A loaded minivan pulled into the only remaining campsite. Four children leaped from the vehicle and quickly began unloading gear and setting up the tent. The boys rushed off to gather firewood, while the girls and their mother set up the camp stove and cooking utensils. A nearby camper was watching all of this and marveled to the kids’ father, “That, sir is some display of teamwork.” “I have a system,” the father replied. “Before we leave the house, we all have a bowl of prunes and two liters of fresh orange juice for breakfast.” “Great, but how does that encourage such great teamwork?” asked the camper. “Well, it’s a 250 mile trip,” the father explained with a grin, “and no one goes to the bathroom until the camp is set up.” I want to speak to you this morning about TEAMWORK.
Acts 2:42-42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 4:32-35-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. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 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 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
One definition of the word “team” is simply:
About two weeks ago, I decided it was time to start implementing one of my New Year’s Resolutions, so I bought the Biggest Lose exercise DVD. Little did I know that my whole family would join me in my quest to lose big and do the workout video with me. What a rush of energy, what fodder for sheer laughter, when we all donned our exercise clothes and bravely tried the low intensity workout. Low intensity, my eye! There ought to be a remedial lesson before anyone tries that killer workout! I didn’t do every stretch and every jumping jack, but I’m sure I did more because my family was watching than I would have done had I been by myself. Their presence made me better. There we were, hurting together, stretching together, sweating together, and laughing together. That’s the way the early church was. They were together in at least five ways which I want to share with you today.
They were together in discipleship.—THEY ALL STUDIED THE PLAYBOOK!
Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” Devoted (proskarteroutes) means “to continue, persevere, stick to and persist.” These early followers were passionate about growing in their faith through the Word of God. This year is the Year of the Word at TVCOG. The challenge is that we will
This month we are reading the book of Ephesians. Listen, if we are going to succeed as a church, we’re going to have to be people who read, know and execute the playbook. I’m urging you to be together on this journey we call discipleship. Coming to Sunday School and Wednesday night classes and studying at home—it’s all vital for us to continue to be a successful team. It’s said of sports teams that they are only as strong as the weakest player. We can’t execute the plays if we don’t know what they are. Our coach, Jesus, would love to say about us, that we were all together when it came to reading, knowing, and executing the playbook, the Bible.
Listen, studying the Bible will keep you from going into spiritual reverse. Concerning these new converts, the King James version says about these people that they gladly received the word. There was an enthusiasm about taking in all of God’s Word, all of the message of the gospel, into their lives. They celebrated the word of God in their lives. Acts 5:42 says, “42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”
You see, the operative word in Acts 2:42 is “devoted.” They were devoted to the teaching and learning of God’s Word. They were obsessed with it. Oh that we would be as obsessed with the Word of God as we were getting our hair and nails done or as we are texting our friends or as we are seeing the newest movie release or watching sports on television. The New Testament church was together in their obsession for the Word of God. You couldn’t have stopped them from learning God’s Word no more than you can stop Mandy from singing praises to God. When you have a passion, you live it. That’s what these early Christians did. Soaking in the Word of God will be the single most important thing you can do to change your life for the better. That’s right. You heard it here first. Aren’t you glad you came today?
Ezra was an Old Testament man was passionate about the Word of God. Ezra 7:6; 9-10 say about him, “He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him. 9 He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. 10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.
If God had said it, Ezra wanted to know it and do it. If you’re sitting here and you have said about yourself, why can’t my Christian life be like so and so’s where they seem to have so much victory, so much favor, where it seems that God is just always for them, perhaps you need to ask them how much of God’s word they are ingesting? Listen. There is wisdom that comes only through reading God’s Word. There is favor that comes only because we are obedient to God’s Word. We can’t do God’s Word if we don’t know it. We’ll be more effective in business, more effective in financial matters, more effective in relationships, more effective in our witness—every area of our life will dramatically increase in effectiveness if we read, study, and do the Word of God.
Listen, the Word of God must have preeminence. It must be supreme. Acts 2:47 says that Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. People were turning to Christ every day. I have to believe that it was because together, they were passionate about learning and doing the Word of God. Where the Word of God is ingested into the hearts of men and women, miracles take place. If we want to see this community transformed, radically transformed, by God’s power, we must be together in our passion to read, know, and do the playbook, the Bible.
They were together in fellowship—THEY HUDDLED REGULARLY
In addition to the Apostles’ teaching, they were devoted to fellowship. They loved hanging out together. Acts 2:46 says not only did they meet in the temple, but they also hung out in small groups in their homes and ate together.
Now why did they do that? Why did they get together? Obviously they could still have eaten in their own home. Why would they have chosen instead to be together to share meals? They had an accurate picture of who they were. They didn’t see themselves as little Christians in isolation. They saw themselves as a body, a family, as team members who needed to be together for fellowship, accountability and relationship.
In true spiritual community, we either make it together, or we stumble and fumble. When you have a minute, use your concordance and find all of the scriptures from Acts to Revelation in which you find the word “together” and see what early Christians did “together.” You’ll see things like: Meeting together. Praying together. Eating together. Consulting with and advising one another. Planning and strategizing together. Working together. Standing together when under attack. Jesus Christ never intended for any of his followers to follow him in isolation from other believers. Wherever it’s possible, Christ intends for all of us to be in this together; not just for an hour and fifteen minutes on Sunday mornings, but through the day to day course of life. (START PLAYING THE GILLIGAN’S ISLAND THEME SONG) Being devoted to fellowship will help ensure we all make it together through this life and into the next.
Do you remember Gilligan’s island? Gilligan didn’t have anything in common with the Howells. Ginger had nothing in common with Mary Ann. The professor had nothing in common with the skipper. Yet they became a community because they had one thing in common: they were stranded and need to help each other survive. Like the folks on Gilligan’s Island, we need each other to survive in the deep experiences of life. We cannot do it alone. And we have the most important thing anyone could have in common. His name is Jesus. What else do you need to unite you to someone when you have Jesus?
We are made for companionship. God made us that way. Recall the creation story. God looked at Adam and said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” God created Eve to be Adam’s companion. As Pastor Bill Couch has noted, “’Jesus said: “Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them.”’ We experience Jesus in ways together that we do not experience him alone.” Just think about that. When it’s just Jesus and you, there is a different dynamic than when it is Jesus and you and you! There is something about Christian fellowship which completes us like Eve completed Adam. Look at your neighbor and say, “You help complete me.”
I want to thank the four families that opened their homes for Super Bowl parties last weekend. I encourage you to create opportunities to have church members into your home or to go out to eat together, and I want to urge you to take advantage of the opportunities we offer for you to be involved in fellowship. Huddle regularly, and when you need a shoulder to cry on, it will be there.
They were together in purpose—ADVANCING THE BALL OF THE GOSPEL
For these early church Christians, there was nothing more important than advancing the ball of the Gospel down the field. It wasn’t about pushing an agenda, but fulfilling a purpose. They had been called to be the church; the ones who would proclaim that Christ had risen from the dead and by His death he had made a way for anyone who wanted to, to wear His jersey. The team was now open to anyone who wanted to join.
Julie Ackerman Link once said, “For Christians, true teamwork is not about defeating opponents; it’s about recruiting them to join our team.” You see, in sports, someone always loses. But when someone is won to Christ, the only loser is Satan!
I Corinthians 9:19 Paul echoes this purpose, this advancing of the ball when he says, “19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
The goal for Christians isn’t just making it across the goal line to score a touchdown, but it’s about recruiting everyone to be on the winning team. The early church was committed to this effort. They were together in purpose. It wasn’t a one man show. They never chanted, “Paul, Paul, he’s our man. If he can’t do it no one can.” They each took responsibility for the sake of the Gospel.
As I may have mentioned once or twice, we are partial to the University of Kentucky Wildcat basketball program. A couple of weeks ago, one of our high scorer couldn’t get free to make any shots. The opponents defended him well. At halftime, Coach Gillespie was asked what adjustments they would make after halftime in order to get Meeks free to which coach Gillespie replied, “That’s a bad question. We aren’t a one man show. This is a team effort.” It wasn’t about getting Meeks free in order to shoot so that he could shine. It was about working together. That’s how the early church operated. Each person owned their responsibility to advance the gospel.
Let’s not for one minute take our eyes off the ball of the gospel. We have to keep kicking it and throwing it into this community. Invite people to church, talk about church, give people Christian books as gifts, but do something to let somebody know this week that Jesus is alive and He makes a difference in your life. It doesn’t have to be difficult. What about taking me up on a website challenge for the month of February?
As you know, we launched a new website in January. We’re told that a church website is the new foyer or lobby to the church for those who are seeking a church home, and that it is super important to put your best foot forward on your church website and really communicate what the church is all about. We received a report that we had 300 hits on our website during January. Now that number probably included a lot of church members. Dan Fizer probably wanted to see if his picture was there, I realize, and when he found it was, he shared the site information with 100 of his closest friends.
What if you emailed everyone in your distribution list and said, “When you have a minute, check out our church’s new website, and tell me what you think? We want to make sure it is user friendly and super informative.” Now I realize it’s a bit sneaky and might sound like an ulterior motive is involved, but I’m going to be honest. I always have an ulterior motive. I don’t meet anybody or talk to anybody just to get to know them. I meet people and talk to people so that I can throw them the ball, so that I can share the gospel with them. I challenge you as a church to get 1000 people to log on to our website during the month of February. People who are searching for a church might just see something that catches their attention and visit the church. How easy would that be? Each of us has to be on mission. Each of us has to be carrying the ball of the gospel everywhere we go.
They were together in worship—CELEBRATING THE VICTORY
Acts 2:42b and 43 say they were devoted “to the breaking of bread (that’s communion, an act of worship) and to prayer. 43 EVERYONE was filled with awe, (that’s a worship response) and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” (that’s the power of God on display) Verse 47 says they were praising God. (that’s a worship response)
The key word is found in verse 43. EVERYONE. There was great participation in worship. They didn’t stand around watching the apostles worship. They didn’t just rely on the apostle up front with the microphone to worship for them. They all got involved. Why? Because once again they realized who they were. They were a winning team that had a right to celebrate the victory every time they could get together!
Now it might get old to meet together every week and have a party to celebrate the fact that the University of Kentucky Wildcats last won the NCAA tournament in 1998 because unfortunately that is past history. It happened. It’s over and there have been many new champions since then. But listen, the victory that Jesus won on Calvary is something that will never be over! It is a daily reality! It is a daily victory! No one since Jesus has ever done anything to strip Him of His title or take away His crown and no one ever will! He will forever be the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and His victory is my victory every second of every today. It’s victory over my past. Satan, you have nothing on me. There’s no secret you’ve got up your pointed little sleeve that you can use to scandalize me. Jesus knows it all, and it’s all under the blood. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” Romans 8:1 Satan, you can’t bother me because “Greater is He who is in me than He who is in the world.” I John 4:4 Satan, you can’t have me. I am forever in the hands of Jesus who loved me and gave Himself for me! “No one can snatch them out of my Father’s hands!” John 10:29 That’s a victory worth celebrating every day! Don’t you think so?
When we celebrate Jesus in this place, I encourage everyone to participate. When we watch Kentucky play in Rupp Arena, everyone who is wearing blue is whooping and hollering. No one is sitting there silently. At times the fans are on their feet. At times their hands are in the air. At times they are shouting out words of praise (or other words) but the point is, they are all involved. Being together in worship means we all bring an offering of worship (I Cor. 14:26). We all participate.
Dad and Mom, your children will learn to worship by watching you. You are the only one that can offer your worship to God. Mandy can’t do it for you. Pastor Dave can’t do it for you. If you forfeit participation in worship, you are passing up an opportunity to offer your worship to God.
Students, I hear stories and I have observed how “free” you are to worship when you go to the International Youth Convention or the State Youth Convention or to youth camp. I hear and see that your times of worship are powerful, expressive and that you are really engaging with the Spirit of God. That doesn’t have to change just because you are a part of a more diverse group of people here in the sanctuary on Sunday morning. I mean, your worship doesn’t have to change just because you are hanging out with old people like me on Sunday morning. Your contribution is vital to the health of this church and the manifested presence of God. We need you to help lead the way in what it means to be worshipers of the Most High God. We need your energy to help us give our all to God as well.
Together, as worshipers, we’ll experience God in ways we had never before thought possible.
They were together in plenty—-EVERYONE WAS UNDEFEATED
Acts 2:45 says, “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” Acts 4:32 says, “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. It goes on to say, “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 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”
Everyone was taken care of. If someone needed something that someone else had, it was freely shared. The early church wanted everyone to win. They made sure everyone was undefeated. Two weeks ago, Glen Turner, Chris Minor, Jennifer and Brad Bellows and I made two trips to St. Alban’s to share with a single mom who needed beds for her kids. The Minors had some beds and the Lacy’s had a bed and the Bellows had some bedding and Glen Turner had a truck, and we were able to share with this mom in a way that met her need. When we left the second night, she handed me a bag of toddler girls’ clothes saying, “Please give these to someone else who might be able to use them. My little girl has grown out of them.” I thought of baby Alexis. You see she this person we were trying to help wasn’t about simply taking, even though she had need of what was given. She also wanted to share what she could. We can’t all share or give at the same level, but we can all share. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we as a church all adopted the motto, “If I have something you need, it’s yours?”
How would people respond if it could be said of Teays Valley that there was no one in need because the Christians in Teays Valley gladly shared what they had? That’s one of our visions for the 74 acres we own one mile from here. It’s community property that we’ll develop to meet a community need so that we can advance the gospel as people see our demonstration of love. But it’s a team effort.
Christian teamwork is about being together. Together, everyone accomplishes more. When people ask me what church I pastor, regardless of the title on the door, I want to be able to say I pastor “The church that is together.” Together in discipleship, together in fellowship, together in purpose, together in worship, and together in making sure we all live undefeated lives.