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One Heart-One Soul

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February 8-9, 2003

"One Heart & Soul - Authentic Community"

Mike Slaughter

Acts 4:32-34
32: All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.
33: With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.
34: There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales

One of the words that I really like, even though some people would say that it's of my generation, is radical. Can you tell that's my byline? As a matter of fact, you will find on my web site that one of the things in my description is "Jesus radical." I can't stand the consumer mentality that has infiltrated the church - that people in the church think this is all about us. When we make a commitment to Jesus Christ, we exist for one purpose and that is the purpose of God's mission.
The first purpose of the church is worship. This is reflected in the first line of our mission statement, to bring seeking people into a life celebration of Jesus. Seeking people are those who are asking the real God questions. I'm not interested in convincing the unconvinced, but people who are really seeking God.
The second purpose of the church of Jesus is to be the authentic community that demonstrates the love of God in the world. That is why the second part of our mission statement is to grow as disciples in cell community. We are the body of Christ and the life of the body is in the cell. Not in a big anonymous group, but in cell community.

Acts 4:32-34
32: All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.
33: With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.
34: There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales

I. One Heart - Unity Factor
Open your Bibles to Acts 4:32. "The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul." So if you believe, you are part of a group that is of one heart and soul. "And no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common." This was not playing - this was radical. "With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them. For as many as owned land or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds for what was sold."
When we look at what it means to be community, the first thing we're told is that everyone who believes is of one heart. Unity is the pre-requisite for the outpouring of the Spirit. You cannot experience the fullness of the Spirit in your life or through your life outside of community. Let me show you what I mean.

Acts 1:14
14: They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Acts 2:1
1: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

Acts 2:5,9
5: Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.
9: Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

Acts 2:11
11: (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs--we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!"

Go back to Acts 1:14. This takes place after Jesus ascended into heaven following the resurrection. The church, at that point made up of 120 people, went back to the upper room. Look at verse 14. "All of these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer together." Unity is the pre-requisite for the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit. It says they prayed together with the women. There are four great divisions - gender, race, geography and theology - but now men and women were together. Go to Acts 2:1, "When the day of Pentecost did come . . ." Pentecost was the day that God gave his Spirit ". . . They were all together in one place." Unity makes the way for the out-pouring of Pentecost. In verses five and nine, there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven, showing diversity of people. Look at verse 11, there were even Jews and Arabs.

Matthew 18:20
20: For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

Matthew 18:18
18: "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

The Greek word for church is ekklesia. It means "to be called out." We are called out from every nation in the world. Not only are we called out, we are called together. The full benefit and blessing of God comes through community. Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in your midst . . . whatever you agree upon shall be done through my name. Whatever you bind together on earth, shall be bound in heaven. Whatever you set loose together on earth will be loosed in heaven."
The church in America is no longer dangerous. It's impotent. It's been influenced more by our culture than by God's word. Our culture promotes individualism and independence. During the last century, there has been a movement away from communities and neighborhoods to suburbs. Even if you lived in big cities like New York City, your identity was not the city but the boroughs within the city. Your identity went with the neighborhood.
I grew up in Cincinnati, but my identity was North College Hill, not Cincinnati. When we went to a convenience store, we didn't go to a chain convenience store. We went to something called a pony keg. George's Pony Keg was closest to my house. When you went there guess who you saw? George! There was also Bud's Pony Keg and Farley's Pony Keg. Farley sold us cigarettes when we were twelve. When you stole from George, George knew who you were and George called your daddy. Your dad grounded you for a month and George grounded you for a month. You weren't allowed in the store for a month, but then you could come back and everything was okay. And when we shopped for our meat, we did not get our meat at a super store. We went to Ralph's Meat Market and Ralph knew our name. When I was in high school, you could go across the street for lunch, and for 25 cents Ralph would cut meat, cut bread, and make a sandwich for you.
Today we don't go to stores owned by individual people. We go to super chains, like Meijer or Super America and who even knows who the owners are. We don't live in communities and neighborhoods. Many of us live in suburbs. I am embarrassed to say I only know the name of one next-door neighbor and I have lived in that house for nine years. We get into superficial relationships, and end up not knowing anyone below a superficial level. Our generation has come up with this phenomenon called cocooning, where we live tethered to our home entertainment systems and barricade ourselves behind our electronic alarms. Transformation only happens through community. The danger with super churches is that we reflect the values of America - we can hide and be anonymous. But the outpouring of the Spirit only happens through the intimacy of community.

Acts 22:6-11
6: "About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me.
7: I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, 'Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?'
8: " 'Who are you, Lord?' I asked.
9: " 'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,' he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
10: " 'What shall I do, Lord?' I asked.
11: " 'Get up,' the Lord said, 'and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.' My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.

In Acts 22:6, the apostle Paul talked about his conversion experience. He was anti-Christian. He was on his way to persecute some Christians when the resurrected Jesus appeared to him on the road in a great light. Paul said, "Who are you?" And he answered, "I'm Jesus." Look at verse 10. Paul asked the great question - a question I hope all of us are asking, "What do you want me to do, Lord?" Jesus said, "Get up and go to Damascus. There you will be told everything that has been assigned you to do." Jesus could have told him right there everything that was assigned for him to do. But he sent him to Damascus because it is in the midst of community that we are healed. The next verse says, "Since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, those who were with me took me by the hand and led me to Damascus." If Jesus thought that it could just be you and him, he'd do it! But his plan is that you will be healed and transformed in cell community.
Our guitar player, Mike, wasn't even a believer when he came to our church. Mike is part of our music ministry which is a cell community. I want you to see what the Lord is doing in Mike's life through cell community.
Mike: I was always involved in music. I took piano. I played drums. I played clarinet in the school band. Around seventh grade, when I started to really like girls, I put the clarinet down and grabbed the guitar. By the time I was between ages 15 and 16, I started playing with some local bands. I played anywhere and everywhere - locally, and all across the country. I played with several bands. Many different styles. I was pretty certain at that point that I loved music and was going to base my life totally around that. I decided to make a move to a music city, which everyone told me was Nashville. So I went. After putting in a lot of time there, I was starting to make the right connections. I backed up Kenny Chessman, Toby Keith . . . I was hanging around with some pretty influential people. I learned a great deal there. But it really got confusing then because I was always alone. I didn't have anyone, any friends, any type of community to go to and say, "Let's put this music aside. You did all you could do today. Now let's relax, watch some TV, go to a movie, go out to eat." It was just me. It was just always me. In my mind was this feeling of dread that I couldn't take this any more. I would do anything to avoid feeling this way. And most of the time I got drunk. It was another side of me that no one was seeing. I knew that I needed to make a change, to come back home and regain the inner peace I had before I left.
After I came back from Nashville and started playing here at Ginghamsburg Church, little by little I slowly began to find support and community. In the past I felt despair and loneliness - all the things that we all go through at different times - and there was no one there. Now I know that I have a lifeline. I've got a place to go. I've got people to call and they genuinely care about me. I've learned that I don't have to have a girlfriend to be full. If I feel empty, I don't have to go to a bar and drink and socialize. I don't need those things. I've got a lot more inner peace and I'm definitely more grounded now than I was then. Community for me - especially our music community - just might have very well saved my soul. I actually feel the presence of God in my life leading me. And I feel more inclined to say, "Do what you can do today and do the best you can." I'm very grateful.
(End Video)

1 Corinthians 12:26
26: If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

II. One Soul
All who believed were of one heart. Which means we share a common life source and one soul. Soul is your identity. Everyone has a unique soul, a unique identity. It's your personality. It's that part of you that will always be you for eternity. Your soul is your life force that is going to live even when your body doesn't live. What every person who believes in Jesus Christ has together is a common identity. There is a word or expression that is used for believers, we are the body of Christ. I used to have other kinds of identities. Before I came to Jesus, I was always trying to figure where I fit in. I wasn't an athlete, I wasn't this, I wasn't that. There were so many things I wasn't. Then Jesus showed me who I am. It's in this common identity, this connectedness to you, that I understand who I am. The body of Christ - there are many members, but one body. In I Corinthians 12, it says, "So when one of us suffers, all of us suffer." This morning I was running and I was praying for three people in our community who are suffering. It's not me by myself, but if one of us suffers, all of us suffer together. If one of us is honored, all of us are honored together. Our culture values independence. We, as the people of Jesus, value inter-dependence and inter-connectedness.
My son lives in the baseball house at the University of Pennsylvania. They are in the midst of preparing for their spring season that starts in three weeks. They open the season in Fresno, California, and so they are practicing every day. Last night three guys who are part of his cell group from this church drove there and are staying at the baseball house for two nights. I called him just before worship, wondering what is it like when the population of the baseball house becomes one-third Christian.

Acts 4:34
34: There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales

You are not in community if your group is too big to go on a road trip. You are not in community if it's too big so people aren't praying for you specifically. The danger in super churches is that we become a place where you can come and hang out, but you are not transformed when you are anonymous. The life of the body, and we are the body of Christ, is the cell. Not only do we have this shared life, this one soul, we have a shared life mission. Look at Acts 4:34. This is Jesus radical. That's what I want on my tombstone: Mike Slaughter, a Jesus Radical. "There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold." This is costly sharing. This is not donation. To be a part of this community of Jesus, his values become your values, his heart becomes your heart. This is counter culture. Instead of living for ourselves, we live to give ourselves away for the world.
That's how I know I've been transformed by Jesus because my selfish behind would never do anything like this. I have been possessed. It looks like me and sounds like me, but someone has taken over and they have control of everything, including my checkbook. We become a community of people who exist to give ourselves away. Over 2000 kids will be coming to a rock concert at the Avenue because we are giving ourselves away to make these things possible. Our New Path Ministry, our housing project for single moms . . . you see, we are fools. The Bible calls us fools for Christ.

Acts 4:33
33: With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.

III. One Witness
Because we have one heart and one soul, we have one witness. Look at verse 33. "With great power, the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great grace was upon them all." They had such power in their witness because their talk wasn't the message, their lifestyle was the message. These people were either crazy or it was God, but it wasn't them. The community was the message.
I have a friend, Scott Parsons, and when he came here several years back, he was an agnostic. I don't exactly know where he is in his journey right now. The last official claim that I heard him make was that he was a tentative Christian. He's making progress. I was so impressed that I put this quote in my last book. He said, "When I think of a church setting out to make an appeal to a seeker like me, knowing my own attitudes and resistances, I'm very impressed that they'd even try. It seems that what they are doing is similar to adopting children who have highly limiting and irreversible challenges and conditions, the kind only a miracle can overcome. For people like me, actions completely drown out words. Behavior, Christian behavior, is the only thing that will win us." There is nothing more persuasive in the human range of actions than Christian behavior demonstrated through community. Jesus is not about building great buildings; he is about building great communities. The measure of success is not how many show up, but how radically loving we are. We are the body of Jesus and the life of the body is in the cell.
We need to pray for people who need healing. Lift your hand if you need healing. Will others gather around these folks and touch their backs while we pray. Make sure everyone's covered who needs prayer.
Jesus said, "Where two or more are gathered in my name, right there I am. If two of you on earth agree about anything, you will have what you ask." We are agreeing right now, Lord, about the particular need that this person has in their life for healing. We agree together and we agree with You. You are not the Lord of disease, you are not the Lord of misfortune or mishap. You are the Lord of creation, the Lord of health. You are the Lord who has created every cell in our body. You are the Lord of each of those cells, and we pray in agreement with Your will and Your purpose for the alignment of those cells into health and wellness. We pray for relationships, Lord, where there is need for healing in relationships. Right now we agree together. There is not a force in the universe stronger than Your love, Lord, and we claim that love and that healing power to right now overcome. We pray this in Jesus' precious name, with thanks for the healing we are about to receive. Amen.

Copyright © 2003 Ginghamsburg Church. All rights reserved.

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