These are the thoughts I’ll be sharing at tonight’s BMAA Missions Symposium at Fellowship Church in Forney. My message will be based on the story of Philip’s encounter with the spiritually lost Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-35.
ONE GREAT TRUTH: We live in a lost culture to which we are called on a search and rescue mission that begins when we approach people within our culture with the life-changing gospel in a language they can understand.
WHAT WAS HAPPENING AMONG GOD’S PEOPLE…
As I study the book of Acts, there are two main stories that shaped the life of the early church:
- Pentecost – the apostles and the early church were baptized with a fresh power from God that they had never before experienced. The power of Pentecost has continually remained available to the church since that time. God’s power has not diminished despite our culture’s decay or the inability of modern Christianity to tap into it.
- Persecution – as the church began to endure persecution, a great scattering occurred and the great commission was beginning to be fulfilled in reality. Persecution is what sparked real obedience to that commission.
WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN CULTURE…
- Economic problems.
- Political upheaval.
- Cultural revolution.
WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE…
The gospel was being carried by one missionary-deacon to one lost Ethiopian.
These are our times – an empowered church, seeing persecution around the world and more so in America than in our past… a culture in disarray, slouching toward Gamorrah, economic disintegration, and political change. What an opportunity!
LESSONS FROM ONE RESCUER…
- Get in touch with God… His voice, His Holy Spirit, and His Word. Walk with Him. Philip heard the angel and the voice of the Spirit of God. We’re afraid of the voice of God – we argue theologically about whether God really speaks today or not. Perhaps we’re just afraid of what He will say?
- Join God where He is already working. God was doing great things in Samaria where Philip had just been leading a massive revival. But God was up to something in the desert also in the heart of one Ethiopian. God is working all around us – we live in an increasingly spiritual culture – people just don’t want to go to church. What an opportunity!
- Break through the barriers of geography, culture, religion, generation, race, language, etc. This is imperative. It’s a crucial task – we must become barrier-busters. There is an increasingly enormous cultural divide between the culture of the world around us and the subculture of the modern local church (as pointed out by John David Smith in Monday night’s message). We even celebrate our ineffectiveness and call it “separation from the world.” I believe in the doctrine of separation, but it ought to relate to living with a distinctive moral and doctrinal integrity, not to the external behaviors and practices and rituals of our lives.
- Use the Scriptures! This symposium takes place in the shadow of a legendary Pastor named W. A. Criswell, who was one of the most innovative thinkers of his day. He re-structured the First Baptist Church in a way that was unheard of for its time. That model became the norm that many of us refuse to break out of now. He was an innovator. Yet on Sunday, he preached the Bible in its entirety. You can, should, and must present the Scriptures to this culture with a balance of depth and clarity.
THE STORY OF TIMOTHY STACKPOLE
Timothy Stackpole served with the New York fire Department. In 1998, he was helping his unit fight a fire in a towering inferno in New York when two of his friends were killed and Timothy was severely burned and injured. He went through months and months of physical rehabilitation from both his burns and his back injuries. He was finally able to return to active duty and the late summer of 2001, began fighting fires again. His superiors tried to talk him into taking a desk job and taking it easy until retirement, but Timothy would respond, “I have to rescue people – it’s my duty, it’s my calling.”
On September 11 of 2001, Timothy had just gotten off duty and was on his way home when he heard the call go out for men to respond to the World Trade Center attack. Though he could have gone on home, he turned around and went back. At the base of tower two, he organized a small group of firefighters and they charged up the stairs to help with the evacuation. Minutes later, the tower collapsed and they all perished.
Why did Timothy charge into the fire instead of taking it easy behind his desk? Because it was his duty… it was his calling. Need I say more?
People are lost. The fire is hot. The danger is real. Our calling is clear. We don’t get to choose the era into which we are placed – we simply get to seize the opportunity called today to search for and rescue people who are lost without the gospel!