The Main Business of the Church; Acts 1:1-11
Plymouth First United Methodist Church; August 15, 2021
Reverend Mike Dixon
Alice Lee Humphreys in her book, Angels in Pinafores, tells about her experiences as a first-grade teacher. She tells about one little girl who came to school one winter day wearing a beautiful white angora beret with white mittens and a matching muff.
As she was coming through the door, a mischievous little boy grabbed the white muff and threw it in the mud. After disciplining the little boy, the teacher sought to comfort the little girl.
Brushing the mud off of her soiled muff, the little girl looked up at the teacher and said in a quiet and responsible manner, “Sometime I must take a day off and tell him about God.”
As far as that young lady was concerned, everything that was wrong with that young man could be made right if she could just tell him about God.
Why is it important for you and me to tell others the good news of what God has done in Jesus Christ? Why is it important that my life and yours be a witness for our Lord? What did that little girl know that maybe you and I, in our sophisticated adulthood, have forgotten?
Let’s begin here. It is God’s most earnest dream that every one of His children will know the joy of His fellowship forever. That is what the Gospel is all about. That is what the cross and the empty tomb are all about. It is not God’s will that any of His children perish but that all might have eternal life! No clearer message is found in the Bible than this: God desires fellowship with all His children.
It is said that humanity has an insatiable hunger for God. This is part of the greatness of man, we are told. “As the deer pants for streams of water,” wrote the Psalmist, “so my soul pants for you, my God” (Psalm 42:1). Humanity hungers for God. But the supreme mark of our greatness is undoubtedly God’s search for humanity.
In the first pages of the Bible we read, “Adam, where art thou?” and the search continues throughout the Holy Book. Of course, the ultimate symbol of that search is the cross of Calvary.
God’s desire to bring His children home is so great that He gave His only Son on the cross of Calvary. That is the first answer to the question of why it is important for us to reach out to others—God’s desire that all His children would have fellowship with Him.
The second answer is to be found in our Scripture lesson for today from the opening chapter of the book of Acts. The setting is a mount called Olivet. The resurrected Christ is making his final appearance to his disciples before his ascension to be with his Father. Here are his final instructions to them: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
His final words. His last chance to instruct them and what does he say? “You shall be my witnesses . . .” Here, my friends, is the main business of the church—to witness to the love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ.
We, the church, do not exist for own pleasure or fellowship. Neither are we simply a social service institution.
We are the body of Jesus Christ reaching out with loving arms to the world. It is so easy to forget who we are and what we are about.
How easy it is for the church to forget its number one business, and that is sharing the good news of God with a dying world. Our number one priority is helping God’s children find their way home. Our primary reason for existence is to be lights in a world darkened by fear, hatred, and evil. That is who we are and what we are about.
Theologian Karl Barth believed that this is the central task of the church. It grieved him to see the church lose itself in empty piety rather than in proclaiming the Word to the world. He wrote, “. . . Proclaim the Gospel to every creature! . . . Where the Church is living, it must ask itself whether it is serving this commission . . .”
It is easy to say that it is the task of the church to reach out to the world. So often what we really mean is that that is the minister’s job. I heard a humorous story recently about an Episcopal priest whose wife was in the hospital for minor surgery. He decided to stop to see her as one of his regular hospital visits. There he stood, chatting with her in his clerical collar. Then, he gave her a long passionate kiss and left the room.
The lady in the next bed stared in disbelief, then said to the wife, “You know I’ve been a faithful Methodist all my life, but my pastor doesn’t treat me like that at all.”
Such little misunderstandings in life make us chuckle, but it is frustrating to every pastor that many lay people have a gross misunderstanding about the business of the church. We are all called—every one of us—to be witnesses. Every one of us is called to reach out in love—to tell the story in our own way to persons within our sphere of influence.
None of us is exempt. None is too old or too young—too busy or too restricted— too sophisticated or too common. In a hospital bed or on a golf course, we can be witnesses of the love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ.
Someone has noted that of forty persons who were healed by Jesus in the New Testament, thirty-four were either brought to Jesus by friends or Jesus was taken to them. Only six came to Jesus by their own initiative.
Our task as individual Christians remains today to reach out to persons in Jesus’ name and to bring them to the One who can satisfy all their needs.
How long has it been since you have given someone a simple invitation to join with you in worship? The little girl looked up at her teacher and quietly said in a responsible manner, “Sometime I must take a day off and tell him about God.”
Why is it important that we take the time to tell others? Because it is God’s most earnest dream and desire to have all His children enjoy His fellowship forever, because it is the main business of the church to be his witnesses. Therefore, each of us has a personal responsibility to share with others the love and grace of God which we have received through Jesus Christ.