In our cultural Christianity we professionalize church ministries. We pay people to do some of the major work of the church. This has both benefits and problems. The problems are that it is easy to “outsource” our Christian duties and responsibilities to somebody else. For example, we all live busy lives and so instead of guarding time in our homes to be the primary spiritual influencers of our children, we find peace of mind that the children’s ministry is teaching our kids about God. Shirking our duties? Delegating? Deuteronomy 6:7-9 reminds us that our homes, not the “temple”, is to be the primary place our children experience and learn about God.
Last Sunday was Acts 8:1-4 was a portion of the sermon passage. (That was the last Sunday for 2017 that we had in Acts. We are pausing for 5 weeks now for Advent and New Year’s). Stephen had just become the first Christian martyr (a person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs). That event was the trigger for the first major persecution that the early church experienced. Acts 8:1b tells us: “A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria”. The church had grown to around 10,000 people (a conservative estimate). That’s a lot of people scattered! Although in comparison to recent scatterings (hundreds of thousands and millions of refugees fleeing areas in Africa and Asia), that pales in volume.
What did all the scattered believers do? Start-up a new, quiet life? Hide from further persecution? Verse 4 tells us that “the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went.” Wow! That’s thousands of missionaries! The believers took their Kingdom responsibility seriously. They shared the good news. Acts 1:8 (And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.) wasn’t just a directive for the apostles. Part of the apostles teaching (i.e. Acts 2:42; 5:42; 6:2) must have been about the call for every believer to be a witness. They understood that the call to witness and evangelize was every believers’ responsibility and not something they could delegate away!
What about you? What do you do with Jesus’ call for you to share the Good News with others? Are you in the practice of praying for opportunities and stepping into them? Or are you shirking responsibility by leaving all proclamation of the Good News to gifted evangelists and the pastor? It is tempting to limit our role in sharing the Good News with others primarily through inviting others to church with the hope that somebody else will tell them the Good News. It is a wonderful thing to be able to invite our friends and family members to church gatherings or special events knowing that there will be opportunities for them to hear the gospel, BUT we dare not think that inviting people to church is the primary way that Christians are to be Jesus’ witnesses. People are most impacted when they hear a testimony of what God has done in the life of somebody they know and have relationship with. The gospel really advances and bears much fruit when we as God’s people recognize and embrace the responsibility that we all have to spread the Good News. God spreads the gospel through ordinary Christians!