Read Acts 2:1-24, 32-33, 36
Why is it that some churches in the same geographical area are effective in proclaiming the gospel and making disciples, and others aren’t? To say it another way, “why do some churches fulfill their mission, while others don’t. My experience as a pastor reminds me that some churches never take the time and effort to identify their mission. Others do an excellent job of understanding and planning their mission, but become so overwhelmed by the task before them, that little or nothing gets done. And then there are those who never leave the planning stage. They want to be sure that they carry out their mission to perfection. They want totally accurate and complete information about themselves and their society. They want to get it right, the first time. So they just keep on planning, never knowing when it’s time to translate faith based plans into faithful action.
One thing churches can learn from secular businesses is that there is really no such thing as complete and accurate information. They settle for adequate information, and then proceed, taking calculated risks. They understand that at a certain point you have to go with what you know. They know when they have reached that point when their financial reports tell them that if they don’t act by a certain time they will be out of business. But churches usually don’t think along those lines. Churches, all too often, refuse to believe that they can go out of business. So how does a church know when it’s time to move from faith based plans to faithful action? When does a church come to know when it’s time to go with what you know?
I am writing this blog post the day after most Christian churches celebrated Pentecost Sunday. My suggested scripture reading (noted above) describes what happened on that day, about 2,000 years ago, which is often described by Christians as the birth of the church. Here I am not talking about church as a formally organized institution, but as the people who accept Jesus as their savior. I believe that the suggested scripture passage helps us understand how those people, who eventually became known as the Christian church, realized that it was time to go with what they knew as they experienced the Pentecost event.
I’m sure that before and during that event they weren’t engaged in strategic planning as we know it today. However, during the approximately two months between the time of the death and resurrection of Jesus and the Pentecost event, Jesus was constantly talking to them about their mission. I’m sure they talked about how to do their mission and their chances of success. They must have realized that everything was against them. Here they were, initially a small group of twelve ordinary people, looked upon or ignored by others in their society, sent by God to be Christ in the world – to change the world, How did they know it was time to move out of the room in which they were hiding out into the streets to begin fulfilling their mission – proclaiming the gospel and making disciples more disciples?
Was it because Jesus had given them a specific date, and they circled it on their calendar? I don’t think so. What Jesus did was to tell them to wait for the Holy Spirit. For all they knew, that might happen in a few years, or maybe maybe next week or tomorrow. Was it that they believed they had learned all they needed to know from Jesus about how to be good apostles and disciples? I don’t think so, Because as the story continues, it’s clear that they are always learning something new.
Was it because they had received some insight which suggested that the political climate was becoming more favorable to them? I don’t think so. Because the initial comments from those hearing their preaching is that they are a bunch of drunks. And it wasn’t long before they found themselves in jail,, and at least one of them wouold be executed.
So how did they know it was time to move from faith based planning to faithful action? I believe they knew it was time when they sensed that Jesus promise that they would be filled with the Holy Spirit was being fulfilled. They felt that they were being filled with the Holy Spirit. They could not contain the Holy Spirit within themselves. They knew then that they had to end their planning meeting in the upper room and let the Holy Spirit guide and direct them out to the street, where they would begin their mission. They knew that God was using them as channels through which the Holy Spirit, bearing the grace of God, in the name of Jesus, was proclaiming the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus to the growing a growing crowd.
For nearly two months, ever since Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection of Jesus, his’ disciples had experienced various of feelings – fear, disbelief, doubt, enlightenment reassurance, and faithful obedience. During this time they continued to grow in faith, individually and collectively. Finally, on this Pentecost day, they were filled with and received the Holy Spirit. And their response was to go with what they knew. This meant not being concerned with whether or not they had enough knowledge, infomation, or training. This meant trusting that God had provided them with whatever they needed to move from faith based plans to faithful action. Not being concerned that they might make mistakes. Simply trusting that whatevder happened they could and would learn learn from it, and do it better next time. Not concerned that not everyone would accept their message. Just concerned that they would give the message, and let God do the rest.
On that Pentecost day this group of group of twelve disciples of Jesus were the beginning of a community of faith, which would become known as the church. Early that morning that community of faith had increased from 12 to about 120 people. By rhe end of the day about 3,000, from nations all over the mid-east, had experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit. On that day, the church was born, and it continued to grow, over Asia, Europe, and Africa.
Today we have an advantage over the people of the new church of the first century. We know from their experience how this works. We don’t have to wonder when we have to move from planning to action. We know that it will happen when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. And we know that will happen if we keep our hearts and minds open to the Holy Spirit. I believe many of us have opened our lives and are being filled with the Holy Spirit. And I believe that in God’s time and God’s way, the people who are the church will again be filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit, and they will come to understand their mission. They will hear God speaking, through the Holy Spirit, saying “now is the time to “go with what you know”. Go now and fulfill your mission. And we will observe and experience a modern version of the Pentecost event.
Grace and peace, Ray
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