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THREE INGREDIENTS FOR A SUCCESSFUL CHURCH
A. What we need in this church are some more troublemakers!
- Yes, Troublemakers!
- That's what the enemies of the church called the Christians at Thessalonica.
- They said they were the ones, "who have caused trouble all over the world" (v.6)
- Our Church needs troublemakers like the troublemakers at Thess...
- We need some people ready to shake up our world in the same way that the Thessalonicans shook up theirs.
- Where there was darkness, they brought light.
- Where there was hatred, they brought love.
- Where there was sadness, they brought laughter.
- Where there was bondage, they brought liberation.
- Where there was death, they brought life.
- They took a world that was tired & troubled & tangled, & they put that world back on its feet.
B. Are you ready to be a world changer?
- Are you ready to turn our world upside down for Jesus Christ?
- If so, pay attention this morning as we begin our journey of the Thessalonian church by discovering some key ingredients that enabled these believers to change their world for Christ.
- Read Acts 17:1-9.
Transition: The 1st key ingredient that enabled these Christians was their:
- Luke tells us (v.4) that Paul's preaching was successful in Thessalonica.
- Many believed including a large number of "God-fearing Greeks."
A. The word "God-fearer" was a technical term for Gentiles who were drawn to the morality & monotheism (one God) of the Jewish faith.
- They could never actually become Jews, but they were Jews from a distance.
- They were those who were desirous for something more than their pagan culture could offer them, so they turned to the God of the Jews, & after Paul came to their synagogue they turned to the Messiah.
B. The world in which Christianity was conceived was a world of incomparable immorality.
- Slavery was a universally accepted system.
- Homosexuality was rampant, as evidenced by the Emporer Nero being paraded through the streets of Rome fondling his 12-yr-old male lover in full view.
- Sexual permissiveness was the rule of the day.
- Prostitution & all forms of sexual immorality were a major part of the various religions that they followed.
- Human life was cheap & pleasure was primary.
- And into that world of immorality Christianity introduced a new element--integrity.
C. A letter written to Diognetes in the middle of the 2nd cent. indicated how revolutionary Christian integrity was in this world of paganism.
- The letter marveled that Christians, "have their meals in common, but not their wives. They find themselves in the flesh & yet, live not after the flesh."
D. No wonder these Christians were causing trouble in their world.
- They were doing something that had been forgotten in that pagan culture.
- They were living lives of integrity, and the people didn't know how to react to it.
- 1 Thess. 1:9 tells us that these Christian had "turned to God from idols to serve the living & true God."
E. A fresh dose of integrity emanating from the lives of Christian men & women today is what we need to cause some trouble in our world.
- We are living in the midst of an integrity crisis.
D.L. Moody said that you can tell a person's character by what he/she does in the dark.
- Macaulay said, "The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out."
I'm reminded of the woman who wrote a letter to the IRS: "Dear Sir, I can't sleep. Last year, when I filled out my income tax form, I misrepresented my income. Enclosed is a check for $325. If I still can't sleep, I'll send you the rest."
- During the last presidential election people were saying that a person's character doesn't reflect on the kind of job he/she will do in public office. Huh????
- In recent years we've seen a lot of preachers suffering from a lack of integrity.
- Coaches have been fired & athletic programs have been put on probation because of a lack of integrity.
- We are quickly becoming a nation that doesn't know what the word "integrity" means.
- And when we lose our integrity, we have lost it all.
- When we refuse to live by the truth, then we are not living the kind of life that will be approved by God.
- We as Christians, must live lives of integrity so that the non-Christian world will sit up & take notice
Transition: The 2nd key ingredient of the church at Thessalonica was:
A. The accusation hurled at the Thessalonian Christians, & Paul & Silas implies this.
- Why else would they be accused of causing "trouble all over the world" or "turning the world upside down" if they were not intense in their commitment to Christ?
- And we know that the intensity of the Thessalonian church didn't die down for Paul later writes to them (1 Thess. 1:8) & says, "The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia & Achaia--your faith in God has become known everywhere."
- These Christians had a faith that was so intense that their reputation had become known everywhere.
B. We see the same spirit in Peter & John before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:19-20), "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen & heard."
C. These Christians had an intensity about them for they were proclaiming an intense message.
- They preached Christ crucified, & Christ risen, & Christ available to all who would come.
D. We must recover this spirit of intensity in our churches today.
- We have too many members at ease in Zion.
- Too many preachers w/o a message to proclaim.
- Too many elders & deacons mired in mediocrity.
- Too many Sunday School teachers captured by complacency.
- We have too many people who have lost their intensity.
E. The message heard so often from churches today is "let's not do anything to bring attention to ourselves".
- "Let's not get involved in anything controversial."
- "Let's not take a stand politically."
- "Let's not do anything to trouble the waters."
- And by proclaiming this message of non-involvement, what we're really saying is "We don't want to be world-changers"--"We don't want to turn our world upside like the Thessalonians did".
- You see, to be a world-changer for Jesus Christ I have to get out into the world & let them know what I believe if I ever expect them to join me in my cause.
- Paul said in 1 Cor. 5:20 "the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power."
- Jesus said, (Matt 11:12) "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it."
F. We have got to reach the point where we live out the conviction that nothing is more important than the expansion of God's kingdom.
- It is more important than our personal well-being.
- It is more important than our education.
- It is more important than our success.
- We must become Kingdom people if we are to turn our world upside down for Jesus Christ.
- And Kingdom people are people who put the kingdom first in their lives.
- We see that in the Christians at Thessalonica.
- And my prayer to God is that we would see the same thing in ourselves.
Transition: The 3rd key to the church at Thessalonica was its:
Transition: In this passage we see that Christians were willing to get involved.
- Paul & his companions were willing to be involved in the lives of the Jews, God-fearers, & leading women of Thessalonica.
- Jason was willing to get involved by welcoming these Christian leaders into his home even though he knew it could mean trouble for him.
A. A number or years ago when the exploits of Albert Schweitzer in Africa were receiving world-wide publicity, & when Jack Parr reigned on late night TV, Parr made a statement which captures the spirit of our age.
- He told his TV audience, "I'd like to be an Albert Schweitzer, if I could commute."
B. A lot of Christians have that same attitude.
- "I'd like to be a force in the kingdom of God if I just had enough time."
- "I wish our church could be more evangelistic, but I'm not able to witness."
- I'm afraid there are a lot of things that we would like to see happen in our church and in our world that are not going to happen unless we all get personally involved.
- There are too many armchair quarterbacks & backseat drivers in the church of God today.
- Everybody knows what everybody else ought to be doing but they're not doing anything themselves.
C. We, like the Thessalonians, need people to be involved in our church.
- We need you to help us in our attempt to build the kingdom of God.
There was once a man who always seemed to bring home a boatload of fish.
- It was uncanny, & people wondered how he could be so successful.
-The game warden heard of this man's great success & asked to go w/him.
- The two men started early one morning & went across the lake to a secluded area.
- The warden noticed that the man didn't have a fishing pole, just a net & a rusty old tackle box.
- When they got to the appointed place, the fisherman opened up the box & pulled out a stick of dynamite--lit it--& tossed it into the water.
- It blew up & the fish rose to the surface.
- The fisherman began dipping his net into the water & putting the fish in the boat.
- The warden then reached back & revealed from his hip pocket the credentials of a game warden!
- Calmly, the fisherman opened the tackle box again, got out another stick of dynamite, lit the fuse & handed it to the game warden.
- Then, as the fuse burned down, the fisherman asked, "Are you going to fish or are you just going to sit there?"
- And is that not the question we must be asking of ourselves?
- We have the most powerful force ever known in our world--the message of a resurrected Savior--are we going to fish or just sit there?
- To carry out the work of Christ & to communicate the work of Christ, we must be personally involved in the church.
- To continue the witness of Christ & to conform to the will of Christ, we as a church, must be involved in the world.
A junior high youth group prepared a Palm Sunday passion play for their church.
- Instead of memorizing a script, they decided to familiarize themselves thoroughly w/the story by studying a modern translation of the Bible & then they would ad lib their lines.
- When the boy playing Jesus came back to the disciples the 2nd time after praying alone in the garden, Jesus said: "Asleep again! Boy, they just don't make disciples like they used to!"
- The disciples at Thessalonica were involved in the life of the church, intensely committed to God's work, & characterized by integrity.
- Do they still make disciples like that?
- I believe they do--& I believe that you can be one of them.
- You can be a world-changer, not because you are so smart, or because you know all the right things to say--but because God is empowering you to be a mighty force in His Kingdom.
- I hope you are ready for God because I know He's ready for you.
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