My first job at CityLife Church was as a high school worker for our Youth Department. I felt like we were living in the glory days of school ministry and youth outreach. High schools were so open to letting run a range of different programs in over 10 local schools. At one point we were running mentoring classes with entire year levels during class time teaching them biblical principles and foundations. We were seeing between 30-40 high schoolers coming along from these programs to our corporate nights for EPIC Youth. It was phenomenal. I remember saying to all our teams ‘we have to make the most of every opportunity because we don’t know when the door will close.’ Unfortunately, that turned out to be a prophetic statement. With changes to state school policies and new government laws, we were unable to continue with most of, if not all of our programming. Some schools completely shut the door to us. Other schools allowed us to run modified programs if we didn’t mention where we were from and we were certainly not allowed to invite anyone to any of our church programs. We thought we would stop seeing the flood of high schoolers come through our doors on a Friday night, but we were wrong. What we thought was our greatest obstacle turned out being one of our greatest opportunities as a Youth ministry.
We are continuing our series ‘Unshakeable, Unstoppable’ through the book of Acts and we are going to read about how the Early Churches’ greatest obstacle became their greatest opportunity!Read: Acts 1:8 Question: What is this verse pointing to? What is Jesus asking his disciples to do? Read: Acts 8:1-4
This persecution would have been horrific, people were being rejected by family members, pulled out of their houses, put to death and stoned for their faith. The verse says they were scattered. Some would have had to flee for their lives.Question: What link do these verses have with Acts 1:8?
Acts 8:1-4 tells us how this persecution, or this obstacle, turned into the next stage in the fulfilment of Acts 1:8.Questions:Can you think of a time in your life when you were faced with what seemed like a dead end or an unmoveable obstacle? What did that feel like?In hindsight, can you think of a time in your life where an obstacle turned into an opportunity? What obstacles is the Church around the world facing right now? What do you think God might be doing in this season?
Read: Acts 6:13-14, Acts 7 and 1 Cor. 3:16Questions: What were the charges or accusations against Stephen? What was his understanding of the Temple? Why was this so shocking? What was Stephen’s understanding of God’s revelation (how God reveals himself and where)? *Hint* It has something to do with geography.
It is interesting that the chargers against Stephen were not that he was preaching Christ, but that he was speaking against the centrality of the Temple and the law (Acts 6:13-14). According to Stephen’s speech in Acts 7, he understood that the Temple and where God resides is now in the hearts of the believers, this was not defined or confined to a geographical area. This is reiterated by Paul in 1 Cor. 3:16.Questions:What is our understanding of Church today? Can you identify similar mindsets about God and geographical location?
Acts 1:8 and Acts 8:1 was a geographic move OUT of Jerusalem! This persecution, this obstacle turned out to be the biggest opportunity the church had seen. BUT this was a MASSIVE mindset shift for the early followers of Jesus! The people of God were always supposed to be witnesses. Witnessing was always tied together with Jerusalem and the Temple: people coming to THEM and the Temple, which represented God’s presence. Here we read that there is a geographical move FROM Jerusalem and OUT.Question:Are there any mindset shifts that you may need to make around Church and mission?
The Church isn’t closed. The Church was never closed. The building may be closed, but Church isn’t closed. We moved our corporate gatherings online, but we don’t just go to church, WE ARE THE CHURCH.
We as a people, as a movement, are not closed. What I love about CityLife Church is that we have an understanding that Church, although important and very much valued, is not limited to what we do on a weekend service. Like the early church, we need reminding that being the people of God isn’t limited to a geographical location. It wasn’t limited to Jerusalem, or a Temple. We today are not limited by a building.
Earlier I was sharing about how we were running school programs and seeing up to 40 non- churched high schoolers come through our EPIC Youth program each fortnight. When the doors into high schools were closed I was shattered because this way of ‘doing ministry’ was my entire paradigm, I couldn’t see another way. It was hard to change my mindset and shift my paradigm, especially when I was so emotionally, physically and spiritually invested in this particular way of doing things. Sometimes it’s hard to see another way forward, especially when you saw the old way working so well. When I let go of the past and really pushed through to what I felt God was saying to our youth ministry we saw even bigger and better opportunities with more people reached. Last year our outreach was able to be extended into Westfield shopping centre for RU OK day
and raising awareness for youth mental health and suicide. That was never on my radar, I would have never even thought about that as a possibility. Without an obstacle, there wouldn’t have been this opportunity. Without a mindset shift we would be still doing the same thing and missing the moment.Questions: I wonder what God is calling you to do right now? What mind set shifts he wants you to change? What opportunities lay before you in this season?
I want to encourage us as CityLife Church to embrace and see our obstacles in this seasons as the possibility of being our greatest opportunities. God is in control, we need not fear.
2000 years later, we have the same commission and calling to “Go and make disciples’’ as the apostles did in Acts 1:8 and Matt. 28:19. How do we push into our missional focus as a church in this season?
We have an acronym ‘B.L.E.S.S’ that helps frame a missional mindset (*B.L.E.S.S is not a program, it is a mindset shift and an intentional lifestyle).B – Begin with prayer
- Who are you intentionally praying for?L – Listen
- ‘Don’t listen with the intent to reply, but with the intent to understand’ –Unknown
- Who are you giving time to understand and get to know their journey? E – Eat together
- Is there anyone you can invite over or out to share a meal with?S – Serve
- Is there an opportunity to serve your neighbourhood or an individual this week? Eg. Bringing someone’s bins in, paying for someone’s groceries etcS –Share your story
- Is it time to share your story about God with someone in your world?
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