Vision Sunday –  Acts 1 & 2

The last message in the New Core Group series.
(Find the rest here.)

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Years ago Daily Bread told the story of the CEO of a large and successful department chain being interviewed in his impressive office in their headquarters. The reporter asked, what do you think your company will look like in 100 years?

The CEO said, well I guess it will look very different or it won’t exist. Why do you say that? the reporter asked.

“Because” he said motioning toward the surrounding offices of executives, none of us will be here in 100 years.

In the executive’s mind, the company was the people not the brick and mortar of the stores. It was the employees, not the logo.

While he wasn’t sure what the storefronts or marketing would look like in 100 years, he knew the people would change.

In AD 30 there was a small group of people gathering in a room, terrified that the all-powerful Romans and zealous Jewish religious leaders would attempt to arrest and kill them all…

Those fears would eventually come true because most of them were arrested. Many of them were killed. However, their group was resilient and whenever one of them was stricken down, two more would rise up in his or her place.

They never fought back. They never resisted through violence.

They often fled danger, but they also often walked into the most dangerous of situations in broad daylight announcing on street corners in busy marketplaces that they were there…

This small group was the early church and from AD 30 on their message spread throughout all of the world and their group grew and grew and grew and grew.

Meanwhile, the Jews were conquered, their mighty temple was burned. Because it was overlaid with so much gold, as it burned the gold melted down in between the blocks and bricks of the building, so later every block would be separated to harvest out this gold that had melted down in between the blocks.

The mighty Roman empire would collapse and fall. This powerful nation which had over taken the world would not outlast the little group of people, meeting together in a room to pray.

You see, Jesus said that the church was His church and that not even the gates of hell would prevail against it. The Church that Jesus established is resilient. It lasts from generation to generation.

It his handed off to new leaders and new servants constantly and spreads quickly so military threat, natural disaster, global plague, governmental interference, and religious persecution have not threatened the church’s existence, or even it’s growth.

In fact, when we look back in church history, we see that the times that culture was most adverse toward the church are the times that it grew the most!

You know where the church grew the fastest in the last 30 years?

Communist China.

You know where the church is currently growing at the fastest rate? The Middle East!

You see the church is like a forest.

A wind storm might blow down a large tree, but it doesn’t blow down the forest and scientists have found in large forests that when a large tree is blown down that the sunlight that now pours onto the forest floor, the fallen tree decays and makes the ground around it fertile and in the place of the fallen tree an incredible amount of bio diversity springs up in it’s place.

When walking through a forest, a place or area that is most teaming with life and a diversity of plants is most likely a place that a large tree fell.

When a forest fire rages and cuts deep gouges into a forest, the forest immediately begins to rebuild.

Did you know that what makes a pine cone open up and release it’s seeds is heat?

So when a forest fire rages through,

it plants the seed of the next forest.

When church leaders are killed and imprisoned, their followers are not intimidated into silence, but rather they are inspired to rise up!

Now where there was one leader, there is now a host of leaders!

That’s exactly what happened to the early church…

Think about the logistics of the early church.

Thousands have been gathering to hear this inspiring, powerful, miracle working man named Jesus.

The Jews and Romans take Jesus, ridicule Him, publicly beat Him, and then execute Him in front of crowds of people during the passover which is when Jerusalem is the most full of people…

Jesus raises from the dead, appears to approximately 500 people over the course of 40 days, lays out a plan for this world changing organization called the church, and then He leaves!

What happened next was that instead of 1 inspiring leader, there were dozens. Instead of crowds gathering wherever Jesus was teaching, crowds started gathering wherever teachers were talking about Jesus.

The departure of  Christ gave rise to a new wave of leaders. His ascension after the resurrection wasn’t the final act, it’s the opening scene.

Let me point this out to you in several verses in Acts 1 and 2.

1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

This “You” is plural. If Jesus was in the south He would have said “ya’ll will receive power” If He were in the American north, He would have said “you guys will receive power.”

He was speaking to the entire group.

Then He said that they would be witnesses in all of these places, all over the face of the earth.

We’ve come along way with technology and even to this day we haven’t figured out how to be in more than one place at a time.

However, they were going to be spreading Jesus message in all of these places. They were going to have to do this together- they would have to set out in different directions.

But Jesus had told them to return to Jerusalem and wait.

So they return to Jerusalem.

13And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode (names the 11 disciples)

14These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

15….(the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)

With the disciples and the women and even Jesus’ mom there was a gathering of 120 people.

There were thousands that listened to Jesus preach.

There were thousands who were fed from a little boys lunch.

But the core group was this band of 120 people.

Those people who had heard Jesus’ messages, and been miraculously fed, and seen Jesus heal people, they probably be a huge part would be in the group that join the church in this first wave of growth, but in that moment they weren’t in the room. They weren’t in the core group.

They were just out there somewhere, familiar with Jesus, filled with a mixture of questions and doubt and faith…

They would be a part of the movement soon, but it would start with this core group of 120 people in the room praying that God would do something huge.

2:1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

4And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost,

14But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:

Peter preached the opening message of the church, but he was not the only one. He was one of twelve that were teaching from up front that day.

And the others that were part of the 120 were also a part of this movement of the Holy Spirit because they were all filled and they all spoke in tongues so that people of all nations in Jerusalem for the feast of booths could hear in their native tongue and understand the message of the gospel…

But I also want you to notice what Peter preached, or rather the text that he spoke of when he preached.

17And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

18And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:

God’s Spirit did not merely pour out upon the disciples.

God’s Spirit did not merely pour out upon the men.

God’s Spirit didn’t not merely pour our upon the seasoned veterans.

Young and Old. Male and Female. – All flesh.

41Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Think about the logistics of baptizing 3,000 people in a day.

If just the disciples had been baptizing people, they would have each baptized 250 people.

If the disciples had an assembly line set up, with 12 equally long lines, this would have taken forever.

My speculation is that this was not something that just the disciples did, but the core group did and that those who were among the first baptized were then added to the group of those baptizing others…

What we have here is the entire group of 120 sharing the gospel, praying with people, initiating relationships that would change people’s lives…

Jesus was the central figure and Peter was the individual spokes person, but this entire group of 120 was neck deep in people serving, ministering, helping, praying, sharing, and changing lives.

Our vision for 2017 is to develop the new core group.

Let me tell you why.

Over the past 8 years our church has more than doubled in size.

Show Graph.

If we continue on the current track we are on,

we will have tripled in size in 10 years.

In 2008 we averaged just above 40 people in Sunday morning worship services. There was a particular Sunday morning that stands out in my mind in which there was only one family sitting on the left (my right) side of the sanctuary, and everyone else was sitting on this side, and the right (my left) side wasn’t really packed.

We’ve made many accommodations for growth through the years.

Whenever we’ve run up against barrier to our growth, we’ve broken it down. Through the years

we’ve added parking spaces,

added a toddler church,

setup an overflow room,

moved children’s church to a larger room,

moved the nursery to a bigger space,

added a second service on Easter, d

oubled our number of VBS volunteers,

and now we’ve built a foyer.

But I’d say that the next barrier may be the hardest we’ve faced yet. The barrier that we next face is a shortage of leaders, volunteers, and teachers.

(Back to “Our vision for 2017 is to…” slide)

Last year on Vision Sunday and again on Anniversary Sunday I shared that it is our dream that every child in our community would know of God’s love and grace and that addiction would no longer be an ever present reality but a painful memory.

That’s our dream and it’s a big, audacious dream.

This past year we chased after that dream and we strategically made a few changes, for example.

We had dino-night and we intentionally scheduled it in between Easter and VBS to hopefully bridge the gap between those two major events and hopefully increase the amount of outsiders that participate in VBS. VBS attendance jumped over 15% this year with more new families involved than ever before and even better yet was that VBS Sunday was the largest Sunday attendance we had except for Easter of 2016.

VBS Sunday of 2016 matched the attendance of Easter Sunday in 2015!

In 2016 we made that strategic move and it dramatically moved us toward that dream of sharing the love and grace of Jesus with all of the children of our community.

In 2015 we made the strategic decision of having 2 services on Easter because we were going over capacity in past Easters and we would have gobs of guests with us that day, but we’d struggle to connect with any of them, they were parking in the grass, sitting in the overflow or in a chair in the aisle…

Making that change in 2015 not only led to the largest gathering we had up to that point, our regular attendance jumped because we retained more of those guests than we ever had before.

As you can see 2015 was best year for growth that we had experienced since 2012.

The strategy decision for this upcoming year is based on the fact that we need more leaders, team members, teachers, and mentors.

Our vision is develop the new core group, so our strategy will be to emphasize discipleship, implement teams, and enlist volunteers.

Our Vision for 2017 is to develop the New Core Group.

Our Strategy for 2017 is to emphasize discipleship, implement teams, and enlist volunteers.

This passage here in Acts 2 where the church gains 3,000 people in one day is incredibly exciting.

We read here that the people are gathering for worship, sharing meals together, being generous to one another, it’s a beautiful thing. Plus, they kept growing.

Look at verse 47

“praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

More and more people came to be a part of this group and the city was changed because of it, in fact verse 47 says that they had favor with all the people because of the wonderful things they were doing in the city…

but it wasn’t long until there was trouble.

One of the efforts that the church undertaken was caring for widows- they had seen a need and decided to meet it, but before long the church had grown to the point that the disciples were have to say, if we are going to keep doing all of this ministry stuff, we’re going to have to cut back on the amount of time we spend studying the word and praying so that we are ready to teach everyone…

So they elected more, new leaders in Acts 6:1-6 and then immediately verse 7 says,

7And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

They brought more people onto the team and the immediate effect was a multiplication of the disciples in Jerusalem, the presence of the Word of God increased, AND…. AND even several priests became believers…

Did you notice that word in verse 7?

and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem.

When I was a kid, I memorized my multiplication tables. My mom had bought flash cards and we would work through them, she helped me learn those multiplication tables.

Once we had learned all the multiplication tables in our 3rd grade class, our teacher started playing “Around the World.” Are you familiar with it? You would stand next to the desk of a classmate and the teacher would show a flashcard and whoever answered first won and moved to the next desk. If you won again you kept moving. The game was over when a student made their way all the way through the entire classroom back to their own desk.

When they had “made it around the world” they won.

For a lot of the kids, moving from addition and subtraction to multiplication was really hard, but I loved it. I loved attempting to go around the world.

The Church moved from addition to multiplication when they brought new leaders into the core group.

When they did they set themselves up to go around the world with the message of the gospel.

Now when it came time to enlist these new leaders, the disciples didn’t get out a catalog or run down to the hardware store.

They didn’t get a quote from a contractor. They looked into the group of people that was gathering together to worship Jesus and called them to join the team, and in that moment no one expected the people who were enlisted to have years of experience serving in the church because no one did, it had only been around for a few weeks.

There was another reason that the disciples were comfortable with electing someone with no experience and a complete lack of what we would later determine to be ministry qualifications…

That’s exactly how they felt too.

In Acts 2 Peter stands up with the other disciples and preaches this incredible message which God uses to save 3,000 people.

To completely appreciate that moment, you need to read the gospels and get a full sense of Peter’s relationship with Jesus- to fully appreciate that moment you need to watch all of the time Peter puts his foot in his mouth, fails miserably after bragging, and weeps over his own deficiencies…

We don’t have time to cover all of that this morning, so I want to point you back to the very first meeting of Peter and Jesus.

It’s in John 1:42 – we’ll put it on the screen

42And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

Cephas is Aramaic, Petros is the greek version of Cephas, they both mean rock.

The very first time Jesus meets Peter He gives Peter the name we know him by. He changes his name from Simon to Peter.

He says, I’m going to call you rock.

Now Peter demonstrates anything but rock-steadiness over the next 3 years, but Jesus calls him rock anyway.

Jesus was calling Peter what he would be.

He says to him, you shall be called Rock.

You will be called Rock.

There’s authority here, but also it’s a prophecy.

Peter, you’re flaky right now, but you’re going to be called rock.

God is calling us to something we’re not ready for yet.

God’s calling you to be something you’re not ready for yet.

But just at is was Christ’s work in Peter’s life that made him the Rock Jesus had been calling him, Jesus wishes to work in you- to make you what He’s been calling you.

The first time I preached I was 17 year old kid who hated to do an oral book report. I loved cutting up and making jokes in a group of friends, but standing up in front of people i didn’t know that well terrified me.

My first sermon was at a nursing home that our youth group would go visit and sing to… Most of the people were sweet but some of them weren’t as much as the others.

When I was delivering my message a guy on the front row who couldn’t hear said loudly to the person next to him, and I’m sure he thought he was whispering but everyone int he room could hear him, he said

“You think he’s almost done?!”