Who Else Needs To Hear? [Acts 18]
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Who Else Needs To Hear? – 07.03.2022
Todays’ footprints are tomorrow’s legacy. The things you do today, the places you choose to put your feet, determine what your tomorrow will look like. Today’s footprints are tomorrow’s legacy. There’s an old wisdom proverb, “if you want to sit in the shade, the best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago – but the second best time is right now.” We are planting the seeds of revival right here, right now at the United Methodist Church on Main Street in Flushing, Michigan. Today’s footprints are tomorrow’s legacy. I was talking to another church leader, And he was saying that it almost feels like we are a church plant. With everything we have gone through, we are a whole different church than we were a few years ago. Over the pandemic, for most churches, big churches became mid sized churches. Mid-sized churches became small churches. And some of the small churches even closed – we lost at least two in Flushing. But rather than despair, I expected to feel despair, but honestly it gives me incredible hope for our future.
Do you know why? How can I hope instead of despair when the economy is squeezing this church and all the people in it? How can I hope instead of despair when there is so much to rebuild, so much revival that is needed? How can I hope instead of despair? Is it because I know something you do not? No. Is it because I believe something you do not? No. I stand in front of you with hope in my heart, because I remember. I remember when this church shut down and the memorial committee alongside the Trustees got together to give our media team a massive overhaul. I remember volunteers who do not like technology or changes to technology who said, “this is scary and this is hard – but I’m willing to learn how.” I remember staff who had to make incredible adjustments to their job descriptions. Marlene adding all those cleaning assignments for COVID policies. Rose becoming a video media editing expert. Christie coming up with creative solutions to bring us phenomenal music, rebuilding a choir after years without, adjusting the worship team to quarantines and constant fluctuations. And do you remember the tapestry? We hosted a completely digital production presenting all the incredible music of this church – all Christie’s idea. I remember what happened with Christian Education – Melissa spent her first year crafting take home kits for digital learning, we were doing Sunday school with zoom videos, which was NOT what she signed on for. And I’ll tell you – she just keeps coming up with great ideas and we are blessed to have her, and I’ll extend that to the nursery staff as well. I remember when my wife had to step back from teaching Sunday school because of the new baby – we had brand new volunteers step in in the middle of the year, they had never taught Sunday School before and yet they stepped in and absolutely crushed it. I remember the United Women of Faith in this church, adapting and coming up with a brand new event – the move for mission – and fundraising more than ever with that event. How can I hope instead of despair? Because I remember. I remember that the world has thrown every single possible hurdle and obstacle at this church. I remember that week after week we have been pounded, we have been crushed by an overwhelming world, putting out one fire after another and I remember what matters most: We are still here! Revival is not only possible, it is in your hands. Regardless of the storm going on around us in each of our lives – if we are smart about what we do right now, we can leave an incredible legacy for the church. Today’s footprints, are tomorrow’s legacy.
As some of you might remember, the first Sunday in the month of July marks the anniversary of my start as your pastor in Flushing. I have completed four years here as your pastor, starting my fifth year today – which I realize doesn’t sound like a lot, but for a young pastor this is the longest I’ve ever been in one ministry context. And every year I try to give you a vision statement – a guiding principle for the upcoming year. This year we are going to focus on the idea: Today’s Footprint is tomorrow’s legacy. Now we’re diving back into the book of Acts today, chapter 18. We have been following Paul all around the ancient world, last week we were in Athens and this week we’re kind of all over the place. Do you remember those classic Harrison Ford films – Indiana Jones? In those movies, anytime he would travel around the world they would do this thing, where they would put a map in the background, with a red line going from one city, a little airplane figure traveling over the map to a new location, bouncing from one city to the final destination. Wherever he needed to go for the story. Do you remember this? Well, chapter 18 in the book of Acts is basically a transition chapter. The whole chapter is Paul travelling from one dot on a red line to couple other dots. Let’s take a look.
[read v.1-4]. Paul shows up in Corinth, makes a few new friends and gets into his rhythm of telling people about Jesus. But what I want you to notice is the tent-making thing. Paul had a day job. A lot of people imagine Paul travelling around doing nothing but preaching the gospel – but the truth is, he needed to support himself. Paul made and sold tents to provide an income, and then preached the gospel on the weekends – or whenever. Now my point with that is that full time ministry is not the only type of ministry. Every person who calls themselves a Christian has a ministry. No matter what your job is or was, no matter how you earned a paycheck or paid your bills – we are all called to share the love of God and the good news about Jesus Christ with the world. Every person has a ministry. Paul’s day job gives us a reminder that Pastors cannot be the only ministers. Now, please don’t misunderstand. I love my job and I will always give this church 100% effort – but if we want to experience revival, if we want to make today’s footprints go in the right direction – it’s going to take all of us finding our ministry, working together – no matter what our day job is.
[read v.5] First Paul meets Pricilla and Aquilla, then his buddies Silas and Timothy show up and they all start working together to tell people about Jesus. I love this picture because it gives us such an important reminder. Christians are co-workers. In America, we’ve got all these different denominations, different brands of Christian and sometimes we think it’s a competition. Few things are dumber than the phrase, “My church is better than your church.” That doesn’t even make sense! Churches are not competitors. They are co-workers. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. If a church up the road closes, and all the people move over to our church and our church doubles in size – the angels in heaven are silent, there is no rejoicing. But if a tiny unimpressive little church brings ONE person into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Guides one person to repentance and a new life living for God – heaven is full of the angels rejoicing. Christians are co-workers. Our goal is never to get more Christians to come into our specific building, our goal is to tell people who do not know Jesus about God’s incredible, life changing love. At the end of the chapter we get the same thing with this guy Apollos. [read v.24-27]. One of my favorite things about Paul’s journeys is how much support and encouragement they give to Christians in completely separate churches. There’s no competition because Christians are co-workers.
So Paul ends up staying in Corinth for a good long time. He gets some encouragement from God, [read v.9-11]. Do not be afraid, keep on speaking, do not be silent. I love that BUT, of course – if you remember last week, the rhythm of Paul’s ministry - anytime he’s talking about Jesus, eventually he’s going to get in some trouble. [read v.12-16]. Basically, what’s going on here is that the Jews of Corinth tried to organize and get Paul kicked out. They take him to the governor guy (the proconsul), and basically this guy Gallio says, “I don’t care. This is your religious squabbling, deal with it yourselves.” They even beat a guy up right in front of the governor guy and it literally says, “and Gallio showed no concern whatever.” This governor guy basically tells the Jews in Corinth – nope, I’m not going to help you at all.
You know what it makes me think of though? There’s a couple levels, but it makes me think about how a lot of times people look at politics as the silver bullet that will solve all our problems. Whether we’re talking about government politics, or church denomination politics – we think, well we just need to fix it “up there” and that’ll solve all our problems. But the reality is that most of the time the most vital work is done on the local level. Policies and the law of the land doesn’t change hearts – but you and your ministry, the way you share the love of God with the people around you – you can change hearts. I think about the fighting that has gone on in the United Methodist Church, and I have to admit something to you all. I have been hesitant. I have been tentative in my leadership of the church. I know that I can be a big personality in the room, and I didn’t want to unduly influence things. So when I got here, I held back because I didn’t want to shake things up too much – because there’s big issues up there. I figured, well we need to sort it out up there and then we can get to work here. There’s all this stuff we can do as a church – discipleship models, leadership structures, growth oriented outreach – so many things to create revival, but I said to myself, “No, no – not yet. Don’t want to shake things up too much. We have to wait until they fix things up at that level, and then we can get to work. 2018 I said to myself, it’s just a couple years – then we’ll solve this and we can move on and get back to the work of the church. 2020, well it’s just going to be a couple more years. And here we are in 2022, still treading water.
But here’s what I realized, and I think the Jews in Corinth realized the same thing. Solutions “up there” is not the silver bullet that’s going to solve all your problems. I mean, do you ever feel powerless? Just stuck and frustrated because of some policy or law or church thing and you’re just waiting for THEM to solve your problem? But here’s the secret – real revival is found in where you put your feet today. The local level is where the real power is. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m tired of treading water, it’s time to start swimming. Today’s footprints is tomorrow’s legacy. No matter what happens with all that church vote stuff – it won’t change things at the local level. Rebuilding a church in the modern world after a pandemic is going to look exactly the same, no matter what name is on the outside of our building. The United Methodist Church has their struggles – but the Global Methodist Church? That’s a brand new baby denomination – they will have all the exact same struggles to making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. If you are looking at policies for salvation, if you are looking at the upper levels of an institution – you will be disappointed. The votes that come are all very important, but it will not change the boots on the ground reality that this church and every church has to deal with right now. Revival is not found in policies or institutions, revival is found in the mirror. Real revival is found in where you put your feet today.
The chapter finishes up with Paul travelling all over the place. Athens to Corinth, then he went to Ephesus and on to a place called Caesaria, up to Jerusalem, and then down to Antioch. [read v.22-23]. This is the last thing I want you to see – Paul shifts his job description. At first it was, “I’ve got to tell you all about Jesus.” But as people come to learn about Jesus, he shifts to travelling around “strengthening the disciples.” Maybe you noticed all those places he visited have books of the bible named after them – because these are the places he wrote letters to. Corinth, the people he wrote the letter of Corinthians. Ephesus is where he sent the letter we call Ephesians. Galatia is where Galatians comes from. Paul is going around encouraging folks because he believes three key things. First, you have a ministry. You have people that you can reach in your life with the love of God. Second, Christians are co-workers not competitors. We should be encouraging and cheering one another on. Third and finally, real revival starts with you. Revival starts with where you put your feet today. Because Today’s footprints are tomorrow’s legacy.
The good news this morning is that God empowers you. God gives you a ministry. God works with you, not for you. God’s preferred method of saving the world is through the silly, stumbling efforts of his broken but beloved people.
Coming out of this chapter I have two simple challenges. First, I want you to ask yourself – how can you share the love of Jesus Christ with the world around you? But I want you to be specific when you give an answer. I don’t want you to come back and say, “Well, I’ll try to be nice to my neighbor when I see them.” No, no, no – I want you to actually ask God and wait for an answer. How can you share the love of Jesus Christ with the world around you? Look at your life, think about the people you engage with. How can you love them better. Who is God calling you to reach? Who needs to know about the amazing love of God, and can you think of a creative way to show it to them? Ask yourself and REALLY ask yourself – how can I share the love of Jesus Christ with the people in my world? Maybe it’s doing yard work for someone, or buying groceries or bringing them cupcakes. Maybe it’s just talking to your coworker – checking in and asking if there’s anything you can pray for.
And I know what you might be thinking – yard work and groceries? How can I pray? These are little nothings. That’s not going to change the world! That’s not going to bring revival! But that’s exactly my point – yes it will! Think about the word “grassroots movement.” Grassroots movements are some of the most powerful things that happen to a society, but how tall does grass get? Grassroots movements are made up of thousands and millions of tiny blades of grass. Revival in the church, and in your personal life, it’s not going to be some big policy change. It will be thousands and millions of tiny moments where you found a way to show the love of Jesus with the people around you. Baby steps are still steps forward. The first step is to ask yourself how you can share the love of Jesus with the people around you. The second challenge is to follow through! Set your feet on the right path and start walking! Even if it feels tiny, even if it feels silly – baby steps are still steps forward. Plant the seeds of revival today.
Today’s footprints are tomorrow’s legacy. Paul travelled all over the ancient world and there’s a fair amount of wisdom we can pick up from his journey. Every Christian, no matter what their “day job” is, every Christian has a ministry. Christians are co-workers, not competitors. And true revival in where you put your feet today. You have the ability to change the world for the better. God LOVES working through humble, simple efforts of broken people doing their best. God’s favorite method of saving the world is through the silly, bumbling efforts of his broken, but beloved, people. And so I’ll leave you with this. May you look at your life and ask, “What is my ministry? Who Am I called to reach? And how do I do it?” May you remember that grass doesn’t grow that tall, and plant the seeds of revival today. And finally, may you set your feet on the right path, and start walking. Today’s footprints are tomorrow’s legacy. Amen.