Sunday, 14 March 2021

Discipleship in Mission - Acts 14

Launching out in many small mission initiatives can be likened to deploying ourselves as small lifeboats. Leaving behind the luxury of the big ship we take the risk on the choppy seas in small boats as a way of more effectively reaching people in the community who need saving.

As a church we therefore have to ask ourselves:

Key Question: [OUT] Are we ready & willing to deploy lifeboats?
Challenge: Pray for God to lead you to those He has ready to hear

In Acts 14 Paul and Barnabus find themselves in Iconium. They go straight away to the synagogue - not because it is a nice place or they might meet nice people, but because they understand the urgency of the gospel. They go to tell people about Jesus! This is a strategic move for them, mixing with people where they might get a hearing, and see who responds.

Note how they go to their hearers, relying on hosting by others (in this case the synagogue). They do not simply set up their own stall somewhere and hope people come to them. Instead they go looking to see who might respond to the message of Jesus.

We need to take the challenge to pray for God to lead us to those He has ready to hear. These people might not be our natural friends - it is right and good to pray for our friends of course (keep that up!), but let us also be open to God leading us to others. As we pray, let us also believe that God indeed does have people waiting to hear you!

In chapter 14 verse 1 we are told that some indeed believed, and so (verse 3) Paul and Barnabus spend some considerable time there. They took the time to journey alongside these enquirers, taking them from decision to discipleship. So Paul and Barnabus understood the urgency of the gospel, and also the need to invest time over a longer haul with the emerging believers.

We can do the same. We might not all be travelling evangelists, yet we can deploy ourselves locally as small lifeboats. There are 3 steps ...

Step 1 is to pray: 'God lead me t those you have ready to hear!'. Pray for who to go to ...

Step 2 is to have the lifeboat ready. One way is to start a small family discipleship group together. Perhaps 2 - 3 families who commit to share faith and life together, and crucially to do that openly, i.e. ready and willing to invite in enquirers to join you.

That means that when you have a conversation developing with someone (arranged for you by God as a result of step 1!), you can readily say 'you may want to explore further ... would you like to meet my family and a couple of others who are part of the Countess Free Church, where we explore our faith in a simple and straight-forward way?'.

Step 3 is to then include the enquirer into your small group, where you cover the basic stories of Jesus ... keeping it simple! One group we run always just has four items in its running order for each occasion. This is not necessarily the only way, but keeping it simple and accessible for newcomers are certainly the key.

As a church we want to encourage this kind of deployment. We do not need to be prescriptive. In fact there are only three things we insist on:

  1. That the group has a clear purpose and reason for forming.
  2. That the purpose includes mission (being able to reach people) right up there in its headline statement.
  3. That the group remains connected to and makes itself accountable to Countess Free Church

Back in Iconium we see in verse 2 and verses 4 to 6 that it wasn't all plain sailing for Paul and Barnabus. Others stirred up trouble, dividing the people, and then an outright plot. Eventually Paul and Barnabus had to leave.

Let us be clear: there are rough waters out there, there are winds, waves, and for sure risk of danger. In reaching out some may speak or turn against you. We try to tell of Jesus as sensitively as we can, and we certainly don't want to be obnoxious. However, the fact of telling of Jesus will likely land us in trouble. So we have to be prepared, asking ourselves whether we are so abandoned to Jesus and His love that we accept the possibility trouble and rejection?

Paul and Barnabus move on, yet in verse 7 we see they continued to tell of Jesus. In other words they went back to step 1 above, but in a new place. They didn't say "Gosh that was traumatic, we won't be doing that again ...". Back in Iconium the fruit of spending considerable time with the new believers was that they too could now be manning and launching their own lifeboats, even with Paul and Barnabus absent. Healthy mission has a multiplication effect - equipping others to get ont he case too, rather than simply trying to gather people into a place of safety.

As a church we have to face the question: are ready and willing to deploy lifeboats?

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