Last week, we began a brief two-week series on Revival and Awakening. Last week we talked about revival, and…I should have warned you there was a quiz…this week it’s what? Awakening.
Last week, I talked a little bit about the difference between the two. Revival is the church reviving back to its first love, and awakening is when The Holy Spirit wakes up the unchurched. And I said that revival should come first so that we’re not only spiritually revived for our own sake, but also for the sake of those unchurched whom God will awaken. We need to be ready, willing, and able so that we can be the true church shining its light and ready to disciple the newly awakened. I’m going to use the words ‘disciple’ and ‘discipleship’ a lot in this sermon, and I really think those are the words for the church when it comes to our part during an awakening.
So if you have your Bibles, please turn with me to Acts 2:40-47. I’m going to read––out of the New King James Version today––I know, it’s rare that I do that, but I like how it was worded. We’re going to look at how the early church was ready, willing, and able to be ready, willing, and able.
In other words, they were like soldiers who were ready to be called to duty at any minute. What did that look like? And what can we learn from their example?
Before we look at that, let me read to you one verse at the beginning of this chapter. It simply reads, “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” That phrase ‘with one accord’ doesn’t mean they all crammed into a little Honda. It means they were together not only physically, but also spiritually and mentally. There was no disagreement among them.
So let’s go down to verses 40-47. This is how Luke, a physician, and companion of Paul, who also wrote The Gospel of Luke, puts it.
He said: 40 And with many other words he [Peter] testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
So you’ll notice “with one accord” is used again here in verse 46. And I don’t think that Luke uses this phrase lightly. When I write, I write intentionally. I write, rewrite, and think about it and delete some things, and rewrite some more. Sometimes when we speak, whatever comes out comes out. But when we write, we’re much more careful to choose our words, especially our phrases. And Luke wanted to make sure that his reader, Theophilus, and any other readers, got this concept. The disciples were in one accord. They were spiritually of the same mind and attitude.
And this helped them be effective for the Kingdom of God.
Verse 44 puts it, “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common.” And in verse 42, we read, “And they [those who were being saved] continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
You see, three thousand people being saved in one day was a direct result of not only the gospel being preached and the work of The Holy Spirit, but also the oneness in thought and attitudes of the apostles. It’s not enough that we have truth, but as Jesus said, we speak the truth in love and everyone will know we are his by our love. And this goes for not only this church body, but the worldwide church needs to be of one mind. It’s hard, with the divisiveness going on in the world, and even in the church. But we need to be unified in Christ because that’s the only way the work gets done.
Have you ever been in a lousy work environment where people don’t get along? Or maybe there’s just a pervasive negative attitude? It’s hard to be motivated to get the work done. It’s hard to want to stay. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone to work there. I’ve had a job where I wouldn’t wish it on my own worst enemy.
The church can’t be like that. We have to be in one accord in order to work effectively.
Here’s a perfect example of the church being both effective and ineffective. Last week, I read a few quotes by Greg Laurie on the difference between Revival and Awakening. And in that same article where I pulled those quotes from, he also said this:
The last great spiritual awakening in America was the Jesus movement, which took place about 40 years ago [now 50]. I was there, and I think we can not only learn from history but we can be inspired by history.
A few years earlier, on April 8, 1966, Time magazine cover posed this question: “Is God Dead?” What a difference a few years can make, especially when God intervenes. Five years later, a 1971 issue of Time described a spiritual awakening: “Jesus is alive and well and living in the radiant spiritual fervor of a growing number of young Americans. … If any one mark clearly identifies them, it is their total belief in an awesome, supernatural Jesus Christ, not just a marvelous man who lived 2,000 years ago, but a living God.”
Do you see what God can do in just a short amount of time? Go from a dark, crazy, turbulent time to an awakening? I’m sure many of you know and maybe remember, not everyone accepted the Jesus movement. And ironically, it wasn’t the world that looked down upon it as much as the church. You’d think that the church would be thrilled––all those long-haired hippie freaks are getting saved and turning their lives around! But no, they didn’t want those long-haired hippie freaks in the church. So the church hindered its own growth at that time, and I think we’re still reaping the results of some of those attitudes to this day, because the attitudes were not welcoming, and some didn’t even try to meet the needs of those who were different.
Now, I’m not saying that the church didn’t have a right to be a little skeptical at first, afterall, the hippie movement had a lot of weird people who did weird and ungodly things. And a lot of people didn’t want that infiltrating the church.
You could say that the hippies had good intentions, to a degree. They were young baby boomers who wanted to change the world. But they wanted to be free from the staunch morals of their parent’s generation, yet they also wanted to find a way to live that more peaceful ‘one-accord’ lifestyle. So it was rebellion mixed with peace and brotherhood. And some of the peace and love they searched for was found in The Bible, but many hippies rejected The Bible and went seeking the answers through eastern religions, and experimental drugs, and free love.
After a time, the hippies became disillusioned because many found out the hard way that eastern religion and sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll were not the answer. But love was still the answer. So, as the 70s began, many changed their tune and went back to their roots to see what The Bible had to say about peace and love, and the answer to the meaning of life.
This meant that a few of those long-haired hippie freaks started coming to church, and hence they became known as Jesus Freaks. A lot of Jesus Freaks had their own communes and were not well-versed in Biblical doctrine, so some of them went off in sort of odd directions. But others genuinely found God––a lot of them did so among the charismatic churches, and you’ll probably remember that other churches back then didn’t know what to do with this new breed of Jesus Freaks.
And that’s what I want to talk to you about today. What do we do when people who are not like us come into this church? What happens when the lesbian couple comes and sits in the pews? What happens when a former inmate sits down next to you? What about someone with tattoos and piercings from head to toe?
In a lot of churches back then, you toed the line or else. Men had to have short hair, you had to wear your Sunday best, you read a King James Bible, and you listened to nothing but hymns and Southern Gospel Music, and maybe a little Country, but we won’t tell. And it was hard for the Jesus Freaks to comply. Some did, some didn’t. And like I said, they began to find God through the charismatic movement, and contemporary churches started to spring up so these young adults had a fellowship, and Christian coffeehouses sprang up.
One of the biggest things that came out of this time was the birth of Contemporary Christian Music, or Jesus Music, or Christian Rock. And while the whole Jesus Movement was happening about the time I was born, if not sooner, I do remember when I was growing up the church still being at odds well into the mid-90s regarding Christian rock music. Was it ‘the devil’s music’ or was it ‘God’s music?’
Diana recalls the gossip among churchgoers when she was young because people in her church started wearing sandals and flip-flops. And it was generally looked down upon, until the past 15 years or so, for churchgoers to wear T-shirts and jeans to church; let alone the pastors wearing T-shirts and jeans, some of whom do now. It’s very rare to find anyone wearing their Sunday best to church anymore. And by the way, ‘the devil’s music’ is now the norm for Sunday morning worship music.
So why am I saying all of this?
To give you an example of the last big awakening in America, and what we can learn from the needs of those being awakened, and the response of the church. Though the church is finally more accommodating to receiving the lost, it took decades and generations to finally learn how to receive the lost in a way that the lost could feel embraced by the church.
Many church leaders of the 1970s retired in the 1980s, and so the youth who grew up in the church in the 70s became leaders in the 80s and though some of them tried to loosen legalism and traditionalism a bit, they could only do so much because there were plenty of other leaders and people in the church who had been around for a while who could not understand the youth culture.
By the time the mid-90s rolled around, more young people from the 80s were getting married and having kids and so they too became church leaders. So with the young people of the 70s and 80s now adults and in church leadership in the 90s, and having grown up in the MTV generation that they did, they understood the newcomers, the youth, and the unchurched, and finally, things began to loosen up quite a bit, and many churches began to reach out.
But that loosening up may have gone a little too far now, with churches becoming theologically liberal to accommodate everyone to the point that they are encouraging sinful behaviors and twisting scripture to make the Bible more politically correct.
So what’s the right approach? Where’s the balance? How do we welcome and minister to new believers where they’re at while not watering down the gospel? How do we reach out to that gay couple without compromising? It’s tough.
There’s a branch of theology called apologetics, and it’s the study of why we believe what we believe. So, it’s pretty brainy, but Tim Morey, in his book Embodying our Faith says this:
“By [embodying our faith] I mean an apologetic that is based more on the weight of our actions than the strength of our arguments. This is an apologetic that is high-touch, engages people relationally, ordinarily takes place in the context of an ongoing friendship, and addresses the needs inquirers have and the questions they pose. It provides the weight to our answers that reason by itself cannot.”
In other words, we need to focus on investing in relationships and showing the newly-churched the community and purpose that we have in Christ. To accomplish this, the church needs to restructure its thoughts and practices of evangelism and discipleship. What do I mean by evangelism and discipleship? Evangelism is bringing the lost into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Discipleship is the next step, it’s helping new believers go from being saved and baptized to becoming mature disciples.
Going back to the book, the author said that one of the things we need to do is be patient with where people are in life’s journey. Conversion might have been quicker and easier for the hippies because they had some upbringing and understanding of Christianity. But now, people have not grown up in Christian households, so many people have not had a real taste of Christianity.
This means that the church should take a missionary approach to the unsaved right here in our own neighborhoods. What do I mean by the missionary approach? It means we should find common ground and start from there.
Going back to Tim Morey’s book again, Embodying Our Faith, he explains that God came to us as one of us, not in his glorious form, but as a humble Jewish carpenter, “wearing Jewish clothes, speaking Aramaic and living by the cultural values of first-century Israel.”
Paul said to the Corinthian church, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings” (1 Cor.19-23).
For most of us in America, and in this church, embracing this aspect isn’t so hard. We already wear the same clothes and hairstyles as most others around us. It wasn’t so in the hippie days though, was it? So now that we can fairly easily find common ground with one another, then what?
I’m going to use Embodying Our Faith, one more time. Its author Tim Morey expressed how he came back to the faith after having left for five years.
He said, “Of the things God used in putting me back together, none had as much impact as the amazing community of believers that embraced me.” Morey speaks of how his church, Life Covenant of Torrance, Ca., has embraced the essence of community through Christ. He explained that everyone who is baptized is immersed into one community of believers—one body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph 4:3-5).
He went on to say that, “A church is made up of baptized sinners at differing stages of spiritual progression and will necessarily be an imperfect place.” Did you catch that? The church will necessarily be an imperfect place. In other words, this messiness of imperfection is, “part of what attracts emerging generations to the faith.” People want to see a genuineness of faith, and part of that genuineness is the fact that we’re not perfect. And I think a lot of people would rather see that than fake perfection.
In addition, people want to see community and family. With the continued breakdown of the family, community has become an increased need among today’s generation.
Now the things that I’ve said already, you might be thinking, ‘this church is already well-poised for community evangelism. We have a tight-knit church family, we’re not stringent on how people dress or where they come from or what status they have.’ That is a great thing. Did you know that’s actually modern evangelism? Did you know that attitude is what is needed to be a 21st-Century American missionary? Did you know that’s something God can use as part of an awakening? Did you know that our church is already attractive to outsiders?
Community is holy, it is scriptural. Why? Because it is necessary for everyone on an emotional level, and it is the embodiment of faith, not just the preaching up on the pulpit by one guy once a week, that points others to Christ and helps disciple them once they walk in that door.
Before I go any further, I need to point out that everything that we do needs to be led by The Holy Spirit. This isn’t an act where God folds his arms and sits back and says, “Okay, show me if you can do it.”
No, we need to work with God and understand that God is already working on the heart of that person. I’ve used this verse twice recently, and I’ll use it again. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
God is patient with people. He begins working with them where they are. Imagine sitting next to someone who is restoring a classic car. It’s been beaten pretty hard. It’s rusted, it has a few scratches and dents, and a lot of miles on it. It has tears in the seams and it needs a whole lot of love.
And that’s exactly what God is going to do when he restores someone, and he expects us to give that restoration a lot of love and patience, too. As the master craftsman, God knows not to rush a project. Certain things have to be restored delicately and precisely one step at a time. Some things have to wait before that coat of paint. God is in the business of restoration, and we need to be patient by his side as we help him in the process of discipling new believers.
I started by quoting Greg Laurie, and I’m going to end with a quote from him. He talks about how the early church did their acts, not on their own, but with help from The Holy Spirit. They were in one accord, but they were not of their own accord.
He said: The Book of Acts tells the story of a handful of men and women who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, did not leave their world the same way they found it. They were ordinary people whom God enabled to do extraordinary things. It was the beginning of a movement that continues to this very day.
On the Day of Pentecost, about 120 believers were gathered together when the Holy Spirit was poured out. Everywhere they went, they were ridiculed and opposed and persecuted and physically assaulted for their beliefs. Some were even put to death. Yet within a period of about 30 years, this original group of 120 and their converts came to be known as those who turned their world upside down. When we see their fearless preaching and their expectant prayer and willingness to obey, these Christians almost seem radical.
There were 120 Christians in that upper room. But remember, there were originally 12. Look around here. Are there 12? How did they go from 12 to 120? They weren’t content with just being disciples, they were called, commanded, and convicted to make disciples as well. In some way, we can be of great effect to make disciples and to disciple those who come here searching for the truth and hope and love that they are craving and are not going to find anywhere else. As the world becomes more topsy turvy, more chaotic, more uncertain, more ungodly, where else are people going to turn? Every other institution has failed them. They are going to seek a higher power and something with a firm foundation, and they know it’s the church.
As I was putting this sermon together, I took a little break and went onto Youtube. And I went to a channel I listen to now and then called Walking Faith, and the person who was speaking happened to say this on the day I was putting this sermon together. He based this out of Matthew 28:18-20, which reads:
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The person who was speaking was making the point that we need to be disciples first. That is something that we need to concentrate on. Just like I said last week, the church needs revival so that we can be in a ready stance for when the world has an awakening.
And he said that we need to focus intently on being a disciple, that is to be disciplined in our walk with the Lord. Then he referenced these verses in Matthew and said, “Don’t see how many people you can tell the gospel to, but ask God to develop you as a disciple so that you can have the mentality and actions and work through the gifts that God has given you to be a teacher or to create or make disciples of all the nations.”
He also said, “There’s going to come a time and that time has already begun, where being a disciple is going to be the most important thing a person can be in this world. No matter where you live…The most important thing you can be is not a politician, not rich…not this or that. The only thing God really wants you to focus on is being a disciple, and he can send you into any environment and you can be the same person anywhere.”
Think about that, a disciple is a disciple anywhere. A true Christian is a true Christian anywhere. Wherever we go, we carry Christ with us. If we are disciplined in our faith everywhere, then we can use that genuine faith in love to reach anyone anywhere no matter where they’re at in their spiritual journey. People are hungry for something real, and they think––just maybe––that we may have what they’re looking for. If we are genuine disciples, they’ll see it. And The Holy Spirit will work on them and us for His purpose and His glory and their salvation
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on First Baptist Church of Watkins Glen