The church is messy. Deal with it!
OCTOBER 11, 2021
The church is messy. Deal with it. Let’s talk on Key Life.
Welcome to Key Life. I’m Matthew executive producer of the program. Our host is Steve Brown. He’s an author and seminary professor who teaches that God’s amazing grace is the key to a life of radical freedom, infectious joy, and surprising faithfulness to Christ.
Thank you Matthew. If you have your Bible open it to the sixth chapter of the book of Acts. We’re going to be talking about church division and controversy. I’m an expert and you’re very fortunate that I’m here to teach on this particular subject. Man. I was a pastor for 30 years and I can get to heaven without grace. They’re not even going to ask about Jesus, just because I survived. But we’re going to talk about controversy and the controversy that took place in the first century and how it was handled. Hope you had a great week-end and I hope your pastor’s sermon was as good as mine. Tell you what, let’s pray. And then we’ll get down and study. Father, as we come into your presence, we come with great joy. It sounds like arrogant sometimes. And we’re sorry, but when you forgive us the way you forgive us and you love us the way you love us. And you’re the King of Kings, it’s hard to be humble. So Father, forgive us and fix us and we praise you and we worship you. Father, you know everybody who’s listening to this broadcast right now and you know the hard places and the soft places, give us the wisdom to trust you in both, to laugh and to cry under the reality that we worship a God of every circumstance of our lives. And then Father, as always, we pray for the one who teaches on this broadcast. Forgive him his sins because there are many. We would see Jesus and him only. And we pray in Jesus name. Amen. We’re looking at the sixth chapter of Acts in verses one through seven, where Dr. Luke writes.
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured
They were ticked. That’s the literal translation.
against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the body of disciples and said, “It is not right. That we should give up, preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” and what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
And so, we have the first major possible catastrophe in the church. And we talked about it last week and we’re going to look at some more things that are important in that text this week. The church had a problem and the problem was ego and the problem was food too. And the problem was value of others in the congregation. And that’s still a problem and it’s still a part of the church today. So, it is a wise thing to go to the first century, find out what they did, how they did it and how it worked out. And then we can apply those principles to our church, when we’re going through controversy, I’ll tell you, I’ve never seen a time, when Christians are more at each other’s throats than they are in our time. I think we live in a very difficult and divided political atmosphere with views that are so different, that they are unbelievable. We live in a time when people who ordinarily and other times wouldn’t say anything now have learned to save things because everybody, without exception has been given a microphone on Twitter and Facebook. And gradually we’ve become very vocal, very strong, very opinionated, and very hateful in our comments to one another. Now it all would be different in the church and in some ways it is different in the church. Still it’s very hard to swim in a swimming pool without getting wet. And we are swimming in a cultural swimming pool and some of the bad and evil stuff that is taking place in our nation, and I’m including Canada in it and the entire world, as a matter of fact. It’s hard to swim in that pool without getting wet. And so, we’ve got some of it too, and we have to be cautious and we have to be careful. And the early church experienced some of that too, kind of a microcosm of the macrocosm that we experience in our time. And we’ve been talking about some of the things that were done in the early church that were good and wise. First we noted the fact of the division. Good night, you know, if you’re reading Christian books that talk about peace and joy and how wonderful we are, get rid of them. If you’re reading biographies, Christian biographies of great Christian men and women, and they don’t tell you the dark side, burn those, because they are not Biblical. The Bible tells us the good and the bad. It tells us about obedience and sin. It tells about people who are like us, who struggle, who have doubts, who are sometimes involved in stuff we ought not be involved in and doing things we ought not do. And the Bible is very, very clear and honest about that. And I don’t know about you, I’m thankful for that because if the Bible weren’t clear about it, I would be so down all the time. So discouraged all the time because I just couldn’t pull it off. So, the first thing you need to know is the honesty of Luke. Luke saying, if you had this view that the church is a wonderful place, where they sit around the campfire and sing Kumbaya. If you had that view, let me disabuse you of that view. And he includes in his story of the early church, the division that took place. And the issue was that the widows of the Hellenists, those are those who would come from outside of Jerusalem, mostly Greeks, that they weren’t getting their portion of the care and understanding and even food that the Jews were getting. And so, Luke includes it and he tells us honestly what happened. And last week when we were talking about it, we saw not only the fact of that division, we saw the diversification. The apostles said, you know, it’s hard to wait on tables and at the same time study the word. And balance both of those plates at the same time and get anything done. In fact, it is presupposed in the text that the apostles were messing it up. You know, if the widows weren’t getting what they were supposed to get, the care and the love and the concern that the church was supposed to give them. Whose fault was that? It was the apostles fault dummy. They were doing it wrong. And one of the things you see happening here is a recognition. You know, we have really messed this up. I’m familiar with a large church in another state, that has gone through awful division. And they asked me what they ought to do. And I said, repent. Stand, listen, all of you guys need to stand in front of the congregation. And man, they’re going to go down. And say, look, we really messed this up. And we ask your forgiveness, our heart was right, we thought we were doing it right. But we did it wrong. And you, because we’re Christians, you gotta cut us some slack and forgive us. And we repent and we promise that we’re going to try to do better. Do you know what would happen? That church would explode in growth? God’s people understand that, they more than any other organization on the face of the earth properly understood, the church understands human depravity and sin. And if you would just repent, you can fix a lot of things. And that’s what happened with the apostles in the first century. They said, we have not done a very good job of this. So, we’re going to study the word. You find an administrator and a waiter who will do better than we did. You think about that. Amen.
That was Steve Brown, leading us through Acts 6 and delving into the wildly relevant subject of church division and controversy. We’ll be camped out here all week, so please join us again tomorrow as we dig in even further. If you’ve listened to our shows for a while, you have probably heard Steve jokingly refer to himself as the old white guy. But listen, even if you’re not of Steve’s vintage, if you’re maybe only in your fifties or sixties or seventies, you’re still aware that there’s a finish line somewhere up ahead. So then, how do we finish well? Well recently on Steve Brown Etc, we discussed that very question with Robert Wolgemuth, the author of Gun Lap: Staying in the Race with Purpose. It’s one of my favorite episodes that we’ve done this year. And we would love for you to hear it. That’s why we put the whole thing on a CD. And if you’ll call us today, we’ll be happy to mail it to you, for free. Just call 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail Steve@keylife.org and ask for that CD. If you would like to mail your request, send it to
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