In September, we’ll be starting a new sermon series in one of the most dramatic narratives in all of scripture: the Book of Acts. The author, Luke, picks up right where his Gospel left off and gives us a historical picture of both the explosive outward growth and extraordinary inward transformation of the early church.
Right before leaving the disciples, Jesus tells them that they “… will be (His) witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” You could call that a mission statement (it is), but it’s a lot more than that: It’s a gift to give away and a promise to empower.
A Gift to Give Away
If the guy living next door in my college dorm had not invited me to a Bible study, or if a guy I’d never met named “Max” had not anonymously paid for me to go on his campus ministry’s spring break service trip, I wouldn’t be a Christian today - never mind a pastor! If the disciples had not relied upon that empowering promise and been faithful “witnesses to the end of the earth,” The Table would not exist today. The upstart, carpenter-worshipping minority sect of Judaism that came to be called “Christianity” would have flamed out within weeks of Jesus’ death and resurrection. In every time, place, and culture across human history, the transformative experience of the Gospel has so profoundly impacted people that they’ve felt compelled to tell others about their experience (i.e. “witness”). That compulsion comes not from a sense of stoic duty, but surprised delight in a gift we didn’t know we’ve always longed for. The degree to which we experience the Gospel as a “gift” is the degree to which we will be itching to offer that gift to our neighbors.
A Promise to Empower
But this “witnessing” is not on our own power… or on our own at all. The phrase, “you will be” is a promise to the disciples that the success or failure of that endeavor is dependent on Jesus, not their effort or effectiveness (Matthew 16:18). Time and again, the disciples face impossible circumstances, and the Holy Spirit shows up in both extraordinary and ordinary ways. That doesn’t mean the disciples are spared from pain or difficulty, not by a long shot! But Acts paints a picture of God’s unstoppable, transformative grace as it ripples throughout all of the Roman Empire, and beyond. This was not just for the disciples “way back then,” this promise is the inherited reality of the modern church as we continue to be Jesus’s witnesses “to the end of the earth” on our block, in our jobs, and every other sphere of life.
To Be Continued…
It was Luke’s explicit intent in writing Acts in the first place: the “Acts of the Apostles” are “to be continued” in and through the church, by and for every ensuing generation. This blog post is also “to be continued” (see what I did there?), and Part 2 will explore a lot more of the “how” behind all this, including a timeline and some very specific implications for The Table over the next year… like sending people to plant a new church in Longmont, but you already knew about that.
… to be continued!