For our visitors, throughout the month of June, we’ve been going through a series called “HEROES WANTED: An Invitation To Change The World” In the book of Acts, we’ve been tracking a very ordinary group of men and women who had a defining encounter with God’s power, and were able to change their city, and then their region and then the world. The amazing thing we’ve been learning is that this same power is available for us today. God is still in the business of turning ordinary men and women into world-changing super-heroes, and this book shows us how. We’ve looked at the impact these disciples had on their city and on their region. Today we want to see how they launched out into what seemed like an impossible mission – changing the very world that they lived in. The title of my message is ‘Mission Possible’. Please turn in your bibles to Acts 11:1-18
Peter was in trouble. Even though he was one of the leaders of the Jerusalem church, he was facing serious criticism from fellow leaders and church members. He had broken some ancient taboos – Jews were not supposed to associate with foreigners, let alone share a meal with them in their homes. But that’s exactly what Peter had done. And as a result, people were unhappy with him and they were dragging his name in the mud.
There were two major objections to what Peter was doing. The first was a religious one; the Jews believed they were God’s chosen people. Contact with non-Jews or Gentiles was seen as bringing contamination. And even though Jesus had talked about his disciples about reaching out to Jerusalem, Judea/Samaria and the rest of the earth, most of these Christians clearly didn’t think that meant they actually go out and associate with those people! What if they became contaminated? What if they became like them? Their religious inhibitions put a barrier between them and the people they were meant to reach.
Today I want to talk more about the 2nd objection to what Peter had done. And it was one to do with responsibility. The Jews were a relatively insignificant and poor people. They were one of the smaller nations colonized by the Romans. They probably figured they had enough issues of their own to deal with. I mean who were they to think they could reach people in nations that were much larger, more civilized and wealthier than theirs? Surely, that must be someone else’s job!
I believe the same thinking dogs us today as the church in Africa. According to popular wisdom, there are some things that are just not supposed to happen. For example, we all know that when you talk about a ‘missionary’ in this part of the world, you are probably talking about a white person from Europe or America. People who start non-profit organizations to help the poor must be from Western countries, where people have already taken care of their basic needs. And the word ‘donor’ refers to people from other parts of the world.
For poor Africans, we are supposed to have too many issues to take care off in our lives, in our extended families and in our poor countries to think about solving the problems of the world. Surely that must be someone else’ job!
But the amazing moral of our story is that God is no respecter of persons. That’s what Peter discovered in his vision. He shared his discovery in Acts 10:34, ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right’. God doesn’t play favourites! He can use anybody, even the least person, to do the miraculous!
By sharing the gospel with this wealthy Roman, Peter had no idea he was launching a movement that would lead a small, uneducated group of people from a small, insignificant nation to change Asia, Europe and ultimately the entire world.
But my God is the God of the impossible! It’s not about where you come from; it’s about who you represent! Just like in the book of Acts, He is turning things upside down. In the last two centuries, Christianity flowed from the West to the Rest. In 1900 over 80% of all Christians lived in Europe and Northern America but by 2005, a reversal had happened; 60% of Christians now live outside the ‘West’ and that figure is rising rapidly. There are over 350M Christians in Africa alone.
In the process, the traditional ‘Christian’ countries have now become mission fields. In 2000 for instance, only 0.6% of people in the UK attended church on a weekend! These are mostly older people huddled at the front with Japanese tourists taking pictures at the back. This is true across the whole of Europe where once beautiful places of worship have been converted into shopping malls, theatres and markets.
So… how is that any of our business? Don’t we have enough issues of our own to care about what goes on in such places? Well, allow me to give you some perspective about that… Many years ago, young men & women from Europe and North America left their jobs and families and travelled to countries far away where the gospel was not known, including our own. They had no hope of enriching themselves, unlike the colonialists. Their journeys took them many months, and many died of diseases & accidents before they even got where they were going. It is a documented fact that some of them carried their coffins among their possessions, because they fully believed they would never see their homes again. And yet God’s love compelled them to go. As a result of their sacrifice, we received the light of the gospel.
Mavuno exists because these young people gave. I believe the time has come for us to repay the favor! Just like the early disciples going from their poor nations to reach lost people in far wealthier countries, it’s our turn to go. We may not have the money but we have the power of the Holy Spirit! It’s not about where you come from; it’s about who you represent!
I love Nigerian Christians! Somehow they’ve understood the power of the God whom we serve. The largest church in Europe, found in the Ukraine, is led by Sunday Adelaja, a Nigerian [30k people changing their nation]. The largest church in England is led by a Nigerian; Matthew Ashimolow.
One of the most astonishing churches in the world is the RCCG. Their local pastor, Pst. Esther Obasike will be one of our plenary speakers at the Fearless Summit. Originally founded in 1952, they began expanding in 1981 after their current overseer pastor Enoch Adeboye took over the churches leadership. 30 years later, they have over 4000 churches in Nigeria alone and at least one church in every single country of the world, including over 600 in North America! And they’re just beginning! Their mission is ‘to have a member of RCCG in every family in every nation’. They plan to do this through planting “churches within five minutes walking distance in every city and town of developing countries and within ten minutes driving distance in every city and town of developed countries” Somebody say ‘these Nigerians are crazy o!’
When I look at these bold Nigerians and the amazing things they are doing for the kingdom, I comfort myself by saying, ‘God is not a Nigerian!’ God is not a respecter of persons! If He can do it for them, He can do it for us! The bible says ‘the people who know their God will be strong and do exploits’ I believe that the work of God in Africa can be financed by Africans and that we can become a sending nation for the gospel of Christ. It’s not about where you come from; it’s about who you represent!
Let me end this series with a story…In 1914, historic British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton was planning an impossible mission to be the first to make the 2000 mile journey across the South Pole. He is reputed to have placed a recruitment ad in a London newspaper. It was one that most companies would probably never put out. This is what it said, ‘Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long hours of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in the event of success.’ What kind of person could possibly apply for a job like that? Amazingly, it is said that 5000 men applied for the job! Out of them, Shackleton handpicked 28 men, who became so famous for their exploits that several books and movies have been made about their heroic escapades.
2 Chronicles 16:9 says ‘The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him’. God is also recruiting today for His mission to change the world. His ad reads, ‘Heroes wanted for hazardous, impossible mission of taking a city, changing a continent and winning the world. Challenges galore. High risk of misunderstanding and criticism by others. Only God’s presence and power guaranteed!’
Mavuno Church, your mission, should you accept it, is nothing short of changing the world! Who will stand up and be counted? Who will say ‘my greatest ambition is to accomplish the purpose of God in my generation? Who will stop living a life they can accomplish by their own strength, and trust God for an adventurous life that can only be lived by God’s power? Who will say ‘I will not settle for a comfortable Christian life, or be distracted by things that have no eternal value, but with God’s help I will discover my purpose and be the hero that this city, continent and world needs? This is who we are Mavuno; we are the ones who get to change the world! Remember, it’s not about where you come from; it’s about who you represent!
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