Waynedale United Methodist Church
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Making Disciples of Jesus for the Transformation of the World!
   

July 31, 2016 Sermon

“The Church AD 1500 – 2016!”
Acts 18:18 – 28
Ted Jansen  July 31, 2016  Waynedale UMC
 
1.)        I want you to know that you are loved by God.  Right now, in this place, in this moment.   God’s love has been reaching out to you faithfully for years.  Will you say, “Yes,” to God’s love in this moment of history? 
 
2.)        In Acts 18:18 – 28 we discover four people; Paul, Priscilla, Aquila and Apollos.  They were used of God to help believers in Christ in the early church.  They had different roles in doing God’s will.  Paul was a missionary and founder of many churches.  Pricilla and Aquila were supporters of Paul and mentors to Apollos.  Apollos was a gifted teacher and communicator.  They were all vital to the church.      
            After a few years of the church’s beginning in Corinth we read these words in 1 Corinthians 1:10 – 12.  “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.  My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.  What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."
            These differences in the early church give us a glimpse of divisions coming in the future church.  
 
3.)        The church started from a group of men and women who were following Jesus on the day of Pentecost.  Since that beginning there are approx. 2.2 billion Christians, the largest “group” of people in the world!   
            As we think of all those Christians I want you think of a piece of rope. Rope is made up of one substance but is comprised of many strands.  If you unravel this rope you will see many smaller strands. 
            The church is like a rope in that it has many strands of people, but all profess a faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.  According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, there are over 40 thousand different denominations in the church.  Those are a lot of strands of different organized people groups in the rope we call church.  Let’s look at 1500 to 2016.     
 
4.)        Martin Luther, and other leaders, created new churches, and denominations, with their leadership in the 1500’s and later.  I don’t believe they knew how things would grow and change when they took each step they felt called to take.  Those leaders believed it was important for churches to have local practices of faith that made sense to them in their region and not be a “one church for all” type of church.  Listen to this perspective on this time in history.       
            “Denominationalism, as originally designed, is the opposite of sectarianism.  A sect claims the authority of Christ for itself alone.  It believes that it is the true body of Christ; all truth belongs to it and no other religion.  So, by definition a sect is exclusive. 
            The denomination by contrast was an inclusive term.  It implied that the Christian group called or denominated by a particular name was but one member of a larger group-the church-to which all denominations belong.
            The denominational theory of the church, then, insists that the true church cannot be identified with any single ecclesiastical structure.  No denomination claims to represent the whole church of Christ.  Each simply constitutes a different form – in worship and organization – of the larger life of the church.”  (Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley, page 306)
            This mindset of the church along with the cultural change set the stage for the church to grow in new ways.    
            The “Church;” the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the Western Church all continued to grow and react to the changing world in different ways.  The Orthodox Church continued in the ways it had always practiced; it appeared to resist change by keeping with the ancient ways.  The Catholic Church started new orders within the church and the Western Church grew by starting new denominations.  All of these branches had their roots in the early church.     
            I want to look at a little United States church history in the Protestant Church. 
 
5.)        The first people coming from Europe to live here were primarily coming for the chance to express their faith in a new way in a new land.  One of the things that the churches had in Europe was the support of the state, or an identity with the state.    
 In this land before there was an organized “state” it was a frontier.  The church was on its own in that it did not have any official state identity or support.  You can read about how different churches went out into the frontier to share the message of Christ to the people. 
Some of the founding documents of our country wanted to ensure that this relationship was clarified so that the “state” would not have an identity with the church.  It was about the importance of practicing the faith without any state or governmental obligations.      
            “The Bill of Rights, with its provision of religious liberty for all, had in effect sanctioned the denominational concept of the church and had ruled out any direct influence of the churches upon the government.  The denominations were free, therefore, to define their own faith and practices.  But what about Christian responsibility for public life and morals?”  (Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley, page 385)
            This governmental sanctioned freedom to launch the church in the United States was used by God to reach people for Christ.  When people came to Christ it was the way the church could address the morality of the people in this new state.  
 
6.)        There was a time when “Revivals” were a part of our history and the term “great awakening” was used to describe times when people were converted and churches grew in this country.  Revivals often had joy filled singing and energetic preaching of the Bible.  This was in contrast to the ordered, formal, services of some churches. 
Two songs that were written in this time period were, “Amazing Grace,” which was written in 1779, and “Holy, Holy, Holy,” which was written in 1826.      
            The preaching of God’s word and instruction was able to happen because scripture had been translated into English.  Have you heard of the King James Version?  This was the official Authorized Version printed in 1611 for the Church of England.  Sunday School started as a method to focus on children making sure they were taught about the faith.    
 
7.)        Let me share an interesting fact from history that is close to my own history.       
William Tennent, who was born in 1673 and died in 1746, was a Presbyterian Pastor in Pennsylvania.  He had trained a number of evangelists in his time in a little cabin called the “Log College.” 
231 years after William Tennent died I graduated from the William Tennent Senior High School, in Warminster, PA.  In this school district is a middle school called, “Log College Middle High School,” that sends students into the William Tennent High School.  William Tennent taught where I grew up.       
           
8.)        The revival meetings were life changing, and people wanted to meet again in the same place, for more uplift and growth.  These revivals turned into yearly “camp meetings.”  These camp meetings sought to renew people and bring people to Christ each time they met, year by year.    
Churches, denominations, bought property and developed campgrounds for these camp meetings, instead of finding new places to meet each year.  The outdoor ministries of many churches started from the revivals in the United States.  I came to Christ through the outdoor ministry of the United Methodist Church in Eastern Pa.    
 
9.)        History is really “His” story of love given to each of us in the life of Jesus Christ.  When people say, “yes,” they hold the faith in their heart and the church lives another generation in some form. 
            God’s Holy Spirit is always looking for people willing to receive this message, share this message and live out life as a disciple on this planet. 
 
10.)      In the 1700’s the West was considered the center of Christianity, and the church.  You can look back at many worldwide mission efforts that were launched from the West, the US and those close to us.  But that has changed. 
            The largest congregation in the world is in South Korea, Yoido Full Gospel Church.  This congregation was started in 1958.  The other largest congregations are in Africa, South America and other places.  Some of these congregations have been around for 100 years or less.  
            I recently read the beginning of the book, “Rediscovering Church,” by Lynne and Bill Hybels.  They were used by God to start Willow Creek Church, a special ministry that has been a leader for US congregations for 25 years or more.                
 
11.)      We can create history in the lives of people and touch families, communities, states, countries and the world when we make God’s love in Christ real and alive.     
The Church is a human picture of the love of God in Christ.  When we are the church at our best we “re-present” Christ and His love.  
When a child is loved through our Nursery, Sunday School, or Pre-School we create history.  When we welcome a new person to worship, when we start a new class, when we reach out and call a person, when we agree to volunteer, we create history.  You create history in the life of a person by sharing the love God in Christ.  When you pray for a person, visit a person, call a person and give some of yourself you make history. 
 
12.)      There is someone here that needs to say, “Yes,” to God’s love in Christ.  God has been communicating to you, today, about His love.  Jesus Christ, is God’s only Son and He lived on this earth, He was crucified and buried.  On the third day God resurrected His life and through the Holy Spirit is here with us now, at this moment.  The church attempts to paint the picture of God’s love in Christ with imperfect people.  God wants to forgive you, to heal you, to give you hope, to give you meaning, to give you joy.