The Church of God stands on two feet: one foot in yesterday; one foot in tomorrow. Will we walk with yesterday’s traditions or go with tomorrow’s truth? England’s Coventry Church illustrates my point. This famed architectural icon was reduced to rubble in WWII. The city, while still smoldering, resolved to rebuild and replace the old Gothic church with contemporary architecture and art forms. The new structure allows one to look through a clear glass West wall and view the old ruins. This results in old and the new structures that are not completely separated. Each originates with the same roots, but each has meaning for its own time; one sees the war years and one views contemporary life.
Acts 2:41-47 suggests four factors validating a vital root system that also produces new top growth:
1) First Church Jerusalem formed when those receiving the “Word” were baptized and tradition gave way to the new truth of the resurrection, which believers began sharing. Jesus was the issue!
2) Believers continued in the doctrine and fellowship of the Apostles, with worship a priority.
3) Believers shared daily, involving the whole church in ministry--They became a missional church.
4) Growth resulted … the Lord added daily to their number.
THREE LIFE APPLICATIONS APPLY.
THE EARLY CHURCH SHAPED ITS WORSHIP, STUDY, AND ORGANIZATION AROUND ITS MISSION.
The truth of the resurrection brought new life to old wine skins of tradition. Secular thinking by current public media slowly batters today’s Christian Church into submission by slowly crumbling its moral foundations through venues such as enlightened TV. If society is to survive this cultural assault of reason, the church must provide more of the divine that created our humanity.
This cultural confrontation challenges the church with awkward moments, such as the young soldier found himself at Redstone Arsenal’s Guided Missile School. The Colonel’s troop inspection went well, until … he stopped, looked down at a young soldier and snapped, “button that pocket, trooper!”
“Right now, Sir?” he stammered.
“Of course, right now,” shouted the Colonel.
That said, the soldier discreetly reached up and buttoned the flap on the Colonel’s shirt pocket.
Tradition will define issues such as human rights but only “Truth” will lead to God, and in this time when the human rights doctrine reigns supreme, we should remember that human rights have little meaning without their Creator. In biblical days, Jewish worship came at the end of a week lived in service. As the poet said:
If I can do some good today,
If I can serve along life’s way,
If I can something helpful say,
Lord, show me how.
If I can right a human wrong,
If I can help to make one strong,
If I can cheer with smile or song,
Lord, show me how.
If I can aid one in distress,
If I can make a burden less,
If I can spread more happiness,
Lord, show me how (Kleiser).
I like Sam Rayburn’s definition of worship: devotion, determination, and boyant hope. The Psalmist expressed his devotion in worship when he wrote, “Come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. Isaiah (6) found worship is initiated by God. Worship results when the created responds to the Creator with personal offering, prayer, praise, and present Judgment.
Genuine worship is worthy action … worth ship. Further worship results from firm commitments of belief. It is more than the pseudo-religion that says “Every time I hear a new-born baby cry, then I know why I believe.”
Worship becomes corporate in our common thoughts, devotion, and appreciation, and we find our hearts “strangely warmed” like the Emmaus Road disciples. Worship that is honest, worthy, and creatively based on faith, will result in action, interaction, and reaction on the part of the participant. So, while Jesus died, people saw the rent veil and for the first time they saw looked into the holy place—they saw God (Mt. 27:50-51ff). Said, C. T. Studd: “Some people want to live near Chapel Bell, but I want to run a rescue mission six yards from hell.”
THE EARLY CHURCH INVOLVED THEIR FOLLOWSHIP IN MEANINGFUL MINISTRY AS LAITY.
Clergy and laity stood shoulder to shoulder, without distinction. Each believer became part of the Priesthood of Believers. The Protestant Reformation acknowledges every individual as having direct access to God. This means each Christian has direct entre to God on behalf of others—this being the true meaning of the priesthood of believers.
Recent years have observed society moving from centralization to decentralization, from denomination to local church. All the while, mobile Americans reshape our country. Three great mega-centers hold forty-four percent of the population.. Mega-trenders describe Chipitts going from the Great Lakes east to Pittsburgh. Thirteen percent of our nation’s 300-million live connected to the I94 corridor as part of Chipitts. Boshwash snakes its way down the East Coast from Boston to Wash, DC, with twenty-five percent, and Sansan serves the 475-miles from San Diego to San Francisco--six percent.
While Vocational Chaplains have become something of an industrial specialty in recent years, it should be recognized that there should be no need for clergy to go where laity already are. A Texas tourist parked his car in Acunia, Mexico one day. Immediately, a little fellow ran up and offered to guard his car for a fee, seeing only an “ugly American” with money. This young boy then offered to pimp his sister and use sex to increase family income. He offered an opportunity of forbidden fruits “where no one will ever know.”
What a prime opportunity to witness to the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the worth of a Christian family!
THE EARLY CHURCH BROUGHT ITS FAITH TO BEAR ON PUBLIC AND POLITICAL ISSUES OF THEIR DAY. Luke is an excellent resource for evaluating human rights. Or, consider how Paul faced issues of slavery, marriage, monogamy, and the role of women. The Church is more than a social institution and it should offer more than mere political structure. Jesus described it as salt, and leaven. Christians add flavor to a culture that needs the leaven to make the life bread to rise.
Christian witness is not a specialty for the few; the church is Body of Christ--God’s witness to Republicans, Democrats, Catholics, Protestants, Communists, Capitalists, you name it. We dare not leave our social problems to Public Agencies that are not “God-fearing…” Technology requires our human touch more than ever. Education requires Christian theology for its a-moral society.
Too often, the church resembles the lady I heard of in Wheeling, WVA. She slipped while mowing her yard. Stunned by her fall, she heard a childish voice say, “Mama, why is that lady lying down with her lawn-mower?”
Why, son, that’s a hillbilly. If they work at all, they always do it the easiest way they can find.” Let that never be said of the church!
OUR WORLD NEIGHBORHOOD FACES CRISIS that offers expanded opportunities for those willing to take the risk. We no longer live in the world of DS Warner, but if we have the rootage, we will find ways to relate to our world just as he did to his.
From Warner's World, we are known by the company we keep, the causes we represent, the commitments we prioritize, and we should never give up on being part of the solution!