“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8
What is Acts One Eight’s mission?
Why have an Internet ministry?
Who is the online teacher?
What does Acts One Eight believe?
Why does Acts One Eight do this?
Why does Acts One Eight do this ministry?
We live in a post-Christian world … in urgent times. The warning of Isaiah 5:20 fits our time, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” And sadly, many Christians and even some churches have allowed themselves to be squeezed into this mold of the world … or squeezed themselves into it under the guise of reaching the lost. The disciples asked Jesus, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold,” Matthew 24:1-12. Paul wrote, “Realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power,” 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Paul also wrote, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths,” 2 Timothy 4:3-4. It appears that we are in, or very close to, the last days. The need for the Gospel is everywhere. As Jesus said, “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest,” John 4:35. He has instructed us to be witnesses to the remotest part of the earth, Acts 1:8. He has commanded us to make disciples of all the nations, Matthew 28:18-20. The need is great ... the fields are ripe ... and it is time to seize the opportunity. It is time to be light in our dark world.
We need perspective. Momentum does not define meaningfulness. As the Church, we need to ask How are we doing? We need perspective. My experiences in pews and pulpits in the USA, England, Russia, and Poland ... as a volunteer, staff member, and founder of Christian organizations … and as a missionary have caused me to evaluate the state of today’s church. My mission trips were difficult ... attacked and robbed ... poor conditions ... sleeping on the floor ... limited food ... water unfit to drink ... often no hot water ... and sometimes penetrating cold. It was a culture shock to this American. However, I have other memories of those trips ... people at my door before 7 AM to ask questions ... discussions and prayers until 2 AM ... 30 to 40 hours of teaching per week …fasting … weeping prayers for the soul of a demoniac ... and bountiful, vibrant, honest, meaningful worship. In addition, nonbelievers eagerly came to Christ after teaching sessions ... after discussions ... at a table in my room ... in a mountain meadow ... in churches ... in a sports arena ... in a formerly communist high school ... in a town meeting hall ... and one night in a rain-soaked amphitheater where over 2,000 came to Christ. In reality, my greatest culture shock is the spiritual one here in the United States. Entertainment of believers has overtaken the equipping of disciples. And comfort has eclipsed conviction. I remember preaching in a New England church. Near the end of my allotted 25 minutes, an elder stood up at the back of the center aisle. He pulled his left sleeve up a few inches … tapped the face of his watch with his forefinger and then made a cutting hand motion across his throat. His sign language was clear ... Wrap it up. It’s lunchtime.
What happened to my church? The American church has changed. There has been a proliferation of Christian radio, television, podcasts, CDs, DVDs, books, magazines, music, and pulpit personalities. But ignorance of the Bible seems to be at an all-time high. We are decades into the seeker-driven movement ... implemented to bring more people into church and to the Savior. The mega-church phenomenon has flourished with its big buildings, big budgets, big staffs, parking attendants, food courts, and huge congregations. Most have grown at the expense of smaller churches … sheep-shuffling. It seems that when the over-amped music stops, believers sit down in a different church’s theater seat. However, statistics show that church involvement is virtually unchanged numerically. The seeker sensitive and seeker driven movement has changed many local churches and organizations. The changes have been wrought, often painfully, to make the church experience as attractive as possible to the unsaved and to the next generation. Crosses have been extricated, architecture has been neutralized, mega-screens have displaced Bibles and hymnals, dress codes have been relaxed, contemporary music has displaced the traditional, and Saturday night services (once mocked by Protestants) are commonplace. The main pulpit message, transmitted from (or to) the satellite branches, matches the new style. It is lighter, more user-friendly, less doctrinal, less convicting, more entertaining, and occasionally crude ... seemingly market driven. The important question is not whether or not we like the changes. It is appropriate to ask if these changes are Biblical … because good objectives do not justify bad means. The answer is that many(but certainly not all) of these changes are neutral ... being neither holy nor sinful. How are we doing? Have we brought more people to faith and advanced them to discipleship? Sadly, the answer is no. We have spent billions of dollars to evangelize and disciple the US mission field. After surveying more than a quarter of a century's experience, we see that our goals are not accomplished. It is not time to go back to the church of fifty years ago … after all, that is the church that produced today’s church. It is time to go back to the foundations of the First-Century church.
Convicting conclusions. Numbers for church attendance and numbers of believers are stagnant or drifting down in America. The casual church designed for the young has actually driven many of them away. Unequipped by church entertainment they effectively leave church when they reach adulthood. The middle-aged and older generations of the church have been thrown under the millennial bus of the single-generation church. Moreover, today’s believers are less knowledgeable, more swayed by the winds of false doctrine, and less committed than those of a few decades ago. How are we doing? Honestly, not very well. We may have a church environment that is less offensive to nonbelievers, but that has not increased the harvest. We have made it easier to be a believer ... compromising the call and challenge to become a disciple. Immature and immoral believers and non-believers feel comfortable in today's church, while many mature disciples feel somehow out of place. Socrates' proclamation that the unexamined life is not worth living may be overstated ... but it does prompt legitimate self-evaluation. Examining the state of the Church in America brings us face-to-face with the unfortunate diagnosis that it is not accomplishing its mission. Having gained this perspective, we must ask and answer the question, What shall we then do? Understanding the past and present gives us the wisdom to move decisively and effectively into the future. It is time to press on to accomplish the purposes of God. The need to witness and to make disciples is greater than ever. It is time to press on to evangelize the lost and to equip the saints to evangelize. It is time to take true disciplemaking much more seriously. We must be more than discontented that many believers have little more role in the church than do passengers on a cruise ship ... and that they are ill-equipped to do much more than that. We must equip them to be committed and functioning disciples. Jesus challenged believers, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” John 8:31-32. That is not a call to faith … it is a call to discipleship. Believers need to be set free via the Word ... set free as disciples. There is a critical need for in-depth Bible training that is meaningfully taught in useable, transferable form. God’s people need to be equipped to be witnesses and disciples. Today’s Internet provides a worldwide opportunity to strategically meet these needs in the vast and borderless fields of Cyberspace.