Here is the fifth and final installment for a Thirsty Generation.
We were relating to a 23-year-old young woman’s concerns about her generation and the church as it reaches out to them. Remember, she is not frustrated with the church, but with some churches (congregations of believers) and their program orientation as the means for function in the church and the inward focus so many have as well as the materialism of some churches over function and outreach.
I have taken so long to write this post because I was trying to figure out a total Biblical response as well as fulfill other obligations to family, church, work, and other aspects of life. So, here goes.
Fortunately, I preached on the book of Acts yesterday. We’re doing a Bible survey and yesterday was “The Acts of the Apostles.” You can listen to the messages at http://www.newtestamentchristianonline.com/Sermons.dsp.
I believe that if the church has sin problems 1 Corinthians has many of the answers needed, and if the church needs to set up the way they operate and function, and needs to answer questions about outreach and culture, Acts has many of the answers. So lets look at my favorite passage to preach from.
Acts 2:42-47, New American Standard Bible
42They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
This young lady noted 6 things she and her husband and others are looking for from the church.
Getting together to spend time with God through Bible Study. The early church devoted themselves to the “Apostles teaching and to fellowship (verse 42). Hmm! Isn’t that one of the aspect of church anyway. I know we have been warned by the apostle Paul; “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3). There hasn’t been a time when somewhere, some people have tried to make the church more acceptable and accessible by watering down the message. Less emphasis on baptism, or allowing open membership, or ignoring habitual sin. There are a number of similar cartoons where a church sign states or an individual tells someone else, we only have to obey 7 of the commandments, we only require an 8% tithe, etc. We laugh but its a subtle way of saying, the teachings of the Bible are optional. If the earliest people of the church got together to know. study, and apply God’s word, it is applicable now, too.
And friendly people. I suppose we can assume the church was friendly and welcoming. I have been a part of churches and known churches who perceive themselves as friendly and assume the visitor thinks so. Visiting with visitors, they see the church as friendly, the only problem was they were friendly with each other and thought that everyone else was being friendly with the visitor and so no-one besides the minister really made the visitor feel welcome. Or, the bigger churches when you walk in the door and there are so many no one seems to know who is a visitor and who already belongs. It is easier to catch flies with honey than it is with vinegar, but we have gone to give the honey to the visitor or else they will think they are receiving vinegar. friendliness goes without saying in our society even for the church. The early church must have been friendly or else nobody would have stayed.
And people who are passionate about the Gospel. I know people who are passionate about the church, their church, and people who are passionate about programs, those who are passionate about this thing or that, or even the preacher and that’s not bad, necessarily, but if it replaces passion for the Gospel for Christ, a priority assessment and readjustment is in order. It’s about the Gospel that we exist and the rest is to lead to, promote, and fulfill the Gospel. Everything the early church, that read about in Acts was about the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 1 and 2, and 3& 4, etc.).
Good worship. Of course she meant the praise portion of a church’s services. What one person thinks is good worship and what I think is good worship may vary. If The Doobie Brothers or Eric Clapton, or even Led Zeppelin were Christians and leading worship, I’m all about that. But she wasn’t concerned about style as much as freshness in the musical presentation and devotion to the One being praised. Though the New Testament does not address worship style, there is a passion and focus on the One worshipped and that should be motivation for our worshipping together our God and our Savior.
And close relationships/small groups. Close relationships mean tons. I don’t know figures now, but it used to be that within 1 to 2 years time, if someone had not developed a close relationship with others in the church, they were gone. Either dropping out of church altogether or looking for a church where they could have a close relationship. Small groups, Sunday schools, Bible study groups, mentoring groups, etc, are great ways for these relationships to develop and cement. Some of these close relationships happen naturally and some have to be cultivated by all involved. But they must happen.
And churches helping the community. Often, the community takes notice of Christians in a favorable manner when they see us caring for those outside the church. Helping the poor, the elderly, the abused, and many other aspects of society. We’re not talking about a social Gospel, we’re speaking about a caring church. The lastest buzz word this is servant evangelism.
We see these things or aspects of them in Acts. It’s a great study. It’s an essential study for doctrine as well as for examples and ways that church should function, even in our time.
The point of this is that there is a generation that is thirsty for the Gospel and the love of Jesus. The reality is, this is the way it is for every generation, not just one. The message is the same, the focus is the same, the methods, well, they may vary and change and they will again.
Let’s listen to each generation. You older folks, listen to the newer generations of people. They are thirsting for Jesus. Discover which container they will drink from (to continue the drink analogy). But, you younger Christians, you should also learn which container, what will reach older generations and apply that to reaching them too.
I want to continue to reach folks my parents’ age with the Gospel and my
own generation, and those of my children, and the kids that are in school now who in 10 years will be making their wants and needs known too us. Get ahead of the game and spending time with God’s people studying the Bible, and passionate about the Gospel and apply it to their needs and in ways that mean something them.