In Acts 7 in the bible, we read about the stoning of Stephen.
Does anyone know what role Stephen had in the early church?
Let me give you a clue: In Acts 6.5 we see him described as “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit”.
So what did he do? Are we thinking pastor? Elder? Worship leader?
Let me give you another clue: In Acts 6.8 we read that Stephen was “a man full of God’s grace and power”.
If you think of someone like that in your church, what is their role? Any closer to figuring out Stephen’s?
STEPHEN WAS THE FOOD GUY
So at the beginning of Acts chapter 6 we read how the twelve disciples chose seven men ‘known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom’ to take over the work of the daily distribution of food [a move that was done because a certain group of widows was being neglected and they wanted to make sure it wasn’t so].
And Stephen, who went on to be martyred, and who saw heaven opened and witnessed the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand side of God [Acts 7.56] was one of those seven. His role in the church was to make sure that food was handed out.
BE THE CHURCH BE THE CHURCH BE THE CHURCH
As i have been having intimate book launches and creating space for people to ask any questions they might have about church and God and following Jesus, i am becoming more and more convinced that the church is meant to be so much more of an identity than it is an experience.
This does not appear to be the most popular of opinions. There is a loud and insistent clamouring for church to need to be identified as ‘local church’ and a strong focus on the meeting at the particular place with that certain group of people.
i’m not suggesting for a second that local church is wrong, or bad, or should be stopped or left or run away from. At all.
But we are called the bride of Christ. We are described as the body of Christ. Both identity labels. Sure there is doing attached to both of those, but more importantly there is being. Who we are. Not just on Sundays, in the building. But always, everywhere.
It’s not even as if Sunday is the most authentic picture of who we are – we tend to dress up in a way we seldom dress during the week – portray a persona unlike the reality of what is really going on in our lives [So we don’t get to see people struggling with life or relationships or work or issues – every marriage looks perfect, every individual looks like they have it together] – and go through the religious ritual singing words of songs we often either don’t believe or pay attention to, prayers which sound nice and sermons which are too often comfortable and confirming of where we are rather than challenging where we should be being.
i’m kinda tired of feeling like i have to defend my position on this. It feels like too many people have settled for the image of Jesus on the left and far too few are broken before the much closer image on the right.
i believe that being a part of the church means being infused with the D.N.A. of Jesus through the very fact of having His Holy Spirit in us and that it was always meant to be a description of who we are seven days a week, not just one.
It should rally us to social and societal justice, cause us to be more genuinely loving and affected people, move us to use our time, money and skills in the pursuit of the kingdom [not just 10% of them], help us to be more real in our relationships, challenge us towards forgiveness [of EVERYONE who has hurt us in any way] and spur us on to be salt and light and the fragrance of Christ amidst those who are perishing.
While local church is not a bad thing, what i am talking about feels so much bigger. It can be ‘Local Church Plus…’ for sure. And the benefits of community and accountability and teaching and combined worship and sharing of resources should be obvious.
12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. [Romans 12]
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.”
21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!
So today, don’t give up on gathering, but let it be real. Let it be transformative. Let it be spirit-enthusing. And above all let it inform the rest of your week as you leave the building and continue to be the church day in and day out.
[To read some more about the book i wrote on church, called ‘i, church’, and how to get hold of it, click here]