This past Saturday evening, I preached at the PazNaz Saturday evening service. Here’s the page of notes I wrote up as a guide.
Made Clean – July 29, 2012
“The Best Thing and the Worst Thing” – Acts 15:36-16:5; Galatians 2:11-13
Our Context: Those of us who have been in churches a while have almost certainly been hurt by being a part of churches.
When there’s clear sin happening, it makes sense, right? People are intentionally moving away from God’s work so of course there is evil. There’s a famous heretic Marcion who lived in the second century. He has this famous quote, “I’m going to tear your church and make a rent in it forever.” He wanted division because he thought the church was wrong and he was right, and he intentionally sought ways to destroy the church and lead a new group in a new direction.
When someone clearly has the church’s worst as a goal, we know where to stand.
It’s like Moses and Korah.
What if there are differing opinions, however, on what direction the church is to go, conflicting opinions on ministry or how things are to work, resources? That’s where, I think, the most church issues come into play because with those we expose fissures, cracks of faith and commitment to each other.
We might say we trust each other but when disagreements come, we want to be right and if we’re right the other person must be wrong and if their wrong we need to do something about it.
So many church problems come from people who are sure they are serving God coming into disagreement with others who are sure they are serving God—each person thinks they’re right and each person thus thinks the other people must be opposing not only them, but also God. How many denominations do we have because people split off into different factions because of often very minor issues of mission or doctrine?
My story—working in a church, young adults, spiritual gifts, getting people involved.
Their goal, mission, door to door evangelism. They thought it had to be one or the other.
We alienate people when we generalize our own calling.
This isn’t new. READ PASSAGE
Some background: Galatians 2; Acts 13:13
Paul – Paul’s mission was the churches and the message. He wanted to build churches. He was a missionary and an evangelist who often got in difficult circumstances, so he needed to know who to trust. Life was unsafe, and he needed safe people around him.
Barnabus – Barnabus’s mission was the people. He wanted to raise up new leaders and invest in people. He did this with Paul, remember, using his own reputation to help Paul transition into a trusted role. John story?
John Mark — John Mark wanted to serve Jesus. But he was immature. He had failed and stumbled. Was there grace? He wasn’t trustworthy, that’s true, but he wanted to be. Help my unbelief, Lord.
God’s work –Did I say three characters, I meant 4. We have to have God’s heart.
Personal experience – NewSong—God had put something onto my heart, God had put something on other people’s hearts. How do we know which direction to go?
How do we go forward when others want to go left or right or up or down? That might be forward for them, but not for us. Like the universe, however, God’s work is expanding in all directions.
At the heart of this passage is the reality of the stress and strain of learning how to live as a body—if each of us have been given different gifts and passions and callings—which we have—then we’re going to have different priorities and perspectives and goals. How do we learn how to listen in a way that celebrates this diversity instead of erupting into division?
In this text we have forms of redemption: Barnabas and John Mark go to Cyprus.
Paul takes Silas and later Timothy—two helpers who were much more suitable to minister to Gentiles.
We shouldn’t idealize the early church, because we see the problems there that we still experience. What we should do is trust in God, who works all things together for good because at the end of the day it is his mission, and we’re just part of it. We also need to remember that we’re not the only bearers of God’s mission and our part isn’t everyone’s part.
I like the story of Narnia where Aslan won’t tell other people’s stories—we’re not told everyone’s stories, we’re just told our own and called to join with others not as same people but as diverse people with a shared mission and savior. Rather than causing division, we should celebrate that we have different gifts, different places and ways of influence.