We are 6 weeks away from officially launching the church plant.
The text that we studied this past Sunday was Acts 17:16-18:28. There were three things that we highlighted in this passage:
1) The PREPARATION of people’s hearts – It is sobering to think that God is at work long before we actually arrive at a place – hence, reminding us once again that it is God’s work and not ours. When we look all throughout the book of Acts, we notice that whenever the apostles would go into a city and preach the Gospel, there were always people who responded to the message. It was as if there was a divine appointment. In Acts 17:34, we notice that this was the case in Athens for Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, and Damaris. In Corinth, Aquila and his wife, Priscilla, were ready to receive the Gospel message (Ac 18:2). Even Crispus, a synagogue ruler, and his entire family came to know the Lord (Ac 18:8). Was it Paul’s incredible speaking ability? Was it the latest method or program? All we can conclude is that God was working in the hearts of these people, and when Paul faithfully obeyed God by going and preaching the Gospel, the people responded. As we look at Northwestern and the greater Chicagoland area, there will be many people that God is already preparing for the reception of the Gospel message. This is all the more reason why we need to be on our knees in prayer – b/c prayer reminds us that it is God’s work and that it is God who is working.
2) The PREACHING of the Gospel – As we turn the pages of the book of Acts, we cannot help but to notice an important trend. Whenever the apostles entered into a new city, their primary focus and priority was to preach the Gospel. They did it in Athens, Corinth, Thessalonica, Berea, Salamis, Pisidian Antioch, Debre, Perga, Philippi, and the list of cities goes on and on. After doing church in Ann Arbor for 10 years, I realize that it is easy for a church to stray from the priority of preaching the Gospel. Please don’t get me wrong… discipleship, fellowship, worship and all the other important components of church-life are important, but too often we keep on forgetting that preaching of the Gospel has to be at the forefront of the church’s mission. This is something that we need to commit ourselves to as we start this new church. We must preach the Gospel to those who are spiritually lost. The Gospel message has to also penetrate into the hearts of the believers – as we have been saying here in Ann Arbor, “We must wake up each morning and look in the mirror, then preach the Gospel to ourselves.”
3) The PIONEERING of new places for planting churches – The early church was consumed with the passion to see a viable and visible witness of the Gospel in every city. They understood the important principle that “church” was not a building but it was the people of God (ekklesia = the called out ones). Through the “called out ones,” the visible witness of the Gospel was going to shine. As the priority of preaching the Gospel was taken seriously, people came to know the Lord and started to make up the church. Once the church was established, Paul would often stay at that place to build up the believers (Ac 18:11, 18, 23). But the amazing part of all this is that Paul never stayed in one place for too long. He was consumed with the mission of seeing more cities being filled with visible witnesses of the Gospel by planting churches through the recent converts. Is this how church is supposed to be done? Are we entering into a new era of the Church? Instead of the mega-churches that we are so familiar with, is it possible that we are revisiting the days of the book of Acts, where there were “multi-churches”? There are so many cities and neighborhoods where the visible witness of the Gospel is not evident. We are entering into the days of the apostolic church, where the pioneering spirit is alive and well. The passion to plant more churches is capturing the hearts of God’s people. This is one of the key DNA that we would love to see in this new church plant. Isn’t this what the early church did? We affirmed this as we studied our passage – Ac 18:1, 18, 21b, 22-23.
We ended out time together in prayer. We prayed for these things to come to pass in our new church. We also spent some time praying for one another. The foundations are being laid and the vision is pressing us forward.