Changing Tribes - Acts 18:1-17 NIV
I want to talk about a topic that you won't ever hear from most pastors - changing churches. If you ever do hear it, it's usually shaped negatively as in the term, "church shopping" or "church hopping." Indeed a lot of that happens in these days of consumer choice.
Two things are different.
One - I don't think you all are consumer driven. You're here because you want to be. You're family. And almost all of you are servant-ministers.
Two - I'm not your typical pastor. I'm confident in your love and support. Also, I haven't been a pastor all my adult life. For the first half of my adulthood, I was a congregant just like you. Yet on two different occasions I changed churches because I believed God was calling me. If it wasn't for those difficult choices to "change tribes," I wouldn't be your pastor here today.
Today we examine Acts 18 and discover when and why changing tribes is a good idea!
#1 - Important life-changing work happens _______________ .
"Because [Paul] was a tentmaker as [Aquila and Priscilla] were, he stayed and worked with them." Acts 18:3 NIV
Let's get out of the way, first of all, that the most important ministry related work doesn't happens on Sunday. Sunday is when we come together for worship. But the important relationship building, both within the church as well as with those not presently in the church, happens during the six days between worship days. Paul lived with and worked with and mentored Aquila and Priscilla, who eventually became important leaders within the early church. However, we also must acknowledge...
#2 - Preaching the gospel can be ___________________ .
"When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching." Acts 18:5 NIV
We love the idea of Paul being a tent maker. Making a living on his own so that his own living expenses would not be a burden to the church. Especially when churches are very small or very new, that is necessary even now. But as soon as Paul received the necessary support from Silas and Timothy, "he devoted himself exclusively to preaching." And aren't you glad he did? We wouldn't have most of the New Testament today if that wasn't the case.
Just a reminder about pastors & wages:
"The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worth of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For Scripture says, 'Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,' and 'The worker deserves his wages.'" 1 Timothy 5:17-18 NIV
When it is financially feasible for a church - the pastor/teacher is worthy of being paid for his work. Not extravagantly. Enough for his / his family's needs to be met. Few people understand "the work" of preparing and preaching/teaching each week.
It's not just a matter of speaking well about something/anything on Sunday morning. (Yes, there actually are sermons pre-prepared out there.) I've heard some well-known teachers suggest that new pastors / pastors of small churches use these sermons and save on the time to prepare. And for bi-vocational pastors, that may be required.
How much better is it to have a pastor/teacher/leader tuned into God's voice each week and ask for very specific guidance about this specific congregation? How many times have you said to me, "How did you know?" It's not me. It's God. I always tell you that. But it's also true that you allow me the space / time to be able to create specific teachings for you each week. I couldn't do that without your support!
#3 Sometimes the best way to fulfill God's calling is to __________________ .
"But when [the Jews] opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them,'You look be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.'" Acts 18:6 NIV
We come to this idea of "changing tribes." Who was Paul's tribe? The synagogue! Paul makes it very clear in his writings that he felt like the Jewish people were God's first choice for receiving the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Paul's first stop in all his travels was always to the Jewish synagogue. But when the Jews opposed Paul, and even worse, began to abuse him, he left them and devoted himself exclusively to the Gentiles (Greeks). He changed tribes.
I know we don't necessarily apply this to our own situations with the churches we attend, but there are times when it becomes necessary to "shake your clothes in protest" and move to another church. It's not because you don't like the pastor, or the changes, or you have a personality conflict, or just don't like the music. Anytime you change tribes it should be because God is calling you to a different service. God is asking you to minister in a different way.
A - When changing tribes, God will provide the ______________ .
"Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titus Justus, a worshiper of God." Acts 18:7 NIV
So how do you know if God is calling you? God provides! The first thing God provides is the place! Paul went next door to the house of Titus. If God is working and calling you to ministry, He will provide the place. Remember how God provided us with The Point Of Grace?
B - When changing tribes, God will provide the _____________ .
"Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized." Acts 18:8 NIV
If God is in it, He also will provide the people. If you feel like you are called to a different ministry, but you turn around and don't find anyone following, it's a good time to stop and pray again about what you thought God was calling you to do. Sometimes it's just our idea of what we'd like to see happen rather than God's direction.
C - When changing tribes, God will provide the ______________ .
"One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: 'Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.'" Acts 18:9 NIV
I can't begin to tell you just how important this is. It is the difference between staying with it - persistence, steadfastness - and just quitting when things don't work out the way you thought they would.
Church Requel is NOT the church I thought it would be. God's plans were bigger and better than my imagination. There have been so many times when this has been so hard. I have quit in my mind so many times. The only thing that kept me going was the certainty that God had called me to this. That God had a purpose for me.
#4 - Don't expect the world _____________ .
"Settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things. Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever." Acts 18:15b-16 NIV
Church is such a big thing in my life. And I hope in yours. But don't expect the world to care about your ministry passions one way or the other. The best you can hope for from your outside family / friends is acceptance. Most will shake their heads and wonder why it matters so much to you.