Context: The church is the worldwide group of people with faith in Jesus as their Lord. Within the global church, there are many local churches. Mustard Seed Christian Church is one of those many local churches.
What churches have you been a part of in your lifetime?
Do you know how or when those churches were started? Share that story. It’s OK to use Google to find out.
Who led you to Christ? What church were they a part of?
Do you know who led them to Christ? What church were they a part of?
We Have Been Blessed Through the Church
Our discussion reminds us that we have benefited from the church. A member of God’s church brought the gospel to you. The church has preserved the message of the gospel for nearly 2,000 years by the power of the Holy Spirit.
God Loves His Church
In the Bible, the church is called the bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the flock of God, a kingdom of priests, saints, a holy nation, a temple of the Holy Spirit, the light of the world, chosen, a pillar and foundation of the truth, children of God, and more. God desires to work through the church (Ephesians 3:10) and to be glorified in the church as is says in Ephesians 3:20-21.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Paul gave these instructions to the elders of the church in Ephesus in Acts 20:28:
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
The church is so valuable to God that he purchased the salvation of the church with the most valuable thing in existence: the blood of Jesus Christ.
The Church has a Mission
Let’s look at one example of the early church sharing the gospel, making disciples, and planting more churches. In Acts 7, Stephen became the first Christian martyr. Look at what happens next in Acts 8:1-4.
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. 4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. (Acts 8:1b-4)
Q: Who were the only ones to stay in Jerusalem?
Q: Therefore, what kind of Christians were scattered to other places?
Q: What did they do when they were scattered?
Follow the story of the scattered Christians in Acts 11:19-26.
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Through preaching the gospel, these ‘normal Christians’ made disciples in Antioch. Barnabus and Saul then went to Antioch to strengthen these new believers through teaching them. At this new church plant in Antioch, we first received the name “Christians.” That’s a pretty big impact for a church plant in a big city which was started by everyday Christians who’s names have not been preserved in history! But, the impact of this church plant in Antioch gets even bigger! Read Acts 13:1-3.
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
The group of disciples in Antioch actually sent out the Apostle Paul to plant churches all over the Mediterranean world (Acts 13-20)! After Paul’s first missionary journey, he returned to Antioch to give a report on his work as recorded in Acts 14:26-27.
And from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. 27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
Did you see that? What is the group of believers in Antioch now called in verse 27? A church. Christians have been proclaiming the gospel, making disciples, and gathering them into churches for nearly 2,000 years. Let’s pray that we can continue that mission in urban Japan.
Who’s one person with whom you want to share the gospel?
What’s one way you can serve the local church?