Apr. 28 - David Mabry, Change for Good
Newstart and Highpoint have been going through some major changes over the past few months. Our merger plans have instilled excitement in some people, trepidation in others, and complicated mix of both in the rest of us. Our minds are swirling with possibilities, risks, opportunities, doubts, and questions. But take heart – we’re not the first church to attempt a merger. And even better, God has provided an example for us in Scripture that we can follow!
On Sunday David Mabry gave a message about the founding of the Church of Antioch. It occurred in different times to different people under very different circumstances, but we find the situation feels somewhat familiar. Refer to Acts 10-15 for the full details, but here’s a brief summary. During Jesus’s ministry He worked primarily with Jews, but after his death Gentiles began to learn about Him and His works and wanted to follow Him too. Jews had their own thing going on; Gentiles wanted in. So what now?
Peter was reminded in a dream (Acts 10) that God’s plan was always to include all nations and he shared that vision with the Church in Jerusalem. The church council grew to acknowledge that membership in God’s people isn’t based on ethnicity or whether a man is circumcised, but simply by trusting and obeying Jesus. A lot happened between Acts 10 and Acts 15 but the result was this letter from the Council in Jerusalem to the Gentiles:
Acts 15:23-29 (The Message)
From the apostles and leaders, your friends, to our friends in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:
We heard that some men from our church went to you and said things that confused and upset you. Mind you, they had no authority from us; we didn’t send them. We have agreed unanimously to pick representatives and send them to you with our good friends Barnabas and Paul. We picked men we knew you could trust, Judas and Silas—they’ve looked death in the face time and again for the sake of our Master Jesus Christ. We’ve sent them to confirm in a face-to-face meeting with you what we’ve written.
It seemed to the Holy Spirit and to us that you should not be saddled with any crushing burden, but be responsible only for these bare necessities: Be careful not to get involved in activities connected with idols; avoid serving food offensive to Jewish Christians (blood, for instance); and guard the morality of sex and marriage.
These guidelines are sufficient to keep relations congenial between us. And God be with you!
Of course this letter didn’t solve all the problems involved with merging two different groups of people, but it did pave the way for clear ministry. There were positive outcomes of the decisions stated in the letter and we can look forward to the same outcomes from our merger, which are:
High commitment to better theology, a better understanding of God and a focus on the gospel, rather than the rules. Through this opportunity, we should read, think and interpret the times, meaning we should recognize that God is speaking to us through the transitions in our lives and ask ourselves, “What is God doing through this?”
Genuine holiness, growth in Jesus and sanctification. What depths, areas of growth and new sharpening of our faith journey will this merger call us into?
Unity and peace and the opportunity to show love and patience towards those who are different from us. Through the change and transition, we all will see our flaws more clearly. We should open our eyes to them and allow God to transform us!
Open doors to all people, not just a few. This merger will allow us to see more people transformed through Christ and that’s really exciting!
Without the letter from the Council of Jerusalem, we could very well have been left out of the Gospel message or still be required to live the old laws. Our lives are transformed because of the first church merger and will be transformed because of our current merger. Let’s be ready for what God is bringing about in our church, our families and each of our lives individually!