300 Leaders Conference: Part 1. Building Spirit-Filled Churches
This message was recorded at the 300 conference in London and is the first of 2 parts on ‘Building Spirit Filled Churches’ taking the church at Antioch as a case study.
The sermon is based on Terry’s book, The Spirit Filled Church
The following notes have been taken from www.adrianwarnock.com
“What kind of house will you build for me?”
We will look at Stephen and the ramifications of his clarity, vision and martyrdom. Some of his friends arrived in Antioch after his death. He seemed to have incredible revelation. Stephen understood that God did not dwell in houses built with human hands. The question rings out: What kind of house will WE build for God?
Acts 13 shows us the kind of house that friends of Stephen built. Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire. It is a major church that is formed away from Jerusalem. It becomes Paul’s base and is a key and great church. What are the characteristics of this church?
1. “There were prophets.” It is an age of the Spirit. Many think that the prophets were an OT phenomena. People think we now have deacons and committees and boards. No, this is not the age of the prophetic being closed down, it is the age of the prophetic being opened up. Paul tells us, this is the dispensation of the Spirit. Joel says that in the last days the Spirit will be poured on all flesh. The Old Testament was full of glory, the New covenant is not just us and a book. Paul writes “when you pray or prophecy…” We are in this age of things opening.
In the OT if you wanted to hear the prophet he would travel, if you were lucky you might have been in town when the one prophet came through. The Spirit is widespread in the New Covenant. The glory of the current far outshines the glory of the former. When you look out and see the moon you think it is glorious. When the sun comes out you think this is far more glorious. The OT pales into insignificance compared to the new thing God is doing!
Church is a place where the Spirit is. Where God is manifest. Where he is heard. The presence of the Spirit is crucial. In Ephesus Paul asks if they had received the Spirit. Has the Spirit arrived yet? Acts 19 is one of the most exciting chapters in the whole NT. When Paul lays hands on them, the Spirit falls on twelve people. By the end of Acts 19 there is a riot, not because he planted a house church, but because he changed the economy of the whole city. No one wanted to buy the idols any more. The gospel went out throughout the whole region. Ephesus becomes another hub when the Holy Spirit came. Things happen because God has turned up in these cities. We need Spirit-filled churches. Not just churches of explanation, but of demonstration. Spirit-filled churches bring gospel impact.
In Galatians, Paul asks if we received the Spirit by works of the law or works of faith. He doesn’t ask how were you saved? The coming of the Spirit for Paul is the important thing. Of course we must be saved, but it is the Spirit that is the promise of God.
In Thessalonians, he says, “He who gives his Spirit to you…” It is incidentally thrown in. For Paul, the church is a place where the Holy Spirit is present, where God is heard.
Terry told his own testimony of receiving the Spirit in the early charismatic movement. Some were saying, if you have received the Spirit it is private. People talked about a personal prayer language. Some said “don’t mess with the church.” This is New Wine, it requires a new wine skin! God wants something dramatically fresh and different. Build the city around the river. You don’t build the city in the desert then go out to it occasionally. The church should be built around the presence of the Lord. We need to recover New Testament Christianity. God wants a different kind of house. That question came forcibly to Terry as a young man “What kind of house will you build for me?”
He spoke of how an early prophetic experience in those early days helped set him on the course for his ministry. On that day he determined, that whatever he did when he left college he must build a church where God is present.
Agabus the prophet turned up and made a prophetic prediction. There was a response to this word. It was a big part of the church.
2. There were teachers This is important for us. We don’t say “we have the Holy Spirit, so we don’t need the Bible!” Jesus was a teacher. We must also teach them many things. There is so much to teach. When Jesus was on the road to Emmaues he began with Moses and went through the Scriptures teaching about himself. He didn’t dramatically reveal himself straight away. He realised that what they most needed was to understand the truth. As we embrace the Spirit we are not turning our back on truth. God is not at all like us. We need him to tell us what he is like. We don’t bring our preferences. We don’t say “my Jesus wouldn’t do that.” We must change what we think about God.
People get saved on a fragment of truth. But that doesn’t mean that they now know what hte Kingdom of God is like. They need to have their thinking torn down and built up. The truth sets people free. We must teach the truth. The unchanging, authoritative, faith building word of God! A lot of people don’t know enough. Terry found working through Lloyd-Jones teaching on Romans he was set free from guilt. Philip didn’t say to the Ethiopian, “do you feel it?” he asked “Do you understand it?” We must meet God.
We need the presence of God and we need the truth of God.
3. There was Barnabus. He had been sent. The Apostles were staying in Jerusalem. People have written about whether that was right or wrong. But they heard about another church coming to birth. Barnabas was sent as an apostolic delegate. He was known by the Apostles, and he represented them. It was rather like Timothy later on. Receive him, like you would receive me.
So this church is touched by apostolic ministry. It is in touch with apostolic revelation and gifting. There is a big debate about whether apostles continue today. Some say there were 12. There were several catagories: Hebrews 3 speaks of Jesus the Apostle. He was the one and only. He was sent with authority which is the root of the meaning. In John’s gospel Jesus keeps saying he was sent. Then there are the 12 who Jesus chose. They are unique. A band of apostles that the church is built on. But there are other apostles. Paul, James, Barnabus, (Acts 14:14 doesnt distinguish between Barnabus and Saul). In Acts 13 they were prophets and teachers, now they are apostles. They were sent by God. Some have argued that Paul should have been one of the 12 but Paul doesn’t say that.
Ephesians 4 says Jesus ascended and gave. From heaven. Barnabus gets called. We don’t know for sure that Barnabus ever saw Jesus after the resurrection. Apostles don’t just write epistles so we don’t need them any more. Only a handful of them wrote Scriptures. Some who weren’t apostles wrote Scripture eg Luke. Apostles were not Bible writers only.
There is a job that apostles do. It is to do with foundations. Paul is a wise master builder (architect). He laid a foundation in a local church. It is not just that philosophically we are all built on a foundation. Rather, each local church has a time when that foundation was laid. The universal church was built on the foundation of the initial apostles. The local church is also built on the foundation laid by the apostles. Sometimes a church came to birth like this one in Antioch, getting before the apostles. The apostles then quickly send either an apostle or a delegate of an apostle to make sure the church is being built correctly.
We are looking for a rainbow of ministries as seen in Ephesians 4. Lloyd-Jones believed that only Pastors and Teachers continued and that evangelists had ceased. Some people will allow for evangelists to continue, or perhaps prophets. Some will refer to people who have died as an apostle or a prophet. I believe God has given a blueprint for the church, why should we reinvent another one. We have tried democracy, we have tried ecclesiastical heirachy, why not use the Bible model we see in Ephesians 4?
4. The list of names continues. Barnabaus was a Cypriot, Simeon was a black African, Lucius is also black, Manian was brought up with Herod. He was raised with the kings son. Like he went to school with Harry or William! He mingled with some pretty high people. And Saul who is a Hebrew of Hebrews. A pretty mixed leadership team. What a strange group. What is this? It is the Antioch church getting away from Jerusalem into a gentile world and saying “What kind of house will you build?”
It is a house that is so different than what had come before. There is continuity: we are Abraham’s children. We feel a sense of unity. But we are something fresh and new. God is creating one new man out of Jew and gentile. It is energised by the Holy Sprit. Very different in education, social background. What gives them unity? It is because they are first called Christians there. What do they have in common? It is Jesus. Not just a definition of doctrine, or an agreement of creeds.
When Peter goes to Cornelius and the pagan Roman starts to speak in tongues, the fire had lept across the chasm. It is only that experience of the Spirit that joined them together. The unity of the Spirit is not just a catchphrase. He has got the same as us. The Spirit-filled church is a phenomenon. It is different to what was before. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek. We are allowed to eat Pork and still get to heaven! The restrictions are lifted. There is liberty. We are in Israel’s messiah. We are one. Jesus let women listen to his teaching which was outrageous. Neither male nor female, neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free. The early church would have had many slaves in it. Paul tells his friend to receive his runaway slave back as his brother. The twelve were all Jews, but he had a zealot who’s goal was to kill Romans, and a tax collector who collaborated with them to raise money. They sold their souls and were hated. What did they have in common? Only that they loved Jesus. He is the cornerstone where we find one another. The church is a phenomenal manifestation to the world of the way to break through racial hatred, sexual discrimination, social class war.
5. They were worshipping the Lord. Leaders together. Elders come together with a long agenda. Here is a leadership that said “lets worship.” God does stuff. They are ministering to the Lord. Bathed in worship. Not a business meeting. We are besotted with God. Lets raise churches that are besotted with God. We must model prayer and worship as leadership teams to our churches.
6. The Spirit said set apart. A house which is pre-occupied with world mission. A house that doesn’t think it strange that two of its key leaders go off to do something else. It is a global commission. Jesus said go and make disciples. The disciples went and planted churches. That is how people are discipled. A church is a group of disciples. We are called to world mission. Sometimes leaders will go and start again. Church is not a static thing. We are joined in mission. It is not that someone in our ranks goes to a mission society. The Bible doesn’t say they went and set up mission centres. They went to plant churches. Roland Allen urged us to found churches. His book was a radical call that came out more than a hundred years ago. We need churches that are in partnership with each other. Churches that extend God’s mission together. Fellowship is not a religious word, it is partnership in a shared purpose and action.
What kind of house will you build for him? The church at Antioch is a wonderful model. Came away from the Jerusalem base to start over again. Prophets were there, but tested by the Word, Apostolic involvement, great diversity. God’s church is a breathtaking phenomenon. They were worshippers, they fasted and prayed. They were involved in world mission. They saw the church as God’s agent in making Jesus famous throughout the world.
We do not want to just talk about the Spirit-filled church, we cry to God to multiply many of them.