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The Church on the Launching Pad

Acts 13:1-3

 

In 1983, a movie was released called “The Right Stuff”, a documentary of the US Space Program.  After years of testing and sending animals into space, it came time for the first manned space flight.  And on May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard climbed inside a little capsule attached to a rocket…he was on the launching pad.  The countdown began, and the entire future of our space program rested upon that launch being successful.  It was a momentous few minutes in America.  And since that day the US has dominated the race for space, and thru many ups and downs mankind has gone mostly up, accomplishing many great things throughout our solar system.  Now Artemis is trying to launch and head back to the moon with a view to Mars.

 

In Acts 13, the church is on the launching pad, the gospel is on the move, foreign missions gets its birth here, w/ the first missionaries sent out of the church.  And what started in the hearts of a few people is about to be sent to the far reaches of the globe.  And that’s what the Lord wanted, right?

Acts 1:8

    …ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

 

A broad outline of the book of Acts would be:

Chapters 1-7…the gospel fills the city of Jerusalem

8-12…to Judaea and Samaria

beginning in ch. 13…to the whole earth. 

 

And this is our handbook, that’s our example…we have a mandate as the church of God, to get the gospel out.  It’s why we have a missions program, God wants Christians to be involved in missions.  You can pray, you can give, and you can go.  And you ought to do all 3!

 

This week the pandemic ended with a flip of a switch from the president!  So now, with his permission J , it’s time for our church to launch out once again, locally, and globally.  Let’s get the salt out of the shaker.  [Ed / flyers]

 

And another thing, technology is what has helped mankind go further and deeper into space, and today our church has more of a global impact because of technology.  The website sermon ministry has made it around the world.  And we ought to use technology.  Paul used everything at his disposal.  To speak to a crowd, he may have to cup his hands, or seat the folks on a hillside, but if he had a sound system, he’d use it!  If he could have a 15 passenger van, he’d really go to town.  He didn’t have anything over 1 horsepower [think about it!]  But if he could have a world wide web, he would have!

        One of our missionaries, Dan Bergman, runs “Posting the Gospel”.  He regularly sees people get saved.  He plants a whole lot of seeds!

Many of you receive daily devotionals by email.  You watch service videos when you have to miss church and we can see when you watch!

Every week we get new subscriptions to our website sermon ministry, and we have tens of thousands of subscribers.  And more than half of them are pastors and missionaries around the world using the outlines, illustrations, powerpoint visuals, and jokes that they feel need to be carried around the world!  Seriously though, our impact as a church is multiplied hundreds of times as each of them shares the good news of the gospel to their congregations!

 

It’s time to launch.  It’s time for the church to be more than a building.  We must be a monument that stands tall in the community.  We must affect those across the street, but also around the world.  We must each, individually, take on some global responsibility.  It’s time for FBC to be famous for the gospel!

 

And Acts 13 lays before us the simple plan of how to get the job done.  Let’s look at how they did it, God’s way…the gospel on the launching pad…

 

Look w/ me at the 4 elements present in our text:

       

        1.     The Church of God

v. 1  “in the church”—that’s where everything is supposed to begin, not thru the UN, the Red Cross, or otherwise, tho’ we should be thankful for any good work that may be done by such organizations. 

        It was the church that confirmed the calling of Saul and Barnabus.  It was the church that confirmed those men/commissioned them to go/sent them forth…it was the church! 

 

v. 2  Whom did God tell to separate and send them out?  The church!

v. 3  Who did this?  The church! 

       

Which church?  Well, not all…not many!  Notice where this church was located…Antioch, not Jerusalem.  Why?  In the early days of Christianity, Jerusalem was the center of operations.  But no longer.  Antioch somehow became the “Cape Canaveral” of foreign missions, the launching pad for the church.

        Wonder why?  Why would God move the headquarters/center of ops?  Many historians and Bible scholars say that the church at Jerusalem became narrow/restricted in its focus.  They lost their fervor and zeal for winning souls and when they did, God moved on.

        Folks, God always moves on when a church loses its gospel-mindedness and compassion for souls.  Many today sit here thinking only of themselves, and what’s wrong in their life, saying, “bless me, bless me”, not knowing that the very fix to their problems begins w/ them living for something OTHER than themselves!

 

Antioch was a much smaller church, but God decided to use it because it was a church w/ a heart for others!  And throughout history God has always chosen a location to be a base of operations for worldwide evangelism.  Let me illustrate:

 

I already mentioned that it began in Jerusalem, but they became narrow in their focus and God moved on.

Then it went to Antioch for many years…but eventually God moved on from Antioch, when they lost their burden.

Our Bibles tell us where it went next…to the church at Ephesus, in tremendous power, but Revelation 2 reveals what happened there, they lost their love, and God moved on!  The church had to move on as well, hiding from persecution for many years.

Next, God moved his headquarters to Constantinople, and under the leadership of the emperor Constantine, the gospel moved out of the catacombs and into the cathedral!  This was the base of operations for years, but then formalism crept in, and Christianity became dry and dead there…and God moved on.

Next was Rome, and it was good for a time, but then came the rise of Catholic dogma, which replaced Holy Scripture, and ritual replaced relationship, and ceremony and sacraments took the place of salvation…and God moved on!

Then Germany had great revival, God had His hand on that nation, and many missionaries went forth, but history says that skepticism crept in, rationalism, and something called “higher criticism”…soulwinning and missionary work became a thing of the past, and God moved on!

From there, England became the center of activity, and had mighty revivals for about 100 years, and they were the launching pad for world missions…and great men like William Carey left England for places like India, and Hudson Taylor for China, and many others…but eventually the church died and spiritual lethargy spread like the plague had, and God moved on!

Then America came on the scene, and for many years we have been the center of world outreach…a Christian nation which has sent out tens of thousands of missionaries from our shores.

        And I must raise the question, as we see our nation falling spiritually, could it be that God is getting ready to move on?  As the fires of evangelism go out in our land and in our churches because of worldliness, complacency, and comfort, should we expect God to remain?

 

Look at America today:  we put on nice clothes, leave our nice homes, driving our nice cars, we come to a nice building w/ nice pews and a nice atmosphere, we hear a nice sermon, go eat a nice meal, take a nice nap…w/ no thought whatsoever to the fact that millions and billions are still w/out hope, didn’t have a nice day, and never will unless they are reached w/ the good news that we are soooo spoiled with…now folks, that’s not nice!

 

God is not obligated to continue to use America for His world outreach!  Nor is He obligated to use FBC, unless we stay true to the Scriptures, unless we remain firm in the mission God has given us, unless we continue to sacrifice for the sake of lost souls…otherwise, we should expect history to repeat itself.

 

People before us were proud to invite others to hear it in power, and not ashamed to witness boldly no matter the cost, and faithful even when it wasn’t convenient, and they gave ‘til it hurt, so we can sit here in what they paid for!…I believe that church would be willing to do something as miniscule as handing out a flyer, or mow that lawn, or drive that vehicle or rock that baby, and we should too!

 

My prayer is that God will keep His hand on America, and that FBC can always be a part of God’s plan, even if our nation goes to pot around us!

 

They say there’s 3 kinds of people in the world:

Those who make things happen

Those who watch things happen

Those who wonder “what happened?”

 

The same can be said about churches.

        Some churches get on fire for God, for missions, for outreach, and they impact their world, they make things happen.

        Then there’s churches that know that God is working and moving, and like to try to claim to be a part of the movement, but God doesn’t do great things in their midst, and they don’t see souls saved, they just sorta watch as others make it happen.

        Then there’s those who have lost sight completely and have no clue.  Ask them if they are saved and they’d say, “saved from what?”  They’ve degenerated to the status of a social club.

 

I wanna be that 1st church that makes things happen, now how about you?

 

The church of God…

 

2.     The Commanders of God

v. 1-3       Names of 5 men, leaders of the church, and they prayed and fasted.  No wonder God used this church as a launching pad.  There must be truly spiritual leadership.  Now, that is a major challenge to me.  I want to confide in you [don’t tell anybody, ok!] that I am greatly challenged by that.  Sometimes I feel like I’ve got a lot more skills than spirituality.  I’m pretty good at challenging others to take a step up, but I can’t expect anyone to go where I don’t go myself!  I may be able to design services, but that doesn’t make me right w/ God.  Perhaps I’m musically gifted, but what does that have to do w/ my heart?  Maybe I have good outlines and good content that other pastors are liking to use, but what does it do for you if I’m not a true man of God?

        I can’t ask anyone to go where I won’t go myself.  I hear this same criticism sometimes about other leaders.  “They don’t come to church, why should I?

        You need spirit-filled leadership…you deserve it, and you shouldn’t settle for less.  And I’m committed not to settle for less, because I want God’s best.  And this comes thru prayer and fasting…from food, yes, but from other things like tv, or other hobbies or pleasures that you usually give time to.  Fasting comes when you get so hungry for the spiritual that you let go of the physical for a time!  And then you show God you’re serious, and that’s when you get His power on your life!

 

        And it doesn’t stop w/ the Pastor.  You need ministry leaders after that same vein.  You need teachers w/ that heart, workers who want to see God do great things, and will fast and pray to see it happen, see their class grow, see that child saved, encourage people to faithfulness and set the example themselves, faithful even when not teaching or working!

 

The church/commanders of God…

 

3.     The Call of God

v. 2          It was the Spirit that called.  “Holy Ghost said…”  It was unmistakably God, not their momma.  Saul and Barnabus didn’t put themselves into the ministry…they didn’t make a career choice…they were God called.  And I believe that God is still calling, Amen?

        I remember God’s call at youth camp at the age of 14, and it was real!  I had been pretty fickle like a lot of young people.  I was gonna be a policeman and a fireman for a few days, then play professional tennis, I wanted to be a pilot until I found out I was color blind.  I wanted to be a stand up comedian for a while there…thank God I didn’t try to make my living that way!  When I committed myself to full-time ministry I wonder if my folks wondered “how long will this last?”  But it was of God, and this is the 30th year!  God called me, and that makes all the difference in the world.

        I wasn’t ready for the challenge, but I didn’t need to be, I just needed to be willing to answer the call.  God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called!

Where God guides, He provides, where He leads, He feeds, where He directs, He protects, and where He sends, He expends the resources necessary to make it all work out!

 

And if you think God may be calling you, you can’t do better than to answer! 

 

The church/commanders/call of God…

 

4.     The Commission of God

v. 3          We have the privilege of helping send people around the world.

 

We’ve got several missionaries waiting to see if we can support them.  Wouldn’t you like to take them on?  The good news is that after our missions conference we had several new people get on board giving to missions, and some indicated an increase.  But the overall amount coming in hasn’t really increased.  Is that an indication that some jumped ship?  Is it the economy?  Talk about the worst timing for losing God’s blessing on your finances! But here’s some more good news, only 4 people making a $5/wk. pledge above their tithe would make it possible!

        Of course, we can’t “buy” our way into full obedience…we also must go to our world!  In other words, we need to be a balanced church, local as well as global…Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the earth!

        Listen to what Paul said in 56 A.D.:

Romans 15:19

    …from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

 

What was Paul saying?  Simply that he had done everything he was commanded to do, taking the gospel to those near and far.  And it’s my prayer that each of us could say the same thing…I’ve taken responsibility across the street and around the world!

 

Ill.—if you get involved in missions, here’s what will happen:  one day in heaven, you’ll be approached by someone, thanking you for helping them to get saved.  Maybe they’ll be from…

        You say, “but, I’ve never been there!”  Yes, but you prayed, you gave, and thus, you went!

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