Externally Focused Church

Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  29:59
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The Tallest Man I’ve Ever Seen

This summer I was out on a date with my daughter: dinner at the Olive Garden downtown. And I see this man walking down the street. The tallest man I have ever seen.
And I have seen some basketball players, I have seen some tall people… this guy was taller. He looked like he was walking on stilts because his torso was normal size but his legs were each six feet long. I would have assumed stilts… except his knees were still in the middle.
I don’t want to point and stare… but I definitely want Arabelle to see this! So I whisper, are you seeing this?
And she says “Yes!”
I look over and she is looking under the table at a pigeon hopping along.
“Arabelle, look up.” But she doesn’t, she doesn’t want to look away from the pigeon. “Seriously.”
Now, this dude is like 12 feet tall so he is crossing ground like crazy. Finally I get her to look up, right as he walks behind a tree. “What?” She looks back down.
No, over there, now he’s across the street. And just as she looks over, he folds down his body and squeezes into a bus. She totally missed it: the tallest man I’ve ever seen.
What are we looking at? Where is our attention? Are we missing something amazing?


Recap: amazing church in Antioch
They are a Christ-centered church: first called Christians because they won’t shutup about Christ, even to Gentiles.
And then they form a community of love-without-distinction, united in the name of Christ with the love of Christ and so they call them “Christ-ians”. By this all men shall know they are His disciples, but the way they love each other.
This is a church with remarkable advantages. Founded by men who are crazy about Jesus. They are then mentored and led by Barnabus - the son of encouragement, who is wise enough and mature enough to recognize what is fantastic about this community and then add what they needed most: the teaching of Saul.
Who then taught for at least a year.
What a blessing that must have been! This guy wrote most of the books of the Old Testament. But do you know how wrote the most actual percentage by word of the New Testament? Luke. But who mentored and taught Luke? Paul. This guy directly and indirectly shaped most everything we know about Christianity.
This is their teacher, their preacher.
What do you do with a teacher like that? With pastors like that? This guy who recognizes the Holy Spirit and has that incredible spirit of maturity. This guy who knows the Scripture backwards and forwards, has the most incredible personal testimony of meeting Jesus, and teaches with such power that his words and letters are stilled shared today.
You hold on to those teachers, those leaders. You built a church around them, upon them as foundational pillars. You make a personality cult around them and you ride that wave into mega-church territory, that’s what you do!
What did the church in Antioch do?

Send them to serve other churches

Acts 11:27–30 ESV
Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
They send Barnabas and Saul off to Jerusalem to bring the offering. Okay… a short term trip. There is generosity there… but no big deal. Barnabas and Saul come back.
Acts 12:25 ESV
And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.
Now they have added to the church. John Mark, or Mark, the likely author of the gospel of Mark, writing down what we believe is the testimony of Peter. But Barnabus and Saul return back “home” to their home church to feed into them again. To teach them again.

Send them to plant other churches

Acts 13:1 ESV
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
This is a model right here: multiple elders leading out of multiple giftings. Saul has very different giftings than Barnabus, we have seen that already and we will see it again. Simon: we don’t know that guy, really. He was presumably black because he was called Simon “the black”. Lucius, Manaen, we don’t know these people, but to be named as leaders along side Barnabus and Saul, they had to be great. The key is that these five men are leaders, and there were additional other prophets and teachers as well.
What were they doing together? Worshiping and fasting:
Acts 13:2–3 ESV
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
There they are, either just those five, or those together with other prophets and teachers, the leaders of Antioch… or even the whole church of Antioch.
What are they already doing?
They are praying and fasting. The implication isn’t that they were in a special time of seeking the Holy Spirit’s will… the “praying and fasting” was an ongoing posture, not a specific process.
This is a way of life, for the church, and certainly for the church’s leaders.
The Holy Spirit “said”. How did he say? We don’t know. In the earlier mission to the church in Jerusalem he “spoke” through a prophet. Maybe he spoke aloud, maybe through a growing inner conviction.
And what did the Holy Spirit ask them?
Send out some leaders!
You are going to send someone on a mission to plant churches further North in Asia, start planting churches. What do you do when you plant churches? You gather a solid “B” team. The backup worship band, the Assistant or Associate pastor, you train them up as best you can and then you send them out.
What you DON’T do is send out the pillars of your own church. If you have five “named” guys… you keep those five guys and draw from the others to send. Especially you don’t send your two best, and if one of them is Paul, there’s no WAY you send that guy.
Did the Holy Spirit say “plant a church?” Nope. Or “send someone”?
No. Set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.

The Externally Focused Church

The church at Antioch has an external focus.
Not on supporting sister churches, though they do that for the church in Jerusalem. Humanitarian aid through monetary sacrificial giving.
The church at Antioch has an external focus.
Not on planting churches or evangelism or missions as we might call the coming trip Barnabus and Saul are going to take. How can we say that when this is one of the most fruitful mission trips of all time?
The church at Antioch has an external focus… because their focus is not on themselves and the maximum possible growth plan for their church.
Their focus is on the Holy Spirit and what he is doing next. Where are they called to serve next, who are they called to send next?
And in that willingness all the options are on the table.
Oh, you want our core leaders, the very best people that we have?
There is some additional “fasting and prayer”. I read that as an thorough act of confirmation. Let’s be sure before we send away our best… but send away they did. They laid their hands on them and sent them off… and there was fruit like CRAZY from that sending, from that sacrifice.
What if we learned that the church at Antioch fizzled and died because they sent off Paul and Barnabus?
Here’s my opinion: totally worth it! Totally worth it. Because that’s what the Holy Spirit sent them to do. And the Kingdom of God spreads like wildfire because of it. First this mission, then two more follow in kind.
When they are called to be a sending church, they send the absolute best that they have: Barnabas and Saul.
They recognized that neither spiritual gifts or people-gifts are given to them to be the best church ever: they are given by the Holy Spirit to be directed by the Holy Spirit.
Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit to be used at the direction of the Holy Spirit for the Kingdom of God.
Spiritual people are called in by the Holy Spirit to be used at the direction of the Holy Spirit for the Kingdom of God.
So, when we wait upon the Holy Spirit and we are asking what is next… this is really important: everything is on the table.
And we wait with eager expectation...

Playing Fetch

Playing fetch on Sabbath mornings with Vin. Try to get out all that energy before I am gone for most of the day. She LOVES it.
But our backyard is not that big. It used to be I could get her to run the length of the backyard twice but faking it that way… and she would run over there… then fake the other way and she’d run over there, then throw for real the first way. Back and forth all over.
… but she’s a smart dog. She caught on to that trick, so know she watches the toy. She’s ready, she’s on a hair trigger, but she isn’t going to move until the toy goes.
There is so much expectation in that. Waiting for me to throw it… but not willing to run in advance of the ball, because she doesn’t want to miss out on a moment of the real thing.
Eye is on the frisbee. If I move it, her head follows, but not her body… she is waiting. I wouldn’t say it is patience, it is eager anticipation.
Do we wait upon God with that kind of anticipation. Oh man… it is going to move, God is going to move, the Holy Spirit is going to move...
I can’t WAIT to see where!? I can’t WAIT to be a part of it. I can’t WAIT to RUN into whatever it is.
How do we do this?

Pulse Project

The Pulse project is a process to assess our church’s health, to join together in seeking God’s vision for our church, and to listen hard for where He is leading us.
“But I thought that was the point and purpose of Pastor Dusty fasting and praying on Tuesdays.” Yes, and what’s more, I know I haven’t been alone in that journey. Many have been joining me in that prayer.
But my growing conviction is that this isn’t a “Peter has a vision on the rooftop alone” scenario. but rather, we are cast in the role of the church in Antioch. And the leaders are gathered together in an ongoing posture of worship, of prayer, of fasting, listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit together.
It is a process, and processes can be helpful. But more than that, it is a posture. A posture before God, waiting on God, waiting on the Holy Spirit...
With anything and everything on the table.
So join us in praying for this next step. In a posture of worship, of praying, of fasting. I believe, like the church at Antioch, we have had a long season of preparation. Of refining and we already know far more than we practice. Our knowledge exceeds our ministry.
Join us in listening to the Holy Spirit with anything and everything on the table. And I believe God is leading some of you, even now, to be a part of this process with us.
That is a Next Step church: willing to be shaped and reshaped everyday by the leading of the Holy Spirit.
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