Apologies for the title. I kept trying to find a good idea, and just could not escape the 80s/90s slang of “That’s just lame, dude!” So, all I was finding were lame titles. Ergo, I inserted a lame title. You want super-professional? Buy a book. Bloggers have days they’re a little strange :)
The departure of a leader changes the dynamic of any group. Whether it is as trivial as football or as crucial as a military change-of-command, leadership transitions are moments of great potential. Potential, though, goes either direction. It can be fulfilled with good or with bad.
Acts 3 (link) shows the church in its beginning, going through the opening phases of the leadership transition. Acts 2 was the impressive opening of this new era as the Holy Spirit came in fullness on the believers, the Word was preached and thousands came to the faith. That was a tremendous moment.
Yet what follows that moment? After all, we’ve seen the coach win the first game big and then implode. We’ve had a new preacher come to town and have a great six months and then turn train wreck. And don’t even get me started on Presidents that make great inaugural speeches and then make you question the sanity of millions of Americans.
We can all identify moments where a good first impression has given way to a mess. The question for the church is this: What next?
To answer that question, we turn the page to the next chapter, Acts 3. In that chapter, what do we find?
First, we find PRAYER: Acts 3:1 tells us Peter and John are headed to the Temple at the hour of prayer. Why is that significant? Because these two are the big dogs in the situation. Peter and John are the leaders of the church.Yet they are not farming out the responsibility to pray either for the church or themselves. You cannot outsource your own person spiritual growth.
Second, we find RISK: Acts 3:1 tells us Peter and John are headed to the Temple at the hour of prayer. Why is that significant? Because these two are the ones who were closest to Jesus during His trial. If anyone will clearly be identified by the Jewish leadership that opposes the Christian message, it’s these two. Yet they are not going into hiding, but they are publicly going about their business. You cannot live forever away from other eyes.
Third, we find UNITY: Acts 3:1 tells us that Peter and John are headed to the Temple at the hour of prayer. Why is that significant? Because these two could have been at odds with each other. Take a look back at John 21 and see that Peter and John might not have been on the best of terms at the time. Read through the whole of the Gospels and you will see that John is perhaps more contemplative, Peter more action-oriented. (Perhaps)
Yet these two are going, together, to pray. To pour out before God their concerns and their praises. It is quite difficult to remain at odds with a fellow believer when you are both seeking God in prayer. Why? Because prayer is partly about remembering our place before God and remembering the cost of that place. It’s hard to break unity with those who are convinced that God’s grace is all they have, when you know it’s all you have.
Fourth, we find HABITS: Acts 3:1 tells us Peter and John are headed to the Temple at the hour of prayer. Why is that significant? Because this means they had a set time in which to detach from other concerns and pray. Do we?
Fifth, we find EFFORT: Acts 3:1 tells us Peter and John are headed to the Temple at the hour of prayer. Why is that significant? Because they have had to put out the effort to be going up, to be on the move. They could not simply sit comfortably in the Upper Room and wait for the next big thing. It was time to move forward, to go on about the business of life and glorifying God in the midst of it.
Do we live with these five things?
Today’s Nerd Note: There’s an old story that the Pope was showing a monk around the glorious buildings at the Vatican and the two referenced this story. The Pope pointed out that no longer must the church say “Gold and silver have I none” (Acts 3:6) as he showed off the wealth and magnificence of the Apostolic Palace.
The monk replied that, yes, this was true. But also no longer could the church command that “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, rise and walk!” (Acts 3:6, again).
The story is likely untrue. I have seen a few times, and think it’s in one of my speaking illustration books. It’s been attributed to various popes and monks, and I think even once was attributed to a pope and a monk who did not live at the same time!
However, there is a valid point here: what are we doing now that we have silver and gold? Many of the old missionary biographies were stories of doctors and teachers that went out, not to spread ‘gold and silver’ or even ‘fund development projects’ but went out to heal and to empower through education so that people could walk for themselves and find solutions for themselves.
Neither did they go out to ‘plant churches’ but to make disciples. Those disciples, then, constructed, built, planted, their own churches under the Lordship of Christ.
What are we doing now?