I grew up watching the original Star Trek with one of my brothers. Do you remember the often repeated phrase in the introduction to Star Trek? Of course, it is speaking of space exploration, but perhaps it is also speaking of gospel exploration.
When ecclesiology and theology function together in the local church, the church absolutely is unstoppable. Ecclesiology, in part, is the study of the function of God’s holy church. For 10 weeks, you have been studying the origin of ecclesiology, the book of Acts. You have in your hands the model for the modern Christian church.
There is nothing “old” about following Acts. In fact, so many churches have not followed it, that to follow it seems really radical. Go figure. The early church took their ecclesiology very seriously. I would even argue their ecclesiology concerns trumped their theology concerns early on—but that’s next week’s lesson.
The early church was not content to fulfill only part of Acts 1:8. Just Jerusalem was not enough. Adding on Judea and Samaria was not viewed as full obedience. The early church had to also go to “the ends of the earth.”
Now, turn on the Star Trek introduction in your mind. Press play on the cheesy music and William Shatner’s voice and you will hear “to boldly go where no man has gone before” … but add, “with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Did you notice the ecclesiology, the function and practice of the Antioch church, in just a few short verses in Acts 13? It’s a wonderful breakdown of practical ecclesiology.
“In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers” (v. 1). Many theologians believe Barnabus, Simeon and Lucius were the prophets. They were “forthtellers” (preachers) and foretellers (prophets). Alongside them were two excellent teachers, Manaen and some guy named Saul. The church at Antioch followed the leadership of the Holy Spirit in their senior most leaders. That’s biblical ecclesiology.
“While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting …” (v. 2). The church at Antioch was serious about what Jesus said is the highest calling of man—the worship of Jesus Christ. That’s good ecclesiology. But they didn’t stop there. Evidently, they were corporately in a period of intentional fasting. Two words later in the text, the Holy Spirit says something to the church. He shows up! Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Sign up for our weekly email newsletter.
The Holy Spirit’s message? “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (v. 2). This seems to be underemphasized in our churches today. Who amongst your congregation is God “calling out” for ministry? In whom is there such a blaze to take the gospel forward that they will dedicate the rest of their lives to it, even if it means to step into danger? Is the church offering short-term mission opportunities for congregants? You can actually foster that kind of environment with the proper teaching of the holy word of God.
Now, we don’t want to get too crazy about prayer or anything, but take a look at what happens next. “So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”
Oops fellow Baptists. Did you catch that? Two verses, two seasons of fasting and prayer (you can’t do one without the other). Oops again, Baptists. They “placed their hands on them” (I know fellow Baptists, sounds a little charismatic, doesn’t it) and sent them.
THEY sent them. It wasn’t enough just to give so others could be sent, though there is certainly nothing wrong with that. But a church that doesn’t actually do some sending doesn’t have their ecclesiology and theology properly aligned. Nor do they watch much Star Trek together.
So, the ecclesiology your church needs is summarized in just three Bible verses. Here it is:
1. Foster strong, biblical church leaders and follow them.
2. Worship anticipating the Holy Spirit to show up and speak.
3. Fast and pray.
4. Foster a church environment where the Holy Spirit sets people apart for ministry.
5. When God sets people apart for ministry, fast and pray for them.
6. Affirm those who are set apart through prayer and the laying of hands.
7. Send, send, send.
Inspiration and application
Two hours before my appointed time to write this article, I received a letter from Germany. The church I pastor and another church nearby have a partnership with a church in Bunde, Germany. We do evangelistic baseball camps there. They do soccer camps here. It’s a rich, cross-cultural, mission-minded partnership.
The following is from Henni. She is 17 and is dating a fine young Christian man who I know very well. We knew about Henni and prayed for her salvation for several months. She received Jesus Christ as her Savior on Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 10:30 a.m. (German time) sitting in a small circle of five people.
“It’s been a few months since some of your lovely people came to Bunde for baseball camp. I am so glad that you guys were here this summer. I went to baseball camp with not many expectations. But, when I started hearing all the stories from the Bible, I knew that God was drawing me into his arms. Now I started reading the Bible, and now I realize what it means to fully believe in God. I started going to church and also started going to a home Bible study. I know I am just at the beginning with my faith, and I have realized it’s not always easy to follow Jesus, but I am praying for more strength every day. Would you please think of me in prayer?”
About 50 feet away is our intern office. Sarah, also from Bunde, Germany, is here for six months serving the Lord and our church. Last year, Laura, from Bunde, Germany, was here as in intern six months. She became a follower of Christ in 2008 at the annual baseball camp. Now, she is studying ministry at a Bible college near her hometown and dreams of being one of very few children’s ministers in Germany.
I could tell you story after story of changed lives, both in Texas and Germany, because of this partnership. It’s amazing, and it is the richest ministry I have experienced in 21 years of being a pastor.
When ecclesiology and theology align, the church is exactly what God intends … unstoppable.
When ecclesiology and theology do not align, the church is exactly what Satan intends … stoppable.
I have three application points for you this week: