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That passage from Acts is my favorite passage in the Bible. It’s the Pentecost story. On significant days we read it. On my first day of the job at Chain of Lakes I met with seven families over at the Rice Lake Professional Building Lino Lakes. During our meeting I read this story. I said that this is the church we want to be. On our very first worship service at the Senior Center I preached on this story and said this is the church we want to be. At the start of the year we have what’s called vision Sunday. I read from the story and during the sermon I say that this is the church we want to be. This story is our story. I want us to know the story, I want us to breathe the story, I want us to be able to close our eyes and say this is who we are at Chain of Lakes Church. This week I wrote a Bible study on Acts 2, and I’d like you to pull it out. Would you all read this story this week? On Wednesday Amy and Hannah and I are traveling to the West Coast to celebrate Amy niece’s graduation. During my time away I’m going to be reading this story. It would mean a lot to me to know that even though we’re apart we’re together. Because we’re reading this story. In this brochure is a place to take sermon notes. I believe God might say something to you through my words that you’ll want to remember. And you have a place for prayer requests. This sermon has one purpose. I’m going to answer this question. SLIDE Who is the church for?

If someone came up to you and asked you the question, “who is the church for” what would you say? At the end of this sermon you’ll know the answer to this question. Let’s start out by looking at the story in the first two chapters of Acts. The book of Acts starts with Jesus ascending to heaven. At that point there were 11 apostles. Originally there were 12, but Judas had killed himself.

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There’s a difference between an apostle and a disciple. An apostle is one of the 12 who Jesus chose to be with him. Sometimes the 12 are identified as disciples. I call them apostles. When we call these 12 disciples it’s my experience that it takes away the beliefe that you and I can be a disciple. I’ve had the experience many times of saying to someone that they are a disciple of Jesus. The person will say, “I can’t be a disciple, that’s too much.” What the person really means is “I can’t be an apostle. When we were starting this church we had a retreat to discern what our Purpose Statement should be. I wanted to have the word disciples put into our Purpose Statement. Some people rightfully pushed back. They said they didn’t think they could be like the disciples. Really what they meant is they didn’t think they could be like the apostles. Even though the apostles were ordinary people, a belief still exists that they were super human. A disciple is a follower of Jesus. A disciple says “I want to put Jesus first in our life.” Anyone of us can be a disciple. We exist at Chain of Lakes so that people become disciples who impact the world. Back to the story. At this point there wasn’t a church. There were 11 apostles. I want you to write that number down—11—apostles. The 11 were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, along with some women including Mary, the mother of Jesus. A strong spiritual community had formed. The 11 wanted to add a person to replace Judas. They chose Matthias Now there is 12—I want to write this down.

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At the start of the 2nd chapter of Acts there were 120 believers. We’re not told how the group went from 12 to 120, we’re just told that it happened. I’d like you to write that number down. We’ve gone from 11 to 12 to 120 This 120 were all together. They were celebrating the ancient festival of Pentecost. Pentecost was an agricultural festival where people gave thanks for the crop. Pentecost was a festival where all the men were required to come to Jerusalem. When the 120 were together the earth changed. It changed because the Holy Spirit showed up. There was a sound like the rush of a violent wind. It filled the house where the people were. The 120 people were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to speak in languages as the Spirit gave them ability. Many people in Jerusalem heard this sound. They came to check it out. These people had come from different countries; they spoke different languages. When this crowd came over to the house these people from different countries who spoke different languages could understand what was being said. In their own languages they understood. They heard the 120 speaking about God’s deeds of power. It was confusing and wonderful and incredible and scary. The rational people asked an question that I hear all the time. “What does this mean?” I don’t know if you’ve ever been confused by the Bible. Essentially the Bible shares one story—it’s the story of God’s love for humanity. I read the Bible almost every day. I read it because I want to encounter every day how much God loves me and God loves the world. I also love reading the Bible because people ask the same questions that you and I ask. In this story people saw something very strange taking place and they asked the question, “what does this mean?”

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This question is our question. We all want to find meaning in life. You and I are more than physical bodies walking on a physical earth. We are spiritual beings who ask questions of meaning, “What does this mean? Are you tracking me? Amidst this wonderful experience some cynics were there. There’s a cynic in every community. The cynics said, “they are filled with new wine.” I don’t think they actually said that. I think what they said was “they are drunk?” Peter stood up and said these people aren’t drunk. It’s only nine o’clock in the morning. Peter shared a sermon. There was one main point that he said. It was in verse 24. He was talking about Jesus. SLIDE “But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.” When this large crowd heard this they were cut to the heart. They were touched by what had happened. They asked Peter, “what should we do?” Peter told them to repent, or turn to God and be baptized. All of these people were baptized. . Here’s the fourth number I want you to write down—3,000. This is how many people were baptized. Now we’ve gone from 11-12-120-3000. This 3,000 devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers. Awe came upon everyone. I’ve taught you before that a three word synonym for awe is wow. Wow came upon everyone. Whenever I heard someone say the word “wow,” I know that is from the Holy Spirit. For wow can’t happen unless God is somehow involved. Unbelievable things were happening. The story closed with this:

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SLIDE Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47. Those two verses describe the church. Yesterday I participated in the Blaine Triathlon. It was a real bear. I wasn’t able to finish the swim because I had issues with my wet suit. I finished the bike ride and run. SLIDE Here’s a picture of me finishing the run. The picture is blurry, which is appropriate because I was kind of feeling blurry at that moment. Chain of Lakes is a sponsor of the Triathlon. We are a sponsor of the Triathlon so that we can take a step towards being a place where people say wow. That’s the story. Remember in this sermon I’m going to give an answer to one question. The question is “who is the church for.” SLIDE 12—they are the apostles 120—they are the group of people who formed community with the apostles 3,000-they are the group of people who were baptized and formed community. Who was impacted the most by the events in this story. It was the 3,000. Who was baptized in the story—the 3,000 Who was added to the community—the 3,000 Who experienced the power of the Spirit for the first time—the 3,000 Were these people connected to Jesus Christ before the start of this story? Were these people connected to the community who followed Jesus Christ before the start of this story? No. They were outside the church. The story is for the people who are outside of the community.

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Who is the church for? The church is for the people outside of the church. The church is for the people outside of the church. The church is for the people outside of the church. The church is for the people outside of the church. We use language today to describe this group of people outside of the church. We use the word unchurched, some people use the word, “lost.” At Chain of Lakes we use the word strangers. This lesson that the church is for the people outside of the church when we push it a step further. Who here has been with Chain of Lakes since the start? The church is not for you Who has been with Chain of Lakes for a year or more? The church is not for you Who here has been with Chian of Lakes for a month to a year? The church is not for you Chain of Lakes Church is meant for people who are outside of the church. I changed the title of this sermon. I changed it after the bulletins were printed. The title of this sermon is “the hardest lesson.” What I am teaching you is the hardest lesson of the church. Many churches never grasp the lesson. The lesson is this: The church is for people who are outside of the church. This is a very hard lesson. This is what happens. A group of people forms. They give a lot of time and effort and money to building up the church. Because they give a lot of time and effort and money to building up the church they feel that they should have some decisions in the church. That’s completely understandable. If I was a lay person and was involved in a church and gave my blood, sweat, and tears to the church I would want to have some say in the church. What happens is when people make decisions they make them so that people on the inside of the church are happy. When that happens the church becomes about the people on the inside of the church. The church becomes an inward focused church

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I want people on the inside of the church to be happy. I want us to be happy because we’re taking our message to the stranger. That stranger is experiencing the power of the Spirit and coming to faith. Jesus taught this lesson. He told a story once about a shepherdd who had 100 sheep. One got lost. He went looking for the lost. I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. What he was saying is the church is for the unchurched. Jesus told a story about a woman who had ten silver coins. When she lost one of them she went all out to find that coin. She didn’t worry about the nine coins she had. Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. I want to ask you this question SLIDE What would happen if every decision we made at Chain of Lakes primarily considered the needs of the stranger? What I mean by this is every time we make a decision we’re thinking about the needs of people outside of the church. This is what I want to challenge us to do. Every time we make a significant decision I want someone to ask the question, “how does this decision affect people who are outside our community?” It takes time to develop this perspective because it’s contrary to our nature. We’re not living for ourselves. We’re living for people outside of the church. There are a lot of people outside our doors who need the Living Water of Jesus Christ.

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This past Friday I got my hair cut. I’ve just gotten to know this barber. I like him. He knows I’m the pastor of a new church. He asked me how the church was going. I told him some of the ministries we’re doing. I was more interested in him. I asked him how his life is going. He told me a lot: He told me how he just discovered six months ago that he is the father of a 10 year old boy. He shared some of his struggles to get together with his son. He told me how he has to ride his bike to the barbershop because he owes a big fine for his past drinking. He told me how his roommates are getting on his case and how he’d like a change of scenery. When I was done getting my hair cut I gave him one of our cards. I told him that when God looks at him, God says, “you are beautiful, I love you.” I promised I would pray for him and his son. The church is for him. He needs the living water of Jesus Christ in a desperate way. God wants us to make decisions so this barber will be one of the 3,000. There’s a huge number of people out there who need the Living Water of Jesus Christ. They are waiting for a church who will make decisions so that they can experience the peace that only Jesus Christ gives.

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