The Day of Pentecost was the beginning of a revolution the magnitude of which the world had never seen. On the Day of Pentecost, as the one hundred and twenty believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, three thousand men and women were converted immediately.
As we read the account of the early Church in Acts and the Epistles it is clear that God had a plan for the building of His Church. That plan worked magnificently during the first few centuries of the Church. The Church today needs to go back to God’s revealed plan for the spread of the Gospel. Like a losing sports team we need to go back to the basics, to the fundamentals.
The book of Acts is the manual or play book for the Church. In the second chapter of Acts it is clear that there are five absolute necessities for success in the Church.
Necessity number one for the success of the Church is conversion. The people we read about in Acts were genuinely converted. This means they really repented of their sins. They felt more than mere sorrow about sin, they abhorred their sin. They also had true faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, not just believing a few things about Jesus. They trusted Him and were committed to Him as their Lord.
Church membership is not the same as conversion. John Wesley as a young Anglican clergyman came to America in the early 18th Century to be a missionary to the American Indians in Georgia. He returned home to England disappointed at his lack of success. Later he wrote in his journal that he had gone to America to convert the Indians and discovered that he needed to be converted himself. The point is that we can’t share something we don’t have ourselves.
Christ told the disciples to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations….” (St. Matthew 28:19) We were told by the Lord to make disciples, not church members. And it is only disciples who are able to make disciples. This is the second necessity. To be a disciple means to be the student of a master Teacher. It also means to be a committed follower of that Teacher. As these two things happen the disciple becomes like the Teacher. The disciples of Christ in the New Testament were willing to follow the teaching and example of Christ to the point of suffering for Him. The apostles were imprisoned for preaching the Gospel of Christ and disciples like Stephen were even killed for the Faith. The church cannot be what God intends for it to be until we have disciples like those of the early Church.
The right self image is also necessary to the success of the Church. At conversion the disciples of Christ were given a new identity. They saw themselves as members of the Body of Christ. They hadn’t joined a club or organization. They had miraculously become part of a living organism. As a result they had a large vision of the Church. We need to have a vision of the Church that goes beyond our four walls. We need to truly see ourselves as part of the “one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church,” as we weekly confess in the Nicene Creed.
The Gospel also spread quickly following Pentecost because all Christians were actively sharing that Gospel. Following the martyrdom of Stephen we read, “And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles…. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” (Acts 8:1,4) Those who left Jerusalem went about preaching the Gospel of Christ. It’s important to note that those people were not the apostles, because the apostles stayed in Jerusalem. Now the word translated “preaching” doesn’t mean preaching from a pulpit, but talking to people about salvation through faith in Christ. This was such good news to them that they could not keep it to themselves.
One major problem in the Church today is the fact that we depend on professional clergy to spread the Gospel. This is a practice that began in the Middle Ages. However, it is clear in the Bible that every believer is to share in the spread of the Gospel. That is why the early Church grew so quickly. St. Peter said to laymen, “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” (I Peter 3:15) Of course for this to work we must really have “the hope” within us personally.
The final necessity for a successful Church is the Holy Spirit. The Church started growing at Pentecost once the Holy Spirit had been poured out. If we have been converted we have the same Holy Spirit that empowered the early Church. St. Paul wrote, “Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Romans 8:9)
If we have the Spirit what is the problem? The problem is that we do not follow the Spirit. St. Paul also wrote, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:25) To walk by the Spirit is to follow God’s will as revealed in the Scriptures empowered by the Spirit of God. It is to submit our wisdom and desires to His greater wisdom and holy desires. If each of us would “walk by the Spirit” great strides forward would be made in the spread of the Gospel.
Why was the early Church so successful in spreading the Gospel? Because they followed God’s plan for His Church.
by Rev. F. M. Levi
Easter Sunday morning began with a continental breakfast in the Parish Hall sponsored by the Woman’s Guild. The breakfast was followed by the Service of Holy Communion in the chapel. As in the past the chapel was adorned with beautiful Easter lilies which were purchased by members in Honor of or in Memory of loved ones.
The Rev. Richard Barnard, Pastor of Chapel of the Cross in Dallas, Texas, was a guest preacher at St. Andrew’s on Sunday, April 30, 2006. Following the service the congregation shared a fifth Sunday potluck luncheon in the Parish Hall.
Ember Days are designated by the Book of Common Prayer along with Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as “Other days of fasting, on which the church requires such a measure of abstinence as is more especially suited to extraordinary acts and exercises of devotion.” (P. 1ix)
Ember Days occur four times a year; after the First Sunday in Lent, the Feast of Pentecost, September 14, and December 13.
Missionary of The Month
Rev. & Mrs. Gerhard Meyer (Grace) Ester, Melody, Jessica, Joy. Youth/Camp/Pastoral Ministries. Schwarzenborn, Germany.
Congratulations to Julia & Walter Sellers on the birth of their daughter Amelia Jean Sellers who was born April 7, 2006, weighing 6lbs. 5oz.
Saturday, June 3, 2006, 9:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. Also, baked goods for sale and free coffee.
100th Synod of the Diocese of Mid-America
This historic Synod will be held here at St. Andrew’s on Thursday and Friday, June 15 and 16, 2006. The Rt. Rev. Franklin H. Sellers will be preaching at the Service of Holy Communion 9:30 a.m. Friday morning. For further information about the Synod contact the church office at (708) 614-7404.
June 18, 2006
June 3 – Madeline Levi
June 7 – Grant Chessman
June 8 – Mildred Buescher
June 8 – Melissa Drobnak
June 9 – Patty Levi
June 14 – Carl Spencer
June 16 – River Christenson
June 17 – Dave Sellers
June 18 – Jacqueline Robertson
June 18 – Paul Sellers
June 21 – Anita Rago
June 22 – Rev. Robert Novak
June 23 – Brian Stultz
June 30 – Frank Levi, Jr.
FATHER’S DAY SPECIAL
by Ruth Lommatzsch
Now and then it’s time to say
Something in a special way,
And so to fathers everywhere,
May God grant you His special care.
Give you health and happiness
And all your families richly bless,
Not just while Father’s Day is here,
But on each day of every year!