Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Start Your Engines

Reading the Book of Acts reminds me of an RV park I frequently drive by in Ohio. No, wait, hear me out. This is a very strange RV park. It is not a trailer park, mobile home community, or manufactured housing estate. It is an RV park. Every one of the RV's has wheels, an engine, and a steering wheel. Got it? However... and this is the strange bit... grass has grown high around some of them. Others have satellite dishes and groomed lawns. A couple have wooden decks. This is an RV park where nobody is moving!

And that brings me to the Book of Acts. It seems to me that we do very well with this book right up until we get past Acts 2:39 (one verse beyond 2:38 which is tattooed in a secret area on every member's body right after conversion). Then, having done so well, we put our RV's in park and stop right where the first church started. We try to act like we haven't stopped. We surround our RV's with customs that we call law and we search for ways to tell "us" from the bad RV-ers in the park down the street.

The early church just started in Acts 2:39 and went on from there to divorce themselves from the world's story. No longer possessed by possessions, position, prestige, or power they launched themselves out into the world, taking with them the story of Jesus. By so doing they were said to have kept the apostles' doctrine. The apostles' doctrine was not the sum total of all the New Testament (and all our conclusions about it) for it did not exist at the time. Paul's letters were a long way away and the gospels wouldn't be written for decades. The doctrine they taught was the story of Jesus. Just as Paul said, all we know is Jesus -- son of God, died for us, resurrected and now interceding for us.

This story freed them from worldly conventions of competition and factionalism. In chapter four it could be boldly stated that "there were no needy among them" for those who had, sold, and brought the money so that others could be taken care of. In First John we see the pattern continuing when John says that anyone who loves will not hesitate to share what they have with those who have not.

Have we traded the thrill of the open road for the safety of the RV park? Has our Christian journey stalled at the starting line? When I was a boy and we climbed into the car for a trip, my father would always make us kids sing the first verse of "Take The Name of Jesus With You." We didn't always like doing it, but he didn't care: we sang it. Now I wish we all sang it every time we went anywhere. Now I wish our Christianity WENT somewhere, like beyond Acts 2:39.
And it can. A sandwich delivery man came in a moment ago with the lunch order for our preschool teachers. He leaned his head in and asked for some recommendations on study books.He is not a member here and I have never seen him before. I laid out eight books on my desk and examined them with him. He was going to write down titles that interested him when I said, "No. Take as many as you want. If you remember to bring them back, fine. If not, fine." He couldn't believe it. We had a good discussion about the fact that everything in my office was dust or was going to be one day, and if we can't give away dust (or proto-dust), our possessions possess us and not the other way around. We have a rule in our home: if you haven't worn it in six months, give it away. We have exceptions built in for coats or swimsuits or other items we rarely need. Everything else is given away -- and we don't take a tax write off for it. That makes it more of a gift. Why do we treat our possessions so cavalierly? Because we want to leave the RV park and get our Christianity on the road as they did in Acts.

This Sunday I asked our members to raise their hands if they were going on a foreign mission in the next twelve months so that we could pray for them. Among the twenty or so hands that went up was the hand of a four year old girl, smiling brightly. Her mother tried to pull it down, but she was enthusiastically volunteering! Afterward, I went up to her and asked, "You want me to take you overseas with us?" She beamed and said, "Yes, but I'll need a car seat!"

Our Father, give us hearts like hers. May we leave the RV park at last and hit the road with the gospel of the kingdom. Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines.


At 8/23/2005 03:13:00 PM , Blogger Lee Hodges said...

We have prided ourselves in our "correct" theology and have failed to realize that God is more concerned in our reality. How could we so live as if we have "restored" the New Testament Church, when we seldom mention it's founders name to those who have no knowledge of Him.

How dare we pray for His soon return, when we have hardly begun the mission He left us.

Where are my keys, I am out of this RV park. Thanks brother!

At 8/23/2005 03:22:00 PM , Blogger David U said...

PM, count me in to be part of your caravan!

Another great post, bro.


At 8/23/2005 03:24:00 PM , Blogger Jeff Slater said...

This is excellent!

I am currently preaching a three-week series on Acts 2, and with your kind permission, I would like to use your RV Park illustration (I will give credit where credit is due, of course).

At 8/23/2005 03:24:00 PM , Blogger DJG said...

Ah the four "P's" have their hooks in me...possessions, position, presige and power, and how about the big P..the really bad P--PRIDE!!

I am ready to start my engine and leave the park! Thanks for the reminder!

At 8/23/2005 03:37:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

Thanks, guys. And for those who asked, you may always use my material, with or without attribution. Download my sermons and claim them if you want them! (www.rochestercoc.org)

At 8/23/2005 09:13:00 PM , Blogger JD said...

Great analogy ... I predict it will be much used! In fact, I have this sermon coming up...

At 8/24/2005 06:31:00 AM , Blogger Steve B said...

Wow, I never really looked at the church like that. I'm practically speechless.

At 8/24/2005 12:32:00 PM , Blogger Billy D said...

Patrick. Every time I come here I get something new from your words. Fantastic. Thanks for doing this!

At 8/25/2005 08:25:00 AM , Blogger KentF said...

We've pretty much disected the early church to death. In all that heady study - did we learn how to BE the church in our communities?

At 8/25/2005 10:12:00 PM , Blogger Soren said...

Well said brother!

I love your blog! (thanks JD!)

At 8/26/2005 07:00:00 PM , Blogger DEL said...

I stand convicted.....again
(sheepish grin)

Don Lohr

At 8/28/2005 06:23:00 PM , Blogger Niki said...

I am never disappointed when I stop by here. I am sometimes challenged beyond comfort (not today), but never disappointed. The last thing I want to be is "parked". Thank you! And AMEN to this post!

At 8/29/2005 06:39:00 AM , Blogger jettybetty said...

O for the heart of a 4 year old!



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