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The Holy Spirit: The Supplier of Missions

The Holy Spirit and Missions  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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I remember officiating a funeral in Harford County, and as the family was being seated at the gravesite, a mangy looking dog showed up. She was quite disruptive: She was delighted to see the crowd gathering, and made it a point to sniff everyone there. The funeral home staff tried to shoo it off, but the dog was determined. While the funeral home staff was tending to the dog, it ran under the canopy and stood on its hind legs and put her front paws on the widow. Her dress was dirty. I was horrified. And she was deeply moved.
She told me after the graveside service that her husband was a dog-lover, and this was his way of reminding her that he was watching over her. I’ve done dozens of funerals in my 13 years as a pastor, and these stories are not uncommon. Whether or not they mere coincidence, they are a comfort to those who are grieving. Often in cases like this the bereaved use words like, “He’s with us in spirit.”
We don’t just use that in death - we use it when we can’t (or don’t want to) attend an event, but what do people mean when they say that someone is with us in spirit? Our memories never fade. Their lives continue to influence us. Or in the case of the funeral, maybe their loved one is watching them, providing the occasional miracle.
When Jesus told his disciples he was leaving them, he promised not to leave them alone: he would still be with them, through the presence of the Holy Spirit. This is not Jesus’ way of being with his disciples “in spirit.” The Holy Spirit continues to do the things Jesus began to do in his earthly life, the thing we read in the Gospels.
How do we see our church ministries and missions? As programs or as Spirit - led continuations of Christ’s ministry on earth? A huge difference.
Jesus, acted while on Earth, continuing to act through the holy Spirit, healing, direction, power, circumstances, calling

Sermon Introduction

Last week we saw how the Holy Spirit is the author of missions. Jesus told his disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit, and once they receive power then they begin their ministry. In today’s story that Debbie told us, the early church is growing. And it has created a serious crisis.
Today’s message is for our local church. The Gospel is personal, but it’s never private. As John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church said,
The idea of a church growing in numbers can be exciting, but it is disruptive. Churches can see an increase in attendance, but if they do not adapt their way of life, they cannot sustain this growth.
“There is no such thing as solitary religion.”
The Holy Spirit gave birth to the Church on Pentecost Sunday. The church is a family. When you accepted Christ, when you were baptized, when you took your membership vows, you joined a family.
The question for our church today is
In our story today, the church is struggling with change. Ronald Heifetz, a professor of business at Harvard, once wrote:
“People don't fear change; they fear loss.
We don’t like change. That’s the spoken and spoken truth of churches. The question for our church today is not whether or not churches should change, or how we should change. When you walk out these doors and enter the mission field, change is constantly happen. Even inside these walls change is always happening. The question for the early church and for us today is:
The question for our church today is:
What kind of growth would you like to see in a church?
“How will we adapt to change?”

In Acts chapter 6 the Holy Spirit is growing the church, and and along with that...

The Holy Spirit Creates New Situations

their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews e among them complained

their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing,

Acts 6:1 NIV
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews e among them complained

I remember my Pentecostal days where you had to get to church early (why?) so you could get a good parking space and get a decent seat. Show up late and you’re parking in the mud and sitting in the overflow section. I didn’t like to overflow section. The sound system was terrible. The room was hot. If you’ve ever been in an overflow section, you know what the singing is like. You’re not really singing with a congregation: you’re singing with an impromptu choir, and you hoped that the good singers showed up. Some Sundays the singing was horrible. But the neighborhood around us was growing, we were growing and we were excited about what the Holy Spirit was doing.
We had a new situation: the city of Greensboro did some major road repair, and closed off the road that led to our church. We were mad at the city of Greensboro. We believed that transportation planners were jerks who didn’t like Pentecostals, our pastor said it was a new situation created by the Holy Spirit.
In this case it is numerical growth.
This new situation was a real pain. We spent three weeks making signs, walking around the neighborhoods, knocking on doors, introducing ourselves and asking permission to put signs on their street corners. We finally realized that the Holy Spirit had a good plan after all.
But new situations happen. If there is one constant in the world, it is the lack of constancy. How will we see our new situations? As an man made inconvenience or a spirit guided opportunity.
Church growth is exciting, but it comes at a cost. Christianity already has tensions with alot of the Jewish community. Sometimes the conflict became harsh and even violent.
(anti - semitism - coffee with the pastor)
There is friction on 2 fronts - conflict from the non-Christian community and now we have conflict within the church. The Greek speaking Jewish Christians were arguing with the Hebrew speaking community. The Greek speaking group is feeling neglected. Many in the church can relate to that - youth who feel like their voice isn’t heard. Senior adults who feel like they are being forgotten. In this case widows who were not getting fed. (OT background)
Notice I stopped at the word complained in verse 2 . As we read in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Complaints happen in the church, don’t they? In the Holy Spirit has created new situations, and those new situations have created some serious challenges.

New Situations Create New Challenges

their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food

The new situation is numerical growth, which is exciting, but it can also be a real pain. Ask anyone who has served on a building expansion committee. Churches need upgraded facilities to accommodate growing ministries and an expanded vision. But what do you do when 10 people have 10 different ideas about building expansion. Ask anyone whose small group grows to the point where it is no longer a small group. It’s hard to appoint a leader from that group and create a new one. We want the Holy Spirit to bring us growth, but it comes at a price. Not hard to believe - new people bring new problems, friction.
The new situation is numerical growth, which is exciting, but it can also be a real pain. Ask anyone who has served on a building expansion committee. Churches need upgraded facilities to accommodate growing ministries and an expanded vision. But what do you do when 10 people have 10 different ideas about building expansion. Ask anyone whose small group grows to the point where it is no longer a small group. It’s great that people desire fellowship and growth, but it’s hard to appoint a leader from that group and create a new one.
In there is friction
Church growth is exciting, but it comes at a cost. Christianity already has tensions with alot of the Jewish community. Sometimes the conflict became harsh and even violent.
(anti - semitism - coffee with the pastor)
(anti - semitism - coffee with the pastor)
on 2 fronts - conflict from the non-Christian community (friction with the Jews, which later developed into anti-semitism, coffee with the pastor) and now we have conflict within the church. The Greek speaking Christians were arguing with the Hebrew speaking Christians. The Greek speaking group is feeling neglected. Many in the church can relate to that - youth who feel like their voice isn’t heard. Senior adults who feel like they are being forgotten, greek speaking widows not getting food.
There are good complaints and there are bad ones. How do you tell the difference? Bad complaints - I don’t want to get specific, because then you start thinking “I know who he’s talking about.” - have more to with preferences and comfort.
A good complaint helps the church be more faithful to Christ. Good complaints are essential to fulfilling our vision as a church. And a good complaint is related to a need. (I realize that is a subjective word.)
In , people are going away hungry. The church exists to care for the widow and orphan, and it’s not getting done. Remember, this is a problem created by a Work of the Holy Spirit. A growing church means new challenges, and...

New Challenges Need New Servants

Acts 6:
Acts 6:2 NIV
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.
Acts 6:2–4 NIV
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
Acts 6:2 NIV
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.
One of the hazards of church ministry is burnout. You serve in a ministry too long without taking a break or not getting the support you need, and you burnout. Another hazard is that churches cannot grow or thrive without new servants. When we rely on the same people to lead and maintain our missions, our growth hits a ceiling.
The need mentioned here is needing someone to “wait on tables.” We think of a restaurant here, but this was a way of describing their ministry to the widows - if a woman’s husband died and she had no adult children, she was economically vulnerable. According to Jewish religious law - and Christians too - they were to make sure they were taken care of. When a church grows, so do the needs. In this story, many hungry, Greek speaking widows were being drawn to the church, and their needs were not being met.
The disciples see this and say, “we can’t neglect the ministry of the Word to deal with this.” This was not the disciples way of saying “I don’t have time for this menial labor - I’m here to preach, not get my hands dirty.” or “This is not as important as preaching the Word of God.” The disciples are saying, God has called us to teach and preach the Word, we need to focus on our calling and others need to step up. This is always true in the church - needs grow, and rather than the same people taking on more work, new servants are needed. The good news is that...
This was not the disciples way of saying “I don’t have time for this menial labor - I’m here to preach, not get my hands dirty.” or “This is not as important as preaching the Word of God.” It would be hypocritical for a pastor to say, “

The Holy Spirit Who Creates the Challenge also Supplies the Solution

Acts 6:3–4 NIV
Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
The disciples are stating a matter fact, not a wish. They do not say, pray that the Lord sends us the right person, or let’s hope someone steps up to fill this position. The assumption is that since we are the church, that spirit filled people are already there. Since we are the church, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are present. There is not a single person in this room who does not have a spiritual gift to offer in service to the kingdom of God.
The disciples are stating a matter fact, not a wish. They do not say, pray that the Lord sends us the right person, or let’s hope someone steps up to fill this position. States as a matter of fact: The gifts of the Holy Spirit and Spirit filled people are already there. Listening? Open? Excuses already in place?
I like the illustration of group of people eating at a restaurant and the waiter spills a meal on the floor.
The person with the Spiritual Gift of Mercy will clean up the mess. The person with the Spiritual Gift of Giving will offer to pay for the spilled meal. The person with the Spiritual Gift of Exhortation will concentrate on cheering up the waiter. The person with the Spiritual Gift of Administration will delegate and organize the whole clean up process to avoid confusion. The person with the Spiritual Gift of Teaching will suggest ways of avoiding a recurrence of the problem. The person with the gift of prophecy will say, “I told you that was going to happen.”
I’ve heard it called the “principle of distribution of gifts.” No one person has all the gifts, but everyone has at least one of them. Spiritual gifts are God’s solutions to the challenges we face as a church.
But there’s more. Have you ever agreed to a volunteer position (sure, I can do that!) , not realizing what you were getting yourself into? That’s sort of what happens to one of the seven men who were chosen to oversee caring for the Greek speaking widows. The task seemed predictable enough - acquire the food, organize the distribution efforts, the one named Stephen learned that...

The Holy Spirit transforms ordinary jobs into extraordinary ones.

Acts 6:7–8 NIV
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.
That’s not what he signed up for. He was supposed to be delivering food, but he ends up performing signs and wonders, and preaching the Gospel. He actually becomes the first Christian martyr - not at all what he originally signed up for.
I remember taking a missional church class with a group of clergy, and we discussed how important it is to intentionally reach out to the neighborhood, rather than waiting for people to walk in on a Sunday morning. One pastor had tried to lead an effort to reach out to their neighborhood, which had changed over the years, and had doors literally slammed in their faces. No one wanted to talk to them, no one wanted their help. So, the pastor and a few others started picking up garbage along the main street. They did this for a year, and one day a restaurant owner invited them in for a cup of coffee, which started a series of conversations about the needs of the neighborhoods: the schools needed tutors, the homes needed repairs. The church built a partnership with the community, the neighborhood is being transformed and the church is growing.
This is not the story of a successful church program. This is a story of how God took an ordinary job (a very important one) of picking up garbage and transformed it into an extraordinary one.
“Holy Spirit, take this job in whatever direction you want it to go.”
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