A Church on a Mission: Outgrowing the Ingrown Church

by | Mar 5, 2023 | Podcast, Sermons

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Preacher: Pastor Chuck Holiday

Scripture: Acts 11: 1-18 and Luke 18: 9-14

To be a truly welcoming church we must become more alert to the ways our strengths can become barriers to those who don’t share our culture and traditions. Comparing ourselves to Jesus is the only thing that can free us from the pride and insecurities that cause us to criticize others.


Amen it’s great to see all the boys nice full church it’s getting uh hard to find a seat in here isn’t it that’s great that’s great we’re looking forward to Easter and adding a third service for Easter it’s gonna be fun you know The Gospel reading this morning can you imagine actually praying you know at church side by side with another believer or at least a worshiper saying God I I thank you that I’m not like this man
there’s something in our hearts that says that uh in our hearts and it’s Relentless and it’s hard to overcome and it’s deadly you know the beautiful thing about the gospel is there’s only one man who’s ever lived who had a right to say father I thank you that I’m not like these other men there’s only one and he never said that in fact what he said was father I would be willing to become just like them so that they can become like us so that we can become one it’s amazing I mean the gospel is incredible you know we spend our whole lives trying to say God I thank you that I’m not like them and the god of the universe who is completely separate from us in every way said I’m going to send my son to become just like them even to the point of becoming sin on a cross so that we can all be one to restore that which is lost to heal that which is broken to bring back the children who have wandered my friends this is such a beautiful story and now this is the third week on this story essentially why you have to ask yourself why did Luke devote so much attention to this one story he tells it and he retells it and in Acts 15 he retells it again yeah so so you know a few questions that come to my mind why is it so important and and the second question is why is it so hard and the third question is and what will help us why is it why is it so important uh you know I think intuitively we know this is important but um you know Jesus said it very specifically in in John chapter 7 when he was praying for his for his disciples and for us he said I’m also praying for those who will believe in me through my disciples which is us and he says I’m praying that they may be brought to complete Unity so that the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me
you know when Gandhi who was had this deep burden for his people in India because of the caste system if any of you some of you probably been to India I haven’t but you know they say the caste system there is just horrendous I mean people who were born in the in The Untouchables class have no hope there’s there’s no access to ever getting out of your cast you just you’re there you’re doomed no no amount of hard work no amount of bettering yourself through education they’re not you can’t move to a better neighborhood there is literally nothing you can do to get yourself out of that Untouchable class and Gandhi came to America hoping there was a way and he actually reading the words of Jesus hope that Christianity was going to be the way for India until he visited American churches

and he realized there’s there’s racial segregation in the churches in America that tell us about Jesus Jesus must not be the answer

you wonder

the Eternal difference it might have made for the continent of Asia and particularly India if Gandhi had seen the unity of the Cry of the body of Christ instead of the division why is it so important

Jack I’ve been reading it re-reading a little book called outgrowing The ingrown Church by Jack Miller I’ve reread it many many times because it’s so basic and so hard to to uh to master this but he quotes um another man’s book Kirby Mavis who says um he said the visionless church is often characterized by a sense of superiority to others what they do is build an attitude of superiority over others by elevating a positive feature in their own church life or tradition and then comparing that feature with groups which lack this quality does that make sense to you you know most every church has something they’re good at something that they’re they’re doing well in and and then church groups we tend to to take that thing and make it the thing we elevate it and it’s so that we can judge other groups by that particular quality in my own background you know in Presbyterian uh churches you know there tends to be a very very high emphasis on education maybe even more so than in the Anglican World Anglican World tends to to emphasize liturgy more than Presbyterians um you know if some of you come from churches where the power of the Holy Spirit seemed to be the thing or exuberant praise and worship in contemporary songs or you know we all have things that probably were better at than other churches but what becomes awful is when we make when we Elevate anything that we do well to a to a place that isolates us and discriminates and puts us in a position of superiority and creates an attitude within us that we’re better than and my friends it happens instinctively and and by the way it doesn’t just happen in churches does I mean I I’ve been in prisons have you ever any of you visited prisons prisoners have the same in there’s in some deep deep thing inside of us that needs to make distinction that needs to elevate ourselves above the other prisoners well at least I’m not like

whatever whatever that is but it kills our it kills our ministry to the world it absolutely destroys our mission in in that same book Jack Miller talks about his interview with Dr mcgavron Who is a sociologist at Fuller Seminary and basically Jack Miller came from a small Presbyterian denomination that was known for its High theological Integrity commitment to the scriptures and their lack of evangelism and so he’s asking Dr mcgavron you know what what’s wrong with us and uh he said with a twinkle in his eye he basically said if we divide the people culturally into the washed and the unwashed he said Jack Miller saying my group usually went after the washed the problem with that is he said the vast majority of the people in the world are the unwashed now you think of the Washington the unwashed in terms of

education cleanliness

manners civility you know whatever washed and unwashed means to you you know but I’ll just tell you I can look out here and say we’re a wash group we are a very washed group of people this is not the ordinary slice of society that we live in even in Jacksonville let alone the world we are the washed my friends and he gives an example he says if I give you he said I’ll give you a missionary example if a pastor in a congregation in another in another part of the world has 65 people in his congregation and four of them are professional people the pastor will aim pretty much his whole sermon at those four

it’s just it’s natural to us we we we’re always uh aiming at the the higher part of the society because those are the people that are we feel like are if they like my sermon for that missionary Pastor who’s got 65 people who haven’t even you know been to elementary school and he’s got four college graduates and is he’s going to naturally talk to those four because those are the four whose opinion matters to him it’s intuitive it’s instinctive and it’s so wrong it’s just another way of saying God I thank you that I’m not like other men

my friends it it kills our witness to the world it absolutely is devastating why is it so important because we have a mission to bring the gospel to the world and that’s what God is doing for Peter here he is he is saying Peter there is no distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles there’s none in all his life Peter has heard but you are the chosen people you were the chosen ones and they were but God did not choose them because they were great he chose them to do something great okay if you belong to Jesus Christ you are elect you have been chosen God did not choose us because we’re great he chose us though to do something great which is to bring the knowledge of God in Jesus’s son to the world we’re his ambassadors why is it so important that we get this lesson our mission depends on it that the world may know

that God loves the world that he loves us he said the world will believe it when they see that we’re one

the other thing that makes it so important why is this important for well it because it destroys our mission if we don’t get this but the second thing is it actually destroys our message you know one of the one and David’s alluded to this um in his two prior sermons but Peter actually messes up again on this same issue so don’t beat yourself up if it’s hard for you it was hard for Peter after Peter went through this Vision this clear teaching from God that there is no distinction you know it doesn’t matter anymore what you eat whether there’s the defiled the common we’re all the same now we’re in Christ but when Peter went to visit Antioch Paul says in Galatians 2 he said I had to confront Peter to his face this is an amazing story but when Peter came to Antioch Galatians 2 verse 11 Paul writes I opposed him to his face because he was clearly in the wrong because certain men came from James that is from Jerusalem and he used to eat with Gentiles but when they arrived he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belong to the circumcision group

the other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray and Paul said when I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel I said to Peter in front of them all you’re a Jew yet you live like a gentile and not like a Jew how is it then that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs he said look Peter before these guys from Jerusalem came you were you were eating a ham sandwich with the other guys

as soon as they showed up

you put you put your ham and pork sandwich behind you as if you would never touch that Peter what are you doing now here’s the point I want you to get why how does Paul who’s an apostle but came late to the party how does he get the courage to publicly rebuke Peter who’s the first pope of the church

he said because he was not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel

Peter said this is important because people will lose the me the very meaning of the Gospel if we let this pass

so not only do we lose our mission we lose our message if we don’t get this right

there is no distinction between the washed and the unwashed the educated and the uneducated

those who know how to set the table and those who don’t even know where the napkins are

in God’s eyes there’s no difference

Okay so that’s why it’s important my friends the challenge for us and David and I’ve been I’ve been learning you know I’m I’m only been in Anglican for a couple years now so I got a lot to learn and so Dave and I have lots of great conversations where you know but you know why do we have a book of common prayer it’s to unite the Christian world that’s what Kramer’s mind was all about he wanted to unite all the Believers in England that’s why we call it the book of common prayer now wouldn’t it be a sad thing if our book of common prayer divided Christians instead of United Christians if it became something that we took more pride in then our very salvation worship can divide us liturgy can divide us dress can divide us there are so many things that don’t need to divide us that are meant to unite us so the question for us you know in our in our fellowship groups this week it’d be great to ask this question how can we make anglicanism our friend in reaching people who aren’t here not get rid of it it’s precious it’s our heritage and it’s rich my wife and I were drawn the first time we came to visit wow this is Rich this is awesome how can we take what’s precious and Rich but not let it become a dividing thing but a uniting thing you say I don’t know the answer but I think that’s the right question that God would have us ask as a church because he’s clearly called us to reach those who don’t know him okay now why is it so hard okay that’s why it’s important but why is it so hard I think we we have the you know an indication here in in chapter 11 verse 3. and you know I think this this resonates with me when I when I read it when when the apostles and brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God they they went and when Peter went up to Jerusalem the circumcised believers criticized them they criticized him

you know Peter didn’t despise these Gentiles but there was something in Peter’s heart that knew that if he joined with them he would be despised

have you ever been in an environment where somebody told a joke and you knew if you didn’t laugh you would be laughed at

I mean that’s that’s how kids get bullied in school there’s usually one you know one guy that’s really the leader and then the rest of the group doesn’t want to be bullied so they join in with a bully right isn’t that how it usually goes down

and that’s what was going down in

they critic what did what Peter was criticized the pope of the church now I say Pope I mean if you’re Catholic you believe that I believe he was the first appointed leader of the church I think we all believe that he was important he was a big deal he had Authority but there the rest of the group was criticizing Peter because Peter wasn’t criticizing the Gentiles the word is judged the literal Greek word is judged to make a distinction

no we’re not like them yeah they may be saved but we’re not like them

and when Peter refused to say we’re different he was judged now there’s two things that make this so so hard one is that we will run from being judged and criticized we will avoid it it’s the shame we will do almost anything to avoid shame the other side of it is the honor we get when we’re part of a special Club you know honor and shame are just two sides of the same coin we’re running from shame and we’re chasing the honor and Peter had lived his life as a Jew that that he felt tremendous honor from being a Jew now he’s faced with a shame of saying it doesn’t matter

and it was a powerful thing now this I I never really saw this before but this word translated criticized the word just literally in Greek means judged it’s the same word in the back in chapter 10 verse 20.

a couple weeks ago in our sermon where where God says to Peter go go so get down get up and go downstairs and he said go with them without judgment

go with them to cornelius’s house without judgment okay

this is the word in 11 chapter 11 verse 3. the circumcised Believers judged him

and in verse 12 of chapter 11 Peter says again the spirit told me to go with them without judgment so to go for Peter to go to Cornelius without judgment meant he was going to be judged

and isn’t that the way it is again you you know somebody’s being picked on at school

do you defend them

then you’re going to be the next victim

right my friends that’s why this is hard that’s why it’s really hard and and the same word again is used in in Acts 15 Luke uses the same word and each time he describes this scenario and in Acts chapter 15 when this issue comes up again in verse 9 where again um Peter is is or Paul now is uh in Jerusalem and they’ve got this Council and Peter’s there and Peter and Peter again recounts the same story and again he says in verse 9 and chapter 15 just as he did to us he gave them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us and he he made no judgment between us and Them

he said they got the Holy Spirit the same way we got the Holy Spirit there was no first class and second-class Christians Peter saying there was no distinction no judgment God made it so clear so why is it so hard because if you don’t judge you will be judged it’s interesting Jesus said judge not lest you be judged but on a human level it’s you better judge or you will be judged

and yes that’s true even in church

it’s the same of rejection I can remember a guy in my Church in Chicago tell him he worked for a pretty big computer company way back in the early days of computers but he he was a new Christian and he he said I remember walking down the street after work with these guys and the the boss and he’s a new guy in the in the company he’s you know first big trip with the with the big guys and his and his boss says Harry get us some women for tonight

and he said I didn’t know what to do

and I didn’t have the courage to say anything so he said you know what I did the next corner they went straight and I went right I just disappeared

because I didn’t know what to do

well have you felt that haven’t you in junior high your first day in the office I felt it in a steel mill let me tell you when I was 18. growing up in a pastor’s home you know you felt it it’s the shame of rejection that keeps us from sticking up for the person who’s being oppressed it keeps us from welcoming those that are not feeling welcome but if the other side of that is the honor we feel when we’re special there are two sides of the same corny you know what does it feel like to feel special I can remember ninth grade Latin and my Latin teacher saying we are not the hoi polloi they take Spanish in French

we take Latin we are the truly educated ones their language was derived from Latin but it’s harder you’ll have to work harder

oh my soul fed on that

I prayed every day since I can I I don’t remember when I started probably about third grade God I pray that someday I can make Straight A’s and I prayed that prayer multiple times every day of my life

because I you know and I was never chastised for bad grades I was always honored for trying hard but I knew something in my heart knew that this would make me more special I went to prayer meeting when I was a teenager with 15 other old people in a in a big church because well I you know I believe in God and I believed in prayer but looking back on it it made me feel special

you know what moves our hearts we will do anything to find the place of honor and we will do anything to avoid the place of Shame well how does that affect the way we treat each other how does that affect the way we treat each other you know last week we had a bunch of friends from Chicago with us to church and you know we were three minutes late Debbie I apologize I it’s not that I’m trying to avoid the first time we are just terrible at being on time and we’re pulling in a parking lot three minutes late and I said well we’re just trying to do our part to lower the bar around here

yeah yeah I wish it was that pure we’re just late but my friends um we need to be asking ourselves this question all the time how are we doing we we won’t know by asking each other because we all are here because we do feel comfortable to some extent okay but how are we going to reach the multitudes with our beautiful we have the gospel here and we have we have a beautiful liturgy and a beautiful tradition and we have Rich gifts but how are we going to reach the those around us who who aren’t being reached now I just want to close what can help us what’s what’s going to help us this this is throughout the New Testament Hebrews James Ephesians this topic comes up over and over and over again because it’s not easy and the church is constantly failing so what can help us well my friends again let me remind you that the only man who ever lived who had a right to say father I thank you that I’m not like other men never said that in fact he said the opposite he said father send me

father let me become just like them so that I can die Acro and a cross for their sins

even to the point of becoming sin never sinned but became sin on a cross so that we can be one not just with each other but with him and one of the most amazing verses in the whole Bible is in Hebrews where where the writer says and Jesus was not ashamed to call us Brothers

not servants but Brothers one of the most amazing things he ever taught his disciples he said when you pray say our father not your father in Heaven Our Father he’s my father and he’s your father Jesus said to his disciples so my friends we can’t help but make comparisons I don’t think we can stop it but here’s what a good comparison can correct a bad one

who are you going to compare yourself to there’s only one safe person to compare yourself to compare yourself to him

and if he calls me brother than any other comparison in my in my mind is irrelevant it just doesn’t matter we’re his children but with the blood of Jesus and and the most precious thing we do is to come now right there’s absolutely nothing that qualifies you to come to this table except for the fact that Jesus is your righteousness

we can all unite every Sunday there amen amen amen

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