Leadership Making Church Matter Scripture

Leadership Lessons in Acts, Part III

May 2, 2010

This is the last week for our current series, Dangerous Church, looking at the Acts of the Apostles.  And this is one more installment looking at some of the leadership lessons the Acts of the Apostles has to teach us. 

When last we left the story, Paul is preaching in a city called Antioch and things become so contentious that he actually leaves for awhile. Next he travels to a city of Lystra and I think there is one more incredibly important lesson about being Church we can learn from his visit to Lystra. Interestingly, this story also begins with a healing. 

In Lystra there sat a man crippled who had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking,
Paul looked directly at him,
saw that he had faith to be healed
and called out, “Stand up on your feet!”
At that the man jumped up and began to walk.
Acts 14.8-10
And the crowds see what has happened and they are blown away.
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted “The gods have come down to us in human form!”
Acts 14.11
They think Paul and Barnabas are gods. Ever have that happen to you. Neither have I. Not sure how I would respond. Probably be just a little flattered.  Paul and Barnabas are horrified. They rip their garments, which was a Jewish way of expressing total and utter disgust. Paul is disgusted with their pagan idea of God.  But despite his disgust he uses the opportunity to give the first sermon ever in Lystra.
“We are only human beings like you. 
We are bringing you good news,
telling you to turn from these worthless things
to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.”
Acts 14.15
Paul introduces the crowd to the idea of monotheism, that there is only one God, and that he is creator and ruler.  God is God and we’re not.

But Paul doesn’t get very far in his sermon. Now if this were a movie, there would be a cut to the crowd. And you would see some people walking in the crowd and whispering into people’s ear. Stirring up trouble, murmuring and spreading lies.  
Then some Jews came from Antioch 
and won the crowd over.
Acts 14.19
Antioch is where they just came from, where all the fights were going on.  His enemies have followed him and are creating trouble for him. Sometimes trouble just follows you around. And, these troublemakers are successful.
…having persuaded the people they stoned Paul
and dragged him outside the city, supposing he was dead.
Acts 14.19
They make up lies about Paul and confuse the crowd, which is obviously pretty easy to do, and work them up into a murderous riot. They attempt to kill Paul and actually think they have.
But after the disciples had gathered around him,
he got up and went back into the city.
Acts 14.20
Paul is so beat up that everybody thinks he’s dead.  He’s left for dead by his enemies. But he’s not dead, he gets back up and he goes back into the city. It’s actually an interesting parallel to the beginning of the story, with the crippled man getting up and waking into the city.  They both move unexpectedly, in faith.
Then look at the end of this story:
They preached the good news
and won a large number of disciples…
“We must go through many hardships
to enter the Kingdom,” they said.
Acts 14.21, 22
They are effective despite the hardships, but its more than that. As they teach us, they must go through the hardships, the hardships are a necessary part of the process.  God uses affliction to bless Paul with endurance and endurance is a blessing for Paul because it builds character.   It also builds the church.
A dangerous church…is going to be all about endurance. 
Paul was beaten and left for dead and got back up and kept going…maybe I face my critics, maybe I can handle the cynicism and derision that comes with being identified as a Christian in our contemporary cultture.
Paul was beaten and left for dead and got back up and kept going…maybe I can risk not getting a promotion because I’m speaking up for honesty and integrity, maybe I can just take a pass on going to that club with those guys.
Paul can be beaten and left for dead and got up and kept going I can risk inviting someone from my mom’s group who desperately needs God to join me for church.
If Paul can be beaten, and that’s the church that the kind of church I belong to maybe I can get up out of the pew and get involved and serve.
If Paul can be beaten maybe I can make some slight sacrifice so someone else can get to know Christ.
And even if I fail, even if my words fall on deaf ears, I can rejoice, I can have peace because it is through many trials and tribulations I have to go to enter the kingdom of God. Precisely in taking a risk to bring other people to God or in being a voice for God’s truth that I grow and am transformed.
Grace is free, growth is earned.
God gives us grace freely, but the change in our character to be bold, to be brave, to be transformed, that comes through endurance. There is no growth, personal or as a church community, without the sacrifice of endurance. Here’s what Paul understood that we often forget. He understood that in order to find his life, he had to be willing to lose it. In order to be a part of what God was doing in his generation, he had to get over himself and get to know who God could be in his life. Paul understood that his trials and tribulations brought him deeper into a relationship with God, that by not giving up, but by continuing to work to build God’s kingdom, he could be a part of what God was doing in the world, and he grew deeper and the church grew larger, a lot larger.

If you volunteer in ministry, connect in a small group, or if you are just coming back to the Church and getting into the habit of a larger level of commitment, something will come up against you to stop in your relationship with Christ, to stop you from entering deeper into God’s kingdom. Just like those people knocked Paul down and threw him out of town.
And when that happens, you have got to get back up. Disciples are people who accept the challenge and the difficulty and the adversity and seek the blessing of endurance.  That’s how disciples grow, and that’s how disciples make disciples. Elsewhere Paul explicitly teaches this:
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1.3

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