A dramatic, modern-day rendering of Acts 6:8-15
8Now, Pastor People Love (his mom proudly gave him that name), the evangelism-serious pastor, a man committed to dispensing God’s grace to the lost, performed many great baptisms and actively pursued the outcasts of society in the name of Christ. 9Opposition arose, however, from the members of the sanctuary committee formed in 1988, church members who had not donned the door of the church in years and two deacons. They began to argue with Pastor People Love. 10But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave to the pastor as he spoke, namely, the preaching of the Great Commission along with Acts 1:8.
11Then the 1998 sanctuary committee, the non-attending members and two deacons secretly persuaded the men from the Foundations Class to say “we have heard Pastor People Love speak blasphemous words against our traditional service … and against God. He said something about no pulpit, more Scripture reading and removing the organ given in 1979 that hasn’t worked in more a decade. He said it would make us more attractive to nonbelievers (he didn’t even refer to them as lost).”
12So they stirred up the people, the deacon body and the Sunday School teachers. They seized Pastor People Love and brought him before the Church Council, the 1998 sanctuary committee, the non-attending members, the Foundations Class and two deacons—basically the whole church. 13They produced false witnesses, who testified: “Pastor People Love never stops talking about reaching our community. He even suggested we start calling Sunday School “Bible study” (Sister Nell shook her head in agreement, thinking “we could never call Sunday School Bible study. That is preposterous”). 14For we have heard this evangelism-serious pastor say Jesus of Nazareth will change people lives, which will require more space, and we might have to change our beloved sanctuary. Or even worse, we might need to start a second worship service (and Sister Nell was just sure it would be a contemporary service with guitars and tambourines. I mean, who really reads Psalm 33:2 and Psalm 81:2 anyways).
And so is set in motion the tragic ending to Pastor People Love’s three-year endeavor with a Baptist church in Texas. Oh, they didn’t stone him like Stephen, but they were sure to give him at least two weeks to move his wife and three children out of the parsonage.
Biblical history teaches us the following: Status quo stones the prophet most every time. Don’t believe it? Per our text in Acts, ask Joseph. Ask Moses if status quo “stoned” the prophet when the Israelites “rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt” (7:39). Or how about Stephen? Let’s ask him. He was so bold as to say “Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute?” (7:52).
Ultimately, as Stephen proclaimed, ask Jesus Christ. Stephen said “And now you have betrayed and murdered him” (7:53).
For me, the next verse is one of the scariest verses in the Bible. As the Bible often does, it cuts right through my often misguided, misdirected energies and resources. It is a verse that can put all of us back on the correct path of not doing church, but being the church. It speaks straight to the nonsense we have made of buildings, carpets and “holy cows” in our churches.
Here it is—and it might be painful: “You who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it” (7:53). In New Testament terms, it reads: “You who have received the Holy Bible, inspired by God, but have not obeyed it.”
And so we end up with status quo churches instead of life-giving communities. We end up with scores of pastors who are too discouraged to do the “church fight” anymore, leaving the ministry by the droves and wondering why they ever were called, or even worse, if they were called. We end up with Satan winning another one of his temporary battles. Precious time lost. Precious opportunities wasted. Precious souls eternally separated from Christ.
Ask yourself this question: If Jesus attended your church today, would he baptize 10 people or would he have to turn over tables? Would he take the time to sit down and make a fruit salad (it wouldn’t take him long I’m sure) and decide to stay for a while, or would he take the time to sit down and make a whip?
Read John 2:15. It’s a little bit disturbing. I just figured out this year that Jesus took the time to sit down and make a whip just before he cleared the temple. In Mark’s account of the same story, Jesus proclaims “My house will be a house of prayer for all the nations” (Mark 11:17). “Prayer” and “the nations.” I wonder what Jesus had in mind? Could it be that it wasn’t just money changing that caused Jesus to take the time to make a whip? Could it be a lack of reaching people, a lack of prayer for the nations?
Inspiration and application
When I was young, foolish and “over-zealous,” I was preaching a youth revival at an inner-city church. After preaching a few days and about 10 youth placing their faith in Christ, I asked how they would disciple these new believers. I was told there were no rooms at the church for the youth. Since this was a good-sized building, I couldn’t figure how this could be true.
The youth Bible study leader took me on a tour. Room after room was stuffed with junk. Old pianos, VBS stuff from decades gone by and the like. The youth Bible study leader was told he couldn’t use any of those rooms because they were for storage.
The worst scene, however, was an ornate, old door that led into an empty classroom. Seems that special door (there was nothing special about it) had been given many years ago and had sentimental value to a prominent family in the church that had died off. But, the pristine door could not be used for youth because they might mess it up. So, the classroom sat empty.
Now, you know where this is leading right? Since the statute of limitations has run out, I will go ahead and tell you. The next day, with no one around, I kicked and kicked that door until I broke a hole in the bottom. Being a teenager, 19, I told the youth Bible study leader: “Tell your congregation they were right. Seems teenagers will most certainly mess up this door.”
Friends, don’t stone your prophets. When the message is no longer moving forward at your church, become a prophet—turn over some tables, make a whip or kick down some doors. Jesus might just stand at the right hand of God and smile (7:56). And besides, you are a lay person, they can’t stone or fire you.
Since we are morphing your Bible study group into a “Bible-doing” group, here are a few ideas for this week:
1. As a group, pray God will raise up bold, strong children and youth in your church.
2. Begin to ask “why” of every ministry in your church. Why do you have a choir? Why do you have a Tuesday morning women’s Bible study group? Why do you have a bus ministry? Asking “why” will help your church eliminate ministries that are merely “status quo” ministries.
3. If you want to be radical, go on a tour of your church. Evaluate every room. Are there rooms full of junk keeping you from using that room to teach the gospel of Christ? Lead your church to get a big dumpster and become better stewards of your facility.