The Propulsion Engine of the Church by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE PROPULSION ENGINE OF THE CHURCH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

thepropulsionengineofthechurchIntroduction: This is our final message in our series – NO BENCHWARMERS – designed to encourage and challenge each of you to find a place of service in the church. Today’s message is called – THE PROPULSION ENGINE OF THE CHURCH.

Acts 6   1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Bridge: I’m not a sailor or a navy expert but from what little I know – every fast moving vessel on water has some kind of a propelling device. Sometimes it is as simple as a paddle wheel and other times it is as complex as a steam, diesel, or gas turbine. Warships and icebreakers even use nuclear reactors to produce this propulsion. How does it all work? The water surrounding the ship keeps it from moving forward and even drags it wherever the current wants it to go. These propellers thrust the water column away from the ship, which produces a reactive force that thrusts the ship forward.

Context: What does all that have to do with the message? The church is also surrounded by a water column – it’s the culture. It keeps the church from going forward and, if it moves, it’s usually by some crisis or problem that pulls the church away from its destination. God has given the church a propulsion engine. When it’s turned on, it creates a velocity against the column so strong that it actually causes a reactive force, a thrust, which moves the church forward. We think the column may sink the church but it’s actually instrumental in helping the propeller move the church forward at a rapid speed. Today we will learn what the propulsion engine of the church is.

Question: What do you believe about the church? Do you think it can move forward? Some people are so used to sinking ships or ghosts ships that they think it’s impossible for the church to move forward. Do you know what the propulsion engine of our church is? In the face of crisis, are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution? Before you can even talk about this engine, you need to be on the ship. Are you saved?

This is a unique message that will challenge you to change what you believe about the church. Instead of standing on the deck and complaining, it’s time you find your place of service. 3 things about the propulsion engine of the church:

I. THE CRISIS COLUMN IN THE CHURCH

1 “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying…”

Background: Which days is Luke referring to? He’s referring to the earliest days of the church, maybe within the first 5 years or so after the Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in all His power and the Jerusalem church began to grow rapidly. Thousands got saved, miracles began happening, and the people were in one accord. Awesome isn’t?! Then it happened.“…there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists…” Who were the Hebrews and who were the Hellenists? The Hebrews were the local Aramaic-speaking Jewish Christians. Their ancestors either never left during the exile or they came back when Cyrus set them free and resettled in their homes. They had been living in Jerusalem for hundreds of years. The Hellenists were those Jewish people whose ancestors did not come back immediately after the exile. They settled wherever they were – Babylon, Persia, Egypt, Macedonia, etc. Maybe because of persecution or longing to be back in their ancestral homeland, they returned. Since they grew up outside Israel they had different ways of doing things – food, clothing, and traditions. Even their language was different. They mostly spoke Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic like the Hebrews. Ethnically, they were Jewish but culturally, they were Greeks. But here’s the beautiful thing – in spite of the differences, both the Hebrews and the Hellenists were together as one church. Isn’t that wonderful?! That’s how the church should be – different people serving the same Christ together.

But there was a problem: “…there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.” What’s going on here? In Jewish society widows and orphans were first the responsibility of their own family and, if they didn’t have any family, then they were the responsibility of the community. As I mentioned, the Greek-speaking widows were part of those families that had moved to the Holy Land, Jerusalem, in their twilight years to die. Most of the time the men were the first to die and their wives did not have the support system they did back in their original home. Unlike the Hebrew widows, they were at the mercy of the synagogue or the local community. Maybe because of their high numbers or the language barrier or just oversight, the Greek-speaking widows felt overlooked. So what did these ladies do? They began to complain.

Ladies – Let me say a few things here: God has blessed you with certain abilities. One of them is observation or intuition. You can detect problems much faster than we men can. Sometimes we are too dense to notice. Another gift you have is empathy. You can feel the pain of others much better than we can. We have a one-track mind and many times we can be insensitive. But unless you filter your observation, intuition, and empathy through a sense of discernment, spiritual maturity, and self-control, you can cause great damage. Say for example, you see something wrong at church. What do you do? You can exercise discernment and overlook what doesn’t matter or have spiritual maturity and pray over the situation or just have self-control and say nothing. Unfortunately, what happens is this – you get home all upset and uptight. Your husband says – “What’s wrong?” “Nothing.” “Something’s wrong.” Now you unload. Guess what he tells you to do – “Just quit.” It’s a typical male response. “No! I don’t want to quit. You need to do something.” Depending on how much you fire him up or his personality, now he’s going to do something. By the way, this is a major reason why men don’t go to church or get involved at church. They don’t want to get caught up in some drama.

Please don’t misunderstand me – if it weren’t for the ladies, can you imagine what this place would look like? We men would not care about each other’s feelings and finally blow up this whole place. We need both men and women. Even Jesus had a group of ladies who assisted Him in His ministry. But, in this passage, the unity and survival of the first church was threatened because a group of widow ladies started complaining.

By the way, this passage has brought me a lot of hope through the years. If the early church – men and women who had been with Jesus, seen Him crucified and resurrected, received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, witnessed miracles every day – had problems, there’s hope for us. I used to get so discouraged in the early years when the church would have a problem and then I realized that it’s part of being a growing church.

Application: Do you see a problem? It’s normal. The question is – how should we handle that problem? Are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution?

II. THE PROPULSION ENGINE OF THE CHURCH 

2 “Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples…”

Background: As the spiritual leaders of the congregation, they did not say – “We’re just preachers. We don’t do administration. This is beyond our expertise.” They took charge of the situation. This is the biblical model we follow at Clearview. As the pastor, I’m not here just to preach and visit. It’s also my responsibility to lead the administration and the management of this church. Let me clarify, I have wonderful help, especially in the financial management of the church. We have some very capable leaders that I trust with my life but I am called to lead. This is biblical. So, the twelve took charge but please don’t misunderstand – they weren’t the propulsion engine of the church.

“Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said…” “Let’s call a business meeting.” “Let’s take a vote.” Is that what they said? No. There’s a reason that small churches remain small. They are operating by an unbiblical idea that the church is a democracy where everyone has a say. Imagine if Moses had taken a vote – “How many of y’all want to leave Egypt?” Please don’t misunderstand – there’s a big difference between leading the sheep and driving the sheep, between bringing people along versus telling them what to do. The twelve did not order the people nor turn things over for them to decide because the congregation is not the propulsion engine of the church.

Listen to what they said – “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.” They were not saying that waiting on the Greek-speaking widows was beneath them. They were not saying that visiting people in need was not important. They were saying – We already have too much on our plates. We need help. Verse 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.” Meaning: We need godly leaders from the Greek-speaking group to step up and help out. 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. Their Greek names indicate that they were part of the Greek-speaking Jewish Christian group. Here’s a question: Why didn’t they see the needs of their widows? Why didn’t they do something about them already?

Question: Which ministry do you see struggling at Clearview? Is it affecting you? Why aren’t you doing something about it? “I guess I just won’t say nothing.” That’s not the point. You can be a part of the solution. Having said that, these seven were not the propulsion engine of the church.

So what is? Go back to verse 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” There’s your propulsion engine of the church – Prayer and Preaching and Teaching of the Bible. These propel the church forward. The propeller is not the goal. Prayer and Preaching and Teaching are not the goals of Clearview. They simply move the church forward. I’m blessed to pastor a church that understands this.

Application: Do you finally understand what moves this church? What are you doing to help this propulsion?

III. THE FORWARD THRUST OF THE CHURCH 

Stephen's stoning and Paul

Stephen’s stoning and Paul

Philip and the Ethiopian ruler

Philip and the Ethiopian ruler

7 “Then the word of God spread…” Meaning: The propeller of prayer and preaching and teaching of the Bible started spinning again. “…and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem…” Meaning: The column of crisis did not sink the ship but actually helped the ship to move forward with even more speed. But there’s more – “and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” There were as many as 8000 priests and 10,000 Levites in Palestine at the time. The temple was being run by crooks and they were not being used. They were barely surviving. But when they heard that the church was doing what the temple was supposed to do, they came to Christ and started helping the church. Crisis and problems are not the end. They are instrumental to propel the church forward.

But it’s not over yet. Remember the first two men they chose from the Greek-speaking Jewish group? The first one was Stephen. 8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. How did the opposition deal with him? They cast him outside the city to stone him and the young man watching their clothes was Saul, who later became Paul. How about the second one, Philip? He led the Ethiopian ruler to Christ. He opened the door for the gentiles, all of us, to come in.

Application: What are you doing to move the ship forward? Are you saved

MARKS OF A SPIRIT FILLED CHURCH

MARKS OF A SPIRIT-FILLED CHURCH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

MARKS OF A SPIRIT-FILLED CHURCH

Acts 3:1-10  1 Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple;  3 who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms.  And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.”  5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.  6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”  7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.  8 So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God.  9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God.  10 Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Overall Background:  The Book of Acts could be referred to as the Book of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2 we read about His coming — 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Some people have misinterpreted that verse to think that the Holy Spirit is like a wind or some mystical power or force. The first thing that you and I need to understand is that the Holy Spirit is a real person with feelings, emotions, and personality. The Bible refers to the Holy Spirit as “He” or “Him” and never “it.”

The second thing to remember is that the Holy Spirit came as promised by Jesus to His disciples— John 14:16  16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth… Jesus sent Him to take His ministry to a whole new level—John 16:7-8  7 “…I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. Where Jesus in His humanity could only be with one of us at a time, the Holy Spirit can be with all of us all of the time. But the most important thing: He came to glorify Jesus Christ—John 16:14 He will glorify Me…

The whole purpose of the Holy Spirit is centered on Jesus Christ.

What happened when He came? Incredible things began to happen:

–       He transformed the previously timid and no-count disciples into fearless apostles. Acts 2:14 “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice” What a transformation from the Peter who couldn’t stay awake and pray with His Master! This same Peter denied Jesus three times, to the point of cursing Him.

–       He took the ministry of Jesus to a whole new level. At the end of Peter’s sermon. Acts 2:41 “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”

–       He took the previously unreliable and unfocused group of men and women and organized them into a dedicated and focused church. Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. The list goes on and on—caring for each other’s needs, meeting from house to house, praising God, having favor with all people, and more were added.

How did all this happen? Acts 2:4 gives us the secret, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” It means that they were under the full control and direction of the Holy Spirit. He was in charge, calling the shots. Not only that, but He brought with Him all the resources they needed to accomplish the task that Jesus had given to them. He brought for them everything they needed to be like Jesus. In short, it was a Spirit-filled church.

In Acts 3, we come across an incident that shows us what this Spirit-filled church looks like. It was marked by three very important things. If we are going to be a Spirit-filled church, these are the very things that should mark us – Love, Hope, and Liberty.

MARK #1 – LOVE

Background: We just read about the incident where Peter and John were walking into the temple and they came across a man who was lame from his birth. Where I grew up, I saw thousands of such men, women, and children. In fact, I remember a blind man who used to sit on the bridge by the train station. I remember seeing him as a little boy and he was still there when I left as a teenager to come here. He would sing beautifully all day. If I had a quarter, I would drop it in his cup. He would climb up and down the bridge with a cane. He was just a fixture.

This was not an unusual sight for Peter and John. They had seen thousands of such people. There’s a reason why this incident is mentioned in this book. Peter and John and the rest of the church were now filled with the Holy Spirit. Their eyes had changed. They didn’t see the same way they used to see. 4 And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.”

The Holy Spirit had given them Jesus eyes – eyes of compassion, mercy, and love. He was not a fixture anymore. He was a real person with real feelings, real pain, and real needs. Can you imagine the conversation between Peter and John? – “You see him.” “I’ve seen him all my life.” “It must be hard living like that.” “If Jesus were here, He would do something.” “Let’s go talk to him.”

The Holy Spirit had transformed their judgmental, critical, negative, condescending eyes into the eyes of love and compassion. The first fruit of the Spirit is Love (Galatians 5:22). We know that the Father is love (For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son – John 3:16); we know that Jesus is love; but did you know that the first evidence of the Spirit filled life is “Love.” Not human love where we love those who love us and love those who are lovable but love that loves those who hate us and loves those who are unlovable. Only the Holy Spirit can give us such a love.

Romans 5:5 “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Show me a person who is busy finding fault, constantly critical, constantly hateful, and I will show you a person who is not filled with the Holy Spirit. Show me a family that is constantly at each other’s throats and I will show you a family that is not filled with the Holy Spirit. Show me a church that is constantly bickering and fussing and fighting and I will show you a church that is not filled with the Holy Spirit. They may make a lot of noise but it is nothing more than “sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” (I Cor. 13:1) But show me a church that loves Jesus, loves each other, and loves the lost and I will show you a church that is full of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Does that mean there will not be any problems? Of course not! But “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (I Pet 4:8)

That’s why church is unlike any business or organization. You can run a business and not love your customers; you can run a clinic and never love your patients; but you can never work with God without love. Only love can break down all barriers and only the Holy Spirit filling a church can give that kind of love to each other and those outside.

Do you have love in your heart? The real question is “Are you filled with the Spirit?”

MARK #2 – HOPE

What is interesting is that they didn’t just love this man but they had hope for him.

Background: This man was lame from his mother’s womb. He had never walked before. He never expected to walk ever. He was hopeless. He was expecting some money so he could buy some food.

Imagine once again Peter and John talking – “What do you think he wants John?” “Same thing he’s always wanted – some money, maybe food and clothes.” “What would Jesus do for him?” “I think He would make him walk.” “Let’s go make him walk.”

4…Peter said, “Look at us.”  5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.  6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

The Holy Spirit had transformed their hopeless, powerless lives into hope-filled, power-filled, radiant lives. Rom. 15:13  “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” When the Holy Spirit comes in all fullness, He brings hope, abounding hope.

For e.g. The year was 2005. Nicole and I had been in Henderson for 7 years. We had done our best to reach people. We had worked two jobs. We would hear things like—“No one will ever come to your church.” “You are wasting your time.” We were not immune to the “greener-grass syndrome.” It was a very discouraging time to say the least. This was also the time that God was teaching me about the life of Christ—Spirit-filled life. God began to impress upon our hearts that we are to invest our lives in this community. This was not a stepping-stone. God began to fill our hearts with hope for this 30-mile radius. It would be another 3 years before we would leave the old building and begin afresh but hope had come into our hearts. In 2008 we finally moved and began the work of tearing down the old and building the new—new constitution, new core values, new mission. 5 years later, look where we are today! That’s what hope will do for you!

Show me a person who is hopeless and I will show you a person who is not filled with the Holy Spirit. Anytime I hear I don’t think it’s going to work or I’m afraid it’s not going to work and I see a person who at that moment is not filled with the Holy Spirit. The problem with our nation and our community is hopelessness. You can talk about hope and you can make hope your campaign slogan but if there is no genuine hope, nothing will happen.

MARK #3 – LIBERTY

Background: Look at what happened to him – And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. 8 So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. No baby-steps here. He is jumping for joy!

The Holy Spirit had transformed his bondage to liberty. 2 Corinthians 3:17 “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” What is Liberty? It is not liberty to sin. It is liberty from every man-made formalism, tradition, and legalism. Don’t misunderstand me – The Holy Spirit will inspire you to obey God but it will not assist you in your dead, meaningless rituals. D.L. Moody once said, “there must be a funeral in a good many churches before there is much work done, we shall have to bury the formalism so deep that it will never have any resurrection.” I’ve had some people come to me wanting to resurrect the old—“Back in our home church.” Very nicely and yet firmly, I reminded them that five years ago, we had a funeral. This is a Spirit-led church. This is a Book of Acts church. In fact, I have actually counseled people to go to other churches.

What is the benefit of having a Spirit-led, Book of Acts church? 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God.  10 Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Excerpts from the Letter to the Kindle Ministry from Flint Hill.

The world wants to see a church doesn’t make any sense.

Application: We cannot live without the Holy Spirit. If you are leaning on anybody but the Holy Spirit this morning – not only are you miserable but also you are making that person miserable. You are expecting from them what only the Holy Spirit can do. A person who is filled with the Holy Spirit will be filled with love, hope, and liberty. He will set your eyes on the crucified Jesus Christ.

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