Good morning. It’s good to see you. If you missed last week, we made a massive announcement in regard to the direction of The Village Church. It was a plan we’ve called Multiply, and that plan is that over the course of the next five years all five of our campuses will become autonomous churches with contextualized preaching and leadership.
Because what we’re doing today is kind of dreaming for Flower Mound, and what those campuses are doing is dreaming for their given location, I just wanted to catch you up really quickly on what Multiply is, our heart behind it, and what we’re eager to see God do in and through it. This is a quick video on that, and then I’ll be back out, and we’re going to dive into Acts, chapter 2, today.
Matt Chandler: Part of becoming the pastor at The Village meant that I needed to sit down with this body of deacons. There was this construction paper, this butcher paper on the table and crayons, so I grabbed a crayon and drew a circle, and then I drew lines out from that circle and drew other circles on it. I just talked about how my heart was always multiplication, that we wouldn’t want to just hoard people and resources in one location but we wanted to be actively involved in seeing gospel works planted all around us.
In the years in which we felt the most stress or the most pressure at The Village Church, we were out of space, so we didn’t know what else to do except enter into a season of prayer and fasting and just ask the Lord to do something we had not been able to figure out by ourselves. That started multisite for us. We believe God was saying, “In this season in the life of the church, this is how you’re going to make disciples. This is how I’m going to move and bless The Village Church.” So we ended up with five campuses and all of them doing really well in regard to reaching their local context. It has been a really rich, beautiful season.
Beau Hughes: Denton was the first campus of The Village Church, and from the beginning… I remember Matt even saying one of the first meetings that we weren’t really sure where this was headed and eventually it might even head toward the campus becoming a local church. As that moved on in terms of our life together, that conversation that was always there, at least on Matt’s heart in so many different ways, about what to do with the campuses long-term kind of resurfaced, really what was a couple of years of prayer and conversation, and we voted eight years in to us having been a campus to roll off as a campus and become a local church.
The last 10 years of being a pastor here, I’ve never seen anything that has more beautifully united us and formed us together as a congregation than the transition, because it just thrust upon us the responsibilities that come with being a church. Now all of a sudden things that, as a campus, we were able to depend on “big brother” here and there, which was a wonderful thing, and yet at the same time now we’re looking around and saying, “Who’s going to do this, and who’s going to do this, and how is this going to get taken care of, and where are we going to find the budget for that?” The answer to all of those questions now is us. We’re going to take care of it together.
Matt: The success of the Denton Church… Watching them in a contextual place be freed up to engage where they were was really a beautiful thing, and it shone light on how we were doing ministry. It shone some light on some weaknesses, that this thing we’re doing, as beautiful as it is, has an expiration date. We just started praying and having this conversation about “What is the Lord up to? We felt compelled. We made this turn.
We’re seeing the beauty of this in ways that are shining some light on the way we’re operating,” which led to then unanimously, all elders, all campuses…I can’t say that sentence enough…all stacking hands and saying, “We believe the Spirit of God is leading us into this season that we’re going to call Multiply in the hopes that by 2022 our five campuses will become autonomous churches in the hope that there might be an increase in localized and global missions and that those churches might be freed up to plant more churches, engage locally in their context, as well as be a part of what God is doing globally.”
Hunter Hall: The question I’ve been asking is…Are we willing to risk what is for the sake of what could be? Then my mind goes to Matthew 16, where Jesus said he was going to build his church, and the way he has built his church from day one has not really been through one single voice, one big church across the Metroplex. What if we were faithfully proclaiming the gospel in five different locations, depending on what that location looked like, releasing our people to go after their neighborhoods?
I think about that for us here in Plano and the thousands of people who drive up and down this street and live in these neighborhoods. I think about the mosque up the road from us. I think about the opportunities we are moving toward and working toward, how they’re only going to be exponentially increased as we get deeper and farther into being faithful witnesses to Jesus as a people.
Matt: If we don’t risk it, if we just say, “You know what? This is great; we should just stay here,” I think we risk being disobedient to where the Lord is trying to lead us. Again, I think we want to point back to the Word of God and go, “Man, it just doesn’t go well for the people of God when they go, ’We’re comfortable. What we want is here. We like this, so we’re not going to move.’” Yet the story of the Bible is God always compelling people out of that into risk, into what he has next for them, in order that they might grow in their faith and grow in trust of him.
Beau: I think the elephant in the room with roll-off is transitioning from Matt and his unique voice that God has given him, and that’s a big deal. That and everything else that comes with it can be scary. It can be humbling. It can be a good test of one’s vision of a local church altogether, and yet what I would just say is I hope the Lord would lead you to stay and be a part of the transition, because I think what you’ll find is that the Lord may have far more in store for you in being a member of this church than you would have ever dared imagine when you first came to the campus to be a part of it.
Matt: We believe, compelled by the Holy Spirit, that working together in unison, as the five campuses that currently exist, to multiply out to individual autonomous churches gives us the best possible ability and capacity to contextually reach the city of Dallas with the gospel of Jesus Christ. When you start doing that, that opens up the doors to train and equip and send out on mission to the ends of the earth.
So if you’re watching this and you have some anxiety, as you feel that discombobulation, I think our history here and as you, again, go back to the Word of God… That discombobulation is always met with what God has next for you as a person, as a campus, as a Home Group, as a family. So I think you can breathe out in a real way, just knowing we’re all a bit anxious right now.
We’re all a bit like, “Oh man!” because this thing really is beautiful, and God has really done some stunning and spectacular things. We’re just compelled that there are better days ahead. I want to encourage you to pray, I want to encourage you to give, and ultimately, I want to encourage you to go and be a part of what we earnestly believe is God’s next big thing for us here at The Village.
[End of video]
If you have your Bibles, go ahead and grab those. We’re going to be in Acts, chapter 2, as we spend the next 40 minutes dreaming for what God might do in this location at The Village Church, what will be The Village Church here in five years. I’m eager to dream with you and consider what God might do.
Here’s my outline. I know some of you are type A. You need this, so let me just give it to you so you can breathe out and be with us. The outline out of Acts, chapter 2, around our hope for what the Spirit of God is going to do among us over the next five years and into the future is meaning, marvel, and mission. I really didn’t mean for it to work out that way. It just did, so I’m kind of happy, because that doesn’t happen often for me.
When you get into the book of Acts, you have to ask yourself this question, or at least theologians ask themselves this question…Is the book of Acts prescriptive or descriptive? Is it a description of what occurred as the church of Jesus Christ was launched in the first-century world or is it prescriptive, a picture of what the church of Jesus Christ should look like?
Just so you know where your pastor stands, I think the answer to that is “Yep.” It is a part of history where we see God working in profound ways among his people, but it is also something we should long for and want to participate in. That’s how I see it, so no one will be confused. I want us to dive into this text. Acts, chapter 2. We’re going to start in verse 42. If you have a background in church, you’ll know this text. If you don’t, this might be the first time you’ve heard it, and it’s good stuff. As we look at the church of Jesus Christ in her infancy, this is what we read:
“And they [the church] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common.
And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
The first thing around how we’re praying and longing for God to work is that we would find deep meaning in the Word of God and in our relationship to one another. Let me tell you where I’m getting that. This concept of meaning I’m pulling from where it says they devoted themselves, because here’s what’s true about you and me: whatever we are most devoted to will shape, inform, and direct how we spend our minutes, hours, and days of our lives.
Whatever you are most devoted to is the lens by which and through which you see the entire world. So if you are most devoted to work, it is that devotion to work that will inform how you spend your money, how you spend your time, how you interact with people. Devotion shapes the meaning of our lives. It’s just the truth. If you ever watch a man forsake a woman, forsake their family for the sake of getting ahead at work, that’s a value decision. “I’m more devoted to this. I’m more committed to this. I’m more shaped by this.”
I could use other examples, but I’m pulling meaning from the idea of devotion, that whatever we are most devoted to will ultimately define us and will define how we live out our lives. What we see in Acts 2, in the infancy of the church of Jesus Christ, is they were devoted, and they were devoted to two things in particular. Here’s the first thing: they were devoted to the apostles’ teaching. They were devoted to the Word of God. They were devoted to what is sitting in your lap or under your chair or is in your device. They were committed to, devoted to in a way that shaped them, the Word of God.
It cannot be a secret that the greatest crisis facing evangelicals in 2017 is biblical and theological ineptitude, that we don’t know our Bibles, we don’t know doctrine, that we have leaned into a type of Christianity that’s based on our gut and not rooted in the Word of God. We are illiterate when it comes to the Word of God. We don’t know what it says. We don’t know how it’s supposed to shape us, so we live via intuition. I’m in Proverbs right now in my Bible reading plan, and it says, “There’s a way that seems right to man, and in the end everybody dies because of it.”
That’s not a joke. That’s what the Bible says. Your gut is wrong. It’s just wrong. When you weigh everything out and you go, “That looks right,” it’s not right. There’s a way that seems right to man, and in the end it leads to death. So we’re men and women who lean into the Word of God, allow it to bear its weight on us and shape us. It is God’s self-disclosure of himself to us, and we’ve neglected it.
To neglect it in 2017 is not like neglecting it in 1717. If you think of the content that’s available to you at any given second… I mean, the Bible with commentaries, the Bible with podcasts, the study Bibles on your phone. Do you know the Faithlife Study Bible? If you have that app… If they were to print that out, it would be like 14 feet tall.
All that’s in your phone. It’s on your device, and somehow in 2017 we prefer Flappy Bird to the Word of God on our devices. (I don’t even know if that’s what we’re playing anymore. I’m out of touch. I’m 43. I don’t know. I don’t have games on my phone. Whatever is the new game we can’t stop playing, or maybe it’s just narcissistic posting about what we’re eating. I don’t know.)
In the end, we are ignorant of the thing that matter most. We’re not devoted to it. We don’t see the seriousness of it, and it is so eroding what makes us distinct in the world. We no longer know what we believe or why we believe it and, therefore, cannot have confidence in it. When you’re not confident in the God you say you serve… How could we ever be salt and light to the world around us that is so hungry for the transcendent when we’ve offered them nothing other than our intuition?
If you look at the scope and scale of hypocrisy and brokenness in the evangelical church… If you get confused why evangelicals behave the way they behave, they behave the way they behave because they don’t know the Word of God. They behave the way they behave because they have not submitted to the weight of the authority of the Scriptures. They don’t understand its infallibility, its inerrancy, its sufficiency. They don’t understand it, so they don’t give themselves over to it, and they willfully walk in ignorance.
We are hungry for you to know and to absorb and to be transformed by the Holy Spirit of God in the Word of God. JT English and his team at The Village Church Institute have done a stunning job of setting us up for massive success in this space, from women’s Bible study classes to men’s Bible study classes to all sorts of other classes to, on top of that, the Training Program, which is a year-long, robust theological training for laymen and laywomen that will immerse you in the story of the Bible, the story that you and I are caught up in and ignorantly unaware that we are.
I want to have this talk really quickly. I want to talk to the women. I’ve been having this conversation with my 14-year-old daughter and her little friends who come over, and I just want to have it with you. Just a little family time right here. The sermon is back here. Women, you have God’s free delight and invitation to know the Word of God deeply and to understand doctrinal truths as deeply as any man does.
The conversation I’m having with my 14-year-old right now is “Do not dumb yourself down for little boys or you’ll do that the rest of your life. You grow as far as you can grow in your intellectual capacities. You don’t lower yourself intellectually because it intimidates weaklings. You become what requires them to become, but don’t ever, sweet daughter of mine, feel like the deep things of God are not available to you.”
Ladies, whatever doctrine or background you’ve come from that would say you can’t be as smart as a man, you can’t be as smart as your husband, you can’t be theologically inclined, is not in the Word of God. It’s contrary to God’s invitation to you as a daughter, and I want to encourage you with all my influence to know the Word of God deeply.
If you’re a single woman and you’re like, “Well, I think that’s intimidating to guys,” okay; it’s called “boy repellent.” You should spray that stuff all over you. Just pick up the Word of God and spray it. “Freakin’ little boys keep coming around me. I’ve got to get this Word of God on me so they’ll leave me alone.” What you want is a grown man. You don’t want a little boy; you want a grown man. Take advantage of this.
The women who teach the Bible at this campus travel all over the world doing it. They’re stunningly and in crazy ways gifted at teaching the Word of God. You need to just come in and feast. Right now, the gospel of Matthew, Tuesday mornings, Tuesday night. I think they about have to move to the AT&T site. We’re running out of space even here for women’s Bible study. So get in here, and let’s grow. Women, set aside some time to go through the Training Program. These are not off limits to you. Get in here.
Brothers, I love you. Listen. How can you lead, love, and serve the way God has wired you and intends for you to lead, love, and serve if you have no idea what you’re to be leading toward, how you’re to love, and what it means to serve? Your intuition about those things is wrong. The Bible is what sets them and helps you understand direction. So let’s go. Sunday mornings, 7:15, the gospel of Matthew in a cohort-based group where there’s community with the Word of God. Get in here, and let’s learn the Word of God together.
One of my things that I’m hopeful for over the course of the next five years is that every member of The Village Church might go through the Training Program, which is this Wednesday night, 7:00-9:00, robust theological training. It’s cohort-based. In fact, you should just join as a Home Group and go through the Training Program together, and then you get re-released into the life of the body, theologically trained and formed about the story you’re caught up in.
This is something we need to give ourselves over to, and more than just preaching from the stage. God wants you to feed yourself, not just have other people feed you. The kind of one-sentence platitudes we’re picking up on by listening to podcasts and preachers will not be enough to win the day in the world you and I are living in. You will need to know and feed yourself, and we want to come alongside of you and empower you to do that. You’ll have to take some steps forward in this.
I also want to say this in this section. It doesn’t fit cleanly, but it doesn’t matter. I’m just going to say it. The Village Church for 15 years has in, I don’t know what else to call it but a God thing, grown at a rate that’s really crazy. One of the things that has happened because of the rate at which we’ve grown is there have been these seasons in which we just had to figure out what to do regarding space, and no one has felt the brunt of that like our middle school and high school students.
Those poor little souls have been jammed into corners and stuck into buildings we would never enter into as grown people who know better. That has to change. That just has to change. In the early years we could get away with it because there weren’t any middle school or high school students. There were just little babies everywhere, but that’s not where we are anymore.
It really stood out to me a couple of months ago when we had our Sunday where they were going to leave fifth grade and go to middle school. We had this big ceremony for them, where we met in Kids’ Village, and we were like, “Guys, you did it. You’re going into a new season of life. We just want to commend you. We’re going to ask more of you. God is going to do more things in you. We want you to lead out in this area. You’re growing up. You’re becoming young men and young women, and we’re eager to see you thrive.”
“Okay, where do we show up? Where do we go for middle school meeting?”
“I’m glad you asked. Right back here, where you’ve been since you’ve been a first grader. You’re just going to meet in here. Sixty fifth-grade and sixth-grade boys… We’re just going to jam you in this room. Good luck. You’re going to have to sit on each other’s laps, and we’re just going to try to make this work in here.” This can’t happen anymore. We have to shift how we’re approaching middle school and high school ministries.
So already we have begun to look at the old footprint over at the HV Campus and what it would look like to tear down the Martin Building. We said goodbye to the Martin Building two years ago. We had a big ceremony over there. We brought back Montie Martin, who was the pastor who built that church, and we rejoiced in that God had answered the prayers that occurred in that building. Now we want to blow it up or bulldoze it over. I’m fighting for blow it up. Apparently there are some laws around that.
Then we want to build something for our middle school and high school students that is distinctively theirs. We have to make that turn. We have to quit jamming them into corners. Here’s what I found out as I was doing some research on this. No one is going to pay for that but us. It was like, “Oh, this is a good thing. Oh, we’ll have to pay for that.” So just know there are loose plans right now. We’ve worked with architects and kind of schemed around what it could be.
We want it to be a place that we would want to go, not a place we had to go, because that’s the way we’ve been operating for 15 years. Just kind of this ghetto chic. Like, “It won’t fall down on us. It’s kind of cool that it’s… We’re minimalists. That’s what we are. There are no lights in here. Light the candles.” We want to move away from that. I’m not talking about rock walls and Xboxes. I’m just talking about a legitimate place where young men and women can be taught the Word of God and trained in righteousness for the day in which they live. We want to grow in this. We want to get better at this.
But that’s not the only thing they were dedicated to. (Notice that we’re back in the sermon.) They were not just devoted to the Word; they were also devoted to one another. We see this in the line, where they were devoted not just to the apostles’ teaching but to the fellowship, and then fellowship defined as the breaking of bread and the prayers. Then verse 46, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.”
They were devoted not just to the Word of God but they were devoted to one another. Listen. More and more and more it needs to be us and we and less I and me. We already covered this. God has called us to one another in this place, in this season, for his purposes. I need you, and you need me, and we need one another for God to do all that God longs to do in this place. We have been given to one another as a good, gracious gift from God on high.
So this must be something we’re devoted to. The gathering of the saints is something we’re serious about. It’s not something we try to jam in if it works itself out, especially at The Village when there are two Saturday night and two Sunday morning. There’s no reason to not ever make this a priority. Your kid plays sports? Praise God. We have Sunday morning services. Oh, his game is on Sunday? Praise God. We have Saturday night services. Oh, he has both? Maybe your priorities are a little wacky.
Let me give you… This is not mine. This is Casey Lewis. He pastors Sycamore Baptist Church in Decatur, Texas. He wrote these really quick reasons in the Word of God that we are to consistently gather. Let me run through these 10.
To be obedient to God’s commands (Hebrews 10); to be equipped for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4); to have our minds renewed through the preaching of the Word (Romans 12); to employ our spiritual gifts for the benefit of the church (1 Corinthians 12); to evangelize the watching world through our love for one another (John 13); to be held accountable by other mature brothers and sisters in the Lord (Acts 18); to be discipled by older godly men and women (Titus 2); to ease the mind of your shepherd so he’s not worrying about your soul (Hebrews 13); to grow in our faith of the Lord Jesus Christ as we are taught his Word (1 Peter 2); to be encouraged to persevere in the faith by other believers (Hebrews 3).
What I’ve learned in 20-something years of pastoring is that a lot of people approach spiritual growth in church the same way they approach that salad they have once a month. It’s like, “I can’t believe I’m sick. How dare you? I ate a vegetable last week.” It’s this idea that what it means to eat in a healthy way is to throw a salad in there once in a while and just drown it in ranch dressing.
What I’m telling you is that those of you who go to The Village Church… What I mean by that is six times a year you’re here. Your experience of what it means to belong to the household of faith, to be embedded with the people of God and caught up in the story of God, is thin, really, really thin…so thin that your explanation of what it is should probably be discounted.
But for those who have said, “No, no, no. I’m in. These are my people. I am their person. God is doing something with us, so I’m going to join a place where I can be known and know others and use my gifts. I’m going to find a place to serve, and I’m going to get there come hell or high water…” That man or woman has a completely different experience about what it looks like to belong to the household of faith.
So, just little ways I think this plays itself out. My son is playing tackle football right now. Don’t do it. Okay? I love you. I get it. It’s dangerous. My daughter rides horses. She’s on a 900-pound mammal every day of her life. I’m not worried about some 60-pound kid flying full speed into my 100-pound kid. I’m just not anxious about that. Maybe there will be a day I am. Right now I feel pretty free.
This might surprise you, but I am obnoxious at his games. I’m even telling myself while I’m being obnoxious to stop being obnoxious, and then there’s another voice that tells that voice to be quiet. I’m not coaching. I’ve coached for the last few years, and then I stopped when it became 11 on 11 tackle. Too much time commitment. Too crazy.
I’m at his game yesterday. He starts both ways. He’s a good little athlete. I know his genetic pool. It doesn’t end that way. It ends with him reading a lot of books and doing something like that, but right now at 11 the dude is wreaking havoc, and I love it. I know the window is small, so we’re just going to ride it out.
This past week, he’s playing D, and it’s third down. I’m behind the rope where the coaches are. I’m like, “Third down is your down, bro! Let’s get in there! Get in there! Third down is your down! Boys, to the line of scrimmage! To the line of scrimmage!” The coaches are like, “We invited you. You said no. Be quiet. Slow down, boys. Slow down. It’ll be all right.” I’m just obnoxious about it. I love it.
Sports are doing what I want them to do for my son. I can’t see him heading to the NFL unless he has some weird recessive gene that’s going to make him 260, and it’s coming from his mom’s side. Sports teach him discipline. I like that. It teaches him hard work. I like that. It teaches him what it’s like to be a good teammate. I like that. For all the good it does, it makes a really terrible god.
So I went to his game. I love his head coach. He’s a good man. Loves those boys. I walked up to Coach and said, “Hey, we’ll be at practice Monday. We’re going to miss practice Wednesday. I know we’re playing the first place team. That’s a big deal. I plan on being here and yelling, but we have this thing at the church Wednesday night. All of our middle school and all of our high school students are gathering at the old HV Campus, and there’s going to be a gospel presentation. We’re going to have some fun. That’s just our priority in this season.”
That seems so small, but I want to live in such a way as to teach my family and to reflect that there is a priority that marks the Chandler household. We love our sports, and we’re going to cheer and we’re going to buy in, because here’s what I offered after that. I was like, “Look, I bought one of those heavy tackle bags from Academy. I’m willing to work him out in the front yard on Thursday night if you want me to do that.”
But ultimately, my son needs to know and the people in our world need to know that we have a God, and football isn’t it, and that we have priorities in our family, and the priority in our family is that the gathering of the saints for the exaltation of the name and fame of Jesus Christ takes priority over a game. It’s not that the game isn’t important. Reid doesn’t get to say to me, “I don’t want to go to practice tonight.” “You committed; let’s go.”
He was yapping at practice one night. Coach just made him run the entire practice. He came home like, “He made me run.” I was like, “You shouldn’t have been talking. Now go run.” I just made him run in the backyard. (I didn’t. That would have been awful.) This is such a small thing. Here’s what blows my mind about parents. These days it’s like parents don’t want to weigh in on their kids’ spiritual decisions. Like, “Well, he doesn’t really like it. We don’t want to tell him what to do.” Everyone is telling him what to do. You ought to jump in on that.
By the way, that would not fly in any other area of their life. If Monday morning your kid woke up and was like, “Here’s the thing. School is just not fun. I’m not digging it. I don’t feel like I’m learning anything in history,” you wouldn’t be like, “Oh baby, you know what? Don’t go. Why don’t you just stay home? I get it. I remember. I didn’t get anything out of school either, and we made it. So just sleep in, baby. Sleep in.” The whole world is telling them what to believe, how to see, how to live. I’m telling you, hop in on that, Mom and Dad.
We want to be committed to one another, committed to the Word of God, but it’s not just meaning and devotion we’re looking for. We want to grow in our capacity to marvel. Look at verse 43. “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
Marvel, awe, being astonished will be a work of the Holy Spirit in a day and age of cynicism, doubt, and overcritical spirits. It is impossible to marvel and be in awe of anything if you’re a cynic. So what is the antidote to cynicism? Part of the antidote to cynicism is prayers of anticipation, believing and trusting that God will do what he has promised to do.
We started our service today praying for one of the young girls in our church who was diagnosed with cancer. Our third through fifth graders all weekend long have been actively praying for this sweet girl and writing her cards, and we are believing that the Spirit of God is going to heal her, because he does this stuff here. Am I not preaching this morning? Did they not give me two years eight years ago?
God does this stuff, and we should want it and long for it and ask for it, and not ask for it where we hedge our bets. “Will you heal this little girl if it be your will?” The will of God will be done. The Bible says no, you ask and you expect and you hold the results with open hands, because the Sovereign King of Glory reigns.
Our role is to ask and plead and expect, and where we find doubt in our hearts confess it and ask the Spirit of God to remove it. I want that doubt out of me. I can feel it in me at times in these situations where I find out the odds. Every week, there’s somebody here who gets sick. Every week, there’s some new bad news. It’s hard not to get affected by it.
I want to just lean into the Lord and go, “Wring this out of me. I want to believe. I just confess my doubt to you right now. I don’t want to doubt. I want to believe that you’re able and that you’re good and that you’re willing. If you don’t, I want to have my hand open the whole time, knowing that you’re the Sovereign King of Glory and I’m not. So I’ll trust your will, but I’m not hedging my bets. You ask me in James to pray. I’m an elder. I’m laying on my hands. I’m praying in the name of Jesus that you heal.”
I want us to expect. I want us to pray prayers of anticipation and then lean into it. I want to pray like Moses prays in Exodus, where it wigs people out. You go read those prayers. It’s terrifying. I would scoot my chair over in Home Group if you started praying to the Lord like Moses prays to the Lord. I’d be like, “Oh man. Nuh-uh. I know the Lord has some smart bombs, but I’m getting out of the way.”
Why not hold fast to the promises of God in these ways? Because we might be disappointed? Brothers and sisters, if things don’t go the way we want them to go we’ll be disappointed either way. What we need is a robust theology that understands that God has asked us to ask him and an understanding to hold the results in an open hand, knowing that he’s beyond us. That doesn’t mean we don’t ask with great anticipation. We want to marvel. We want to pray prayers of anticipation, and we want to expect God to answer.
By the way, that’s why I think elder-led prayer on Sunday nights from 5:00 to 6:30 is such a huge part of what needs to become normal at The Village Church. That’s tonight. We’re going to gather, and we’re going to pray prayers of anticipation for God to do what we know we can’t. If we’re going to see these things, there has to be a hunger in us for us to see these things.
Then just briefly, I want to talk about this. In this text, the context is, yes, physical healing but also demonic bondage being broken and also, if you read through the book of Acts, what many theologians will call the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit. Every spiritual gift is from the Holy Spirit. If you have the gift of administration, the Holy Spirit gave you the gift of administration. If you have the gift of hospitality, God has given you the gift of…
All gifts are from the Holy Spirit, but the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit are those supernatural manifestations of the Spirit that tend to make church folk a little uneasy. They tend to make us nervous. In fact, there’s a whole theological category called cessationism that believes that all of the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit simply existed to validate the apostles’ teachings and ceased at the death of the last apostle once the canon of Scripture was solidified.
We do not believe that. We have never believed that. We have never taught that. We believe in the sufficiency, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Word of God, which is why we are continualists, which is why we believe in the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit and eagerly anticipate God, in a healthy way, weaving them into our experience as the children of God here at The Village Church.
Don’t think I don’t know that makes some of you squirm, yet here’s what I would lay before you. I have brothers who I love deeply who have marked me significantly who disagree… We might even be in two different universes on this subject, and yet there is no argument of the gifts cessation that finds its root in a text of the Bible.
It is the Bible itself, the sufficiency of the Scriptures themselves that opens our hearts and minds to the power of the gifts for the building up of the body. We’ll teach more on that in a couple of weeks, and I’m thinking maybe even this summer doing a robust series on them so we could understand them more fully, because it makes us nervous. So as we kind of step toward them in faith, that we might be able to walk the way the Word of God would have us walk concerning these things.
You just have to know we’ve always believed that here. In fact, if you’ve been through Membership Class, you’ve heard that here. That has never been anything we’ve been secret about. We’re just eager to watch the Spirit of God act and move among us in these ways, holding fast to the Word of God as our anchor and root but not trying to control everything like we’re in control.
What kind of Father do you think we have? Are we allowed to make some mistakes as we try to fumble our way forward or is God just like, “Oh, you blew it. I’m going to have to destroy all of you now. Oh, I see what you did there. You actually tried to do what I told you to do in 1 Corinthians 12. You did it wrong. People got confused. I’m going to kill all of you now”? That’s not our Dad. Again, going back, because our kids play sports… Remember that old, “Hey, good swing, buddy”?
What did you just say? “You missed.” What is “good swing” except “You didn’t hit the ball. Good effort, bud. Good swing.” What are these? “You failed, but you gave it a good try. I’m proud of you.” Is that not the heart of our Father in the Bible? Why so terrified about everything? Why so anxious and nervous about everything?
Wouldn’t it be great to be free of that anxiety? We’re going to blow it. We’re going to mess up. It’s the story of the Bible: God working through messy people. So, we want to have deep meaning rooted in the Word of God in our commitment to one another. We want to learn to marvel with one another.
Then lastly, we want to talk about mission. Look at the very last line we read. “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Several years ago, we launched out seven or eight elder initiatives. Way too many major projects for an elder board our size to actually work through effectively, but one of those is there was a feeling among the elder room that we were not, and I’ll use a quote here, “punching in our weight class” when it came to local and global missions.
We weren’t doing as well as we thought we could be doing and should be doing, so we built out a subcommittee. I know anytime you say “subcommittee” people just want to worship, but we built a subcommittee out, and there was a group that started to research and study best practices and what the Word of God said about local and global missions. Based on that presentation to the whole elder board, we began to make some moves here in Flower Mound.
Trevor Joy, who has been the spiritual formations pastor at this campus for years, now is the director of missions, and he is building out a staff to this end. We want to plant churches that plant churches that plant churches to the ends of the earth, and we want to be actively involved raising up, training, and sending missionaries to the unreached peoples of the world. We’re putting money, time, energy, and focus to that end.
If you’re in here and you’re saying, “Well, what about evangelism? What about my neighbor? What about my coworker?” here’s the way I want to lay before you what I’ve seen to be true in 20-something years of pastoral ministry. If you are devoted to the Word of God, if you are devoted to his bride, the church, if you are cultivating a prayer life of awe and marvel where there’s anticipation and expectation, local missions in regard to your neighborhood and your workplace naturally happen. Do you know why? Because humans have been hardwired to rejoice publicly and loudly in what they delight in.
If you just think about the last week, you have been an evangelist for something. It could be a new restaurant. It could be a new app. It could be a new movie. It could be your sports team. If you delight in it, you evangelize around it. You want other people into your enjoyment. So if we’re cultivating a devotion to the Word of God, a devotion to one another, and we’re seeing the fruit that comes from that and praying prayers of anticipation, confessing doubt, and asking the Spirit of God to work powerfully and move supernaturally among us, then I think we’re just going to do it.
I have met a lot of people who have been trained in evangelism and don’t evangelize, and I’ve met people who haven’t been trained in anything and are some of the most effective evangelists ever just because they delight in Christ. It’s not training that slows us down. It’s just not. Some of the best evangelists I’ve ever met are brand new Christians who hardly know anything except Jesus loves them and forgives their sins.
They just take that message out there and are just kind of obnoxious, and it’s amazing. People come to know Christ because in a day of cynicism and anger, some sort of weirdly optimistic “My life has been changed by grace” loudmouth looks strange and exciting, and they’re drawn in by the power of the gospel.
I want to close with this quote. I used this quote in the Exodus series, but it was one of those quotes that marked me. It has followed me around. This is Aristides, who was tasked by Caesar Hadrian to get to the bottom of this fast-growing cult in the first century called the Way (us Christians). Here was basically his report back to the caesar:
“They love one another, and he who has gives to him who has not without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him into their own homes and rejoice over him as a very brother. And if there is among them any that are poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food. Such, O king, is their manner of life. And verily, this is a new people, and there is something divine in the midst of them.”
Isn’t that a great quote? I love that last line: “There is something divine in the midst of them.” Last spring, I was in Rome for Acts 29’s European conference, and for $20 I bought a ticket to tour the ruins of the Roman Empire. The greatest empire the world has ever known ruled the earth from India to England for 2,500 years. It makes the United States look like she’s still in diapers. They set all their might and all their weight on destroying the Way, and yet there was something of the divine among them.
In the shadow of the prison they held Paul and Peter in, for $20 I toured their ruins as a Christian pastor from across an ocean they were unaware of. There was a touch of the divine among them. What would it be like for us to live as a group of people that there was something of the divine among us? That’s my prayer. That’s my hope. Let’s close by practicing some things together. Why don’t you bow your heads and close your eyes? I want to ask a couple of questions.
If you’re here today and your confession would be, “Pastor, if I’m straight, some of this sounds really compelling to me, but if I’m really honest, I am in a very spiritually dry season of my life, and I am just spiritually exhausted. I get it, but I’m not sure I have enough in my tank. I’m just barely hanging in there. I feel like I have been wandering the desert for years, and I’m not quite sure how I got here. So I hear you. It’s all intriguing, but I don’t know if I have it in me. I’m just so dry right now…”
If that’s you, would you just raise your hand where you are as a means of confession? Just boldly do it. Don’t raise your hand like a Baptist. This is confession. “Hey, this is where I am, and God knows it, and I don’t need to hide it.” All right. Praise God. Be encouraged. There are dozens of you. Thank you for your honesty.
The second thing I want to ask… Maybe you’re in here today and you’re finally just going, “I don’t want to pretend anymore. I don’t want to play anymore. If I’m honest, I don’t know my Bible. I don’t know anything about doctrine. I know enough of my Bible to sound like I know it, but if I’m honest, I don’t know.
I feel hopelessly behind. I feel like I’ll never catch up to actually knowing it. My confession today is not just that I’m dry but, if I’m honest, I don’t know the Word of God and I have not been serious about knowing it.” If that’s you, would you just raise your hand high so we can just be honest before the Lord today in the hopes that he’ll see and respond? Okay. Praise God.
Lastly, I know what it’s like over a period of time to have our priorities drift and shift, to get out of alignment, and maybe what became clear to you today is that over a period of time… Maybe it started with a crisis at home. Maybe it started with some situations at work, but you would just confess, “My priorities are out of whack. Being committed to the Word, being committed to the gathering of the saints, being committed to growing my relationship with Christ has just not been a priority, and my confession today is I need my priorities ironed out and made straight.”
If that’s you, would you just raise your hand? There’s no shame in this. This is just us saying before God, who already knows, “I need these things straightened out.” Okay. Praise God. Now look up at me. Here’s how I want us to end our time. In just a second I’m going to pray for us, and then we’re going to sing a song as though we were praying for the Spirit of God to come and work and move in our lives.
If you raised your hand and said, “I am just dry,” well, here’s good news. The good news is that what the Spirit of God tends to do is to pour water on dry ground. As we sing, you should ask the Spirit of God to encourage you, and then, before you just jet out of here with your dusty self, you should maybe come up at the end and let these brothers and sisters pray over you a refreshing work of the Spirit of God in your life.
If you raised your hand and were like, “I just don’t know my Bible. I don’t want to pretend that I know it anymore. I just don’t know it,” I want to invite you to take a step of obedience toward it. The Word of God is not going to get into you via lightning strike. The Word of God doesn’t get into your bones via some sort of Matrix-ey Neo download into your soul. It’s cultivated over a period of time.
But here’s what I’ll promise you. If you’ll take small steps of obedience in this direction… You’ll get in a class. You’ll start to spend time in the Bible. You can go check out our resources on how to do that that are online, and you just begin to cultivate that. Five years from now, you’ll shock yourself at how much the Word of God has saturated up your bones and how you’re now living out of it, how it has changed your marriage, how it has changed how you see the world, how it has changed how you parent. The Spirit of God igniting the Word of God in your soul.
Here’s what’s great when you wake up and go, “Oh my gosh. My priorities are so out of whack.” The kind of Father we have, the Bible tells us, scans the horizon, and when he sees his sons and daughters reorienting around what is good and right, he runs toward them, embraces them, throws a ring on their finger, a cloak on their weary bones, kills the fatted calf, and throws a party.
There will be no shame of meeting you at repenting for skewed priorities. You’ll find only celebration from the King of Glory…celebration that you’re home, celebration that you’re hungry for what is good, celebration that you’re taking a step of obedience, however awkward that step is. What an incredible invitation. Let me pray for us, and then we’re going to sing this song as a prayer.
Father, thank you for these men and women. I pray that you would bless them now. I thank you for their courage to lift their hand and say, “This is where I am today, and I want God to do something. I don’t want to be dry anymore. I want to know his Word, and I want my priorities to be the priorities of the kingdom.” I ask that you reorient us all. Pour yourself out, and do those things now that preaching can’t do but only you can do. I ask you to do this because you can. I ask you to do this because you’re a good Father. I ask you to do this because I believe you’re willing. It’s for your beautiful name I pray, amen.