Corey Widmer on Acts 8: 1-8
The Story Continues, Week 5:
The Church for the Joy of the City
In the final week of our series on the Book of Acts, we see Jesus continuing to push his church out into new territories and to engage new people--crossing racial and cultural boundaries to proclaim and to do works of healing and justice in his name. What is the goal of all this all of this outward-directed and Sprit-led activity? That there might be great joy in the city (Acts 8:8). In Richmond, Virginia in 2015, the ultimate measure of our success as the church will not be how well our services are attended, but the degree of joy in the metro region around us.
As you read this text and pray in preparation for our time together this Sunday, consider these questions: "What are we doing now towards this end?" And a more challenging one, "What would we need to do differently to make that happen more?
The church is a proleptic reality, the sign of the dawning of the new age in the midst of the old, and as such the vanguard of God’s new world. It is simultaneously acting as pledge of the sure hope of the world’s transformation at the time of God’s final triumph and straining itself in all its activities to prepare the world for its coming destiny.
1And Saul approved of his execution. 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. 2Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
4Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8So there was much joy in that city.
Why Study Acts Now?
Today, Third Church is entering into a completely new and exciting chapter of our long story, even as we are in continuity with all that has come before. We are in a new denomination, one that is eager to empower congregations for creative works of mission. We are in a metropolitan city that is growing and changing in dynamic ways, and one in which God is clearly at work to advance his Kingdom and to bring healing and reconciliation. We are in a cultural moment in which growing secularity is requiring the North American church to restore its original identity as a missionary community. Who knows what the next chapter will hold?
There is One who does. As we dream and envision what lies ahead together, we take our cues from the One who reigns and writes the story of history. We want to follow Him and His ways, not our own creative ideas.
For that reason we’ll be spending the first five weeks of the year studying some key passages together in the book of Acts. The book of Acts is not just an interesting narrative on the ancient church – it is our story, the story that we are a part of and that the Spirit of God continues to write for us today, both as a community and as individuals. We listen deeply to the story of the church so we know how to live as faithful followers of Jesus in this new time and place.