me a kid. Find me a girl kid. No, not you…you’re here now. Don’t hurt anybody. Big plate, yeah. Roll, don’t bounce. Easy little kick. Don’t hurt him.
Now you know my grandson, Josiah, he played T-ball. Any of you ever gone to T-ball? You ever watch what they do? They throw them the ball three times. Everybody on the team gets to bat. And they swing, swing, swing, and then they say, “Oh, you get to put it on the T.” And sometimes they swing, swing, swing…and they keep swinging until they actually hit it, and sometimes they just hit the T. They don’t even hit the ball. It just hits the T, and bounces and everybody says, “Yeah!”
You know what I have seen Josiah do? Run to third. And the coach…you know what he will say? “No, go to first.” And I’ve seen him run across the pitcher’s mound to first. “No, go back to home. Come this way.” Here what’s first? Love the King. What is second? Yeah, love one another. That’s what Jesus said. He made it really clear. When He says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these other things shall be added unto you.” Love the King.
What are you supposed to do next? Love your neighbor. Love one another. I don’t have time to teach through this, but write the words one another out there and then go do a word study on the one another commands. This is what Jesus said, “Here is how everybody will know if you are My disciple, if you love one another.” Not by if you have the biggest and blackest Bible in town. Not if you have everything underlined. Not if you… Here’s how they’re going to know: if you love one another. That’s base two. Remember base one is what? Love the King. Okay, we’re going to call it this: live the Kingdom. Live the Kingdom.
You can’t live the kingdom by yourself. The kingdom is lived in community. The Sermon on the Mount was to describe what the kingdom living was to look like. The one another commands, love one another, admonish one another, and encourage one another. Listen, we need to live in that community. We need to do it. We need to do it here. We need to do it abroad. We need to do it in our neighborhoods. Wherever. We love the King and we love one another. The Christian faith was never meant to be… I feel like I’m going to do one of those television numbers, “Come out of him.” The Christian faith was never meant to be played alone. We are called to love the Heavenly Father, but we are also called to an earthly family. It’s the church, the kingdom, the expression of the kingdom.
Do I have a kicker? I want a girl kicker. I’m tired of these boys. Give me a girl kicker. Okay, give me another boy. Somebody come on. Come on. Okay, give me two of them. I need two. Do I have another one? Come on up. Stand right here. We’re going to let you go last. What’s your name? Mariah, I like that. Okay, don’t hurt anybody. Don’t walk, run, run, run. It’s a game. Stop.
What’s third base? Yeah, love the world. Love the world. Now here’s the phrase I want you to write though: announce the kingdom. Announce the kingdom. He goes in and says, “Hey, guys. There is a better way to live. There is a better way to run your family. There’s a better way to run your business. Listen, there is a King and that mess in your heart, He is going to restore all of the earth and He can start right where you are.” Do you understand the Creator of the cosmos is crazy about you?
He looks at your broken world, and He looked at the city of Jerusalem and He wept because they were like a sheep without a shepherd. That’s how He looks at you. “You want to be on My flock? I know where the green grass is. I know where the still waters flow. I’ll put a table in the presence of your enemies. Your cup will overflow with joy. Follow Me, I’ll be your Shepherd.” You know what? That’s the kind of Shepherd I want to follow. You need a King.
Third is this…announce the kingdom. Now, when you write that out, here’s what you need to think about. How do we do that? How do we do that? How do we announce the kingdom? One of the ways we announce the kingdom is like when we gather together on Sunday morning. That’s cool. But we announce the kingdom by the way we live in our communities. We announce the kingdom by the way we treat one another when we’re in trouble. We announce the kingdom by the way we do school and the way we do work, but we announce the kingdom in a really simple way, “Hey, there is another king. There is another king.” It’s better than Caesar. It’s better than anything. It’s the best thing there is. There is another king.
Okay, you’re up. Roll the ball. Don’t you hurt anybody. Run, run. That was the best kick of them all. Run, run, run. Everybody go all around the bases. Everybody comes home. Everybody comes home. Let’s give them a hand.
That’s why we call it 123 Be the Church. Every day of our lives we ought to get up in the morning and ask ourselves the question, “God, how can I love you well today?” What does that look like? How can I love you well today? You’re a good God. You know it might be something as simple as, fall is coming up. You know what I can’t help myself. I see some of these trees around here. I’ll pull over on the side of the road and clap. Good job, God. This is really good stuff. I don’t know if anybody else appreciates it, but right now I’m just like loving this tree. I know it sounds like a tree-hugging kind of weirdo. But my Dad made that, and He made it for me to enjoy, and if I don’t enjoy it, I’m not enjoying Him.
You know, Dad likes gratitude. Okay, how many here don’t like gratitude? Anybody say, “No, I don’t care about gratitude.” When you give your kid something, what do you want to hear? Thank you. And you want to see them enjoy it. When you’re little guy looks at you and says, “This is the best peanut butter jelly sandwich I’ve ever eaten in my life,” you say, “You want another one? I’ll make you two more. I’m good at that, aren’t I?”
God loves gratitude. Enjoy Him. Thank Him for your job, and thank Him for your mates, and thank Him for your children, and thank Him for letting us live in a place like America. Amen? Yeah. We have some problems, but everybody else wants to get in here. We’re not building walls keeping people in. God has been good to us. Shouldn’t we be grateful? “Well, you know I want to be chilled out.” Go chill out somewhere else. Never mind.
Two, love one another. So what does that look like? You know what that looks like? That looks like we know one another. We listen to one another’s stories. We know one another’s stories. We get together. We care about each other. If we don’t know each other, and you don’t know each other on Sunday morning…you know each other in small groups. You know each other because you work together. You know, that’s just…that’s organic. You just have to do it.
Number three is how do I reach the world? Reach the world. How do we do that? We do that in multiple ways, creative ways. This year we registered over 1,000 kids for Kid’s Life. Preregistered 1,000 kids. We preregistered over 400 kids for LUG. That’s insane. That’s insane. That’s crazy. The downtown campus, literally we’re starting back to two services on Sunday night because school is starting back. Last Sunday there were 200 people in the foyer. Hey out there in the foyer. Even today.
Listen, how do we reach the world? Something has to do with church, but it may have to do with backyard barbeques. It might have to do with whatever it is you engage, and we’ll talk. Remember this little pyramid I drew? Distracted, attracted, believer, disciple, disciple maker…how do you attract the distracted? It’s not mostly by inviting them to church. It’s by living life with them. Letting them see your love for the kingdom. Letting them view what kingdom living, and announcing the King.
Now home plate is just as simple as can be. Teach others to do it. That’s multiplying. That is making disciples. That means we want to reproduce it over and over. We want to teach others to play the game. We gather in small groups. We love the King. We love one another. We strategize and plot how to reach the world. I want to tell you something. I want to reach everybody.
You know what, if you’re one of those people who, “Oh, I just kind of want a holy huddle, and I don’t like crowds.” Let me tell you something. You’re in the wrong church. Listen, I want everybody in Brookwood, in Parkview and Grayson and Snellville and Shiloh. I want them all to know the King. I do. I wish I had a big enough building we all could get together and sing praises to God and open the Bible together every week. I do. I’m sorry if you… “No, I don’t think we ought to be doing it.” Well let me tell you something, the King loves these people. I have even worse news for you, I want all of Atlanta.
I drive around Atlanta and I look at empty buildings, and I say, “God, give us Atlanta. Help us reach this city. This is Your city.” If you’re saying, “I don’t really care about this city.” You need to know the King. The King looked at Jerusalem, the one who was going to crucify, and He wept over the city. If you don’t weep over the city you don’t have the heart of the King.
I weep over our nation, and I weep over our world. I look at the map, and I look at Pakistan. I’ve been there. I’ve been in those mountains. I know those places. I know those faces, and I hear people say sometimes, “We ought to just put a bomb in it and blow it all.” You don’t know those kids. I want those kids. I want those kids to know Jesus. It keeps me up at night. I want to be part of a bunch of people whose heart just breaks because everybody doesn’t know the King.
Let’s pray: Lord, You are so good. You are amazing! The fact that You died for us, demonstrated Your love for us, is overwhelming. Lord, help us that we won’t settle for just, “Well, I have my condo on a cloud somewhere, and we’re going to escape this place and be alright for eternity.” Lord, we’re not escapers, we’re takers.
Lord you didn’t gather the disciples together and say, “It’s going to be really rough. You just have to hide out in caves and someday I’ll come back.” No, You gathered them together on top of the mountain and said, “All authority and power has been given to Me, and as my Father sent me, so I’m sending you.” We are not moving in fear. We are moving in faith. Lord, we want to take back the house. Break our hearts for what breaks Your heart. In Your holy name we pray, Amen.