Clear, biblical thinking must override secular thinking and a corporate mentality.
Today on Insight for Living. However we're organized, we must think spiritually. Our counseling needs to be spiritual counseling. Our instruction needs to be spiritual instruction. Our hymns need to be spiritual messages. Our teaching needs to be spiritually inclined. Or it isn't the kind of church Jesus Christ is the head of.
Anniversaries have a way of stirring up nostalgia as we celebrate a milestone and look back at how far we've come. And today on Insight for Living, we have the benefit of hearing a message from Chuck Swindoll, presented to the congregation of Stonebriar Community Church just prior to their 10th anniversary. Along the way, we'll be reminded about the essential elements of a healthy church. He's teaching from Acts chapter 2 and Matthew 16 in order to provide a biblical perspective on God's design for the church. Chuck titled his message, The Church, Let's Start Here. It was back in the middle 1990s that the Lord began to move on my heart. When I came to Dallas Seminary as a part of its leadership team, I came as a shepherd. I had never led a school and I didn't see myself as a president of really anything. But I still had burning within me a desire to start a church.
I just didn't know where and I didn't know how. And so I said to Cynthia one day, you know what, it'd be great to just get start with maybe a Bible class. Let's do that. Just a little gathering of people.
It'd be fun. We didn't even know where we should meet. We just said, let's get going with a group of people. We need that. And I'd love to be preaching again.
That's great. So we wound up at Stonebriar Country Club. And the first meeting, 300 people showed up. Problem is, the next time we met, we doubled in size. It was getting past what I expected. So let me be very candid with you here as if I haven't already been.
Let me just tell you what's happened. I'm involved in Running Insight for Living along with Cynthia and we are commuting then, 98, 99. We haven't moved the ministry here. We are traveling, Southern Californian back here. We've built a little place down in Dallas where we would live. And I was president of the seminary.
And we were involved in a major fundraising campaign there. My hands are full. My arms are full. My heart is full.
I'm loving it all. But what you didn't know is that behind the scenes, like a mother with too many kids, I was a pastor with too many people. And I couldn't keep up with a lot of things. So I delegated a lot of things. Things were delegated to good men, individuals, but not men who had my heart, not men who had my vision, not individuals who they weren't trying to hurt anything or destroy anything. But little did I realize that when I delegated and released, I wasn't training. I wasn't mentoring. I wasn't shaping the thinking. I wasn't carrying out the vision God had given me back in the mid 90s. I wasn't able to.
And when I realized it, it had gotten too far along. Staff had been hired that probably should have never been hired. And I'm grateful to say that we never lost our integrity financially.
There weren't fistfights in the back room. It's not like that. It's just we realize, I realized especially here in the last two to three years how far we have drifted from the original dream and vision. And that's a tough place to find yourself.
Because the church is now the size it is, and we're all excited about that, and I mean that genuinely. It seemed to me a good time for us to pull back and look directly at where we've been, where we are, where we ought to be going, and to stop the erosion wherever it may be. Now, it's not been easy. There have been difficult times. There have been tears. There have been hurt feelings. There have been hard moments. But remember, Sunday comes every seven days.
So I never brought the struggle to the pulpit. I simply announced from week to week, we're building a building, we're going ahead, we're moving on, we're trusting God. But I finally had to come to realize, it's time to stop it. Wait. Let's look again.
Let's see what it is God is doing, and let's examine what it is God would have us do, and let's do that. That meant some changes. That meant moving in a direction that had not been moving in. That meant certain staff didn't remain. That meant some elders didn't stay.
And all the way through, my hope was to keep it on vision, on stream. Now, we're going to skip from Matthew 16 to Acts 2, because I want you to see, as the Lord began to build his church, what it looked like. Take a look here. Acts chapter 2, verse 14 through verse 36, Peter preaches a message. There's 120 people that have been in a room where the Spirit of God has come. It seems clear that it was there the church began.
Remember the number, 120. As a result, a number of these people come down into the streets and they began to preach to people who are from all over the world. They're declaring the good news of the Savior. Verses 38 to 40, Peter ends his message, and then there's a response.
Look at the response of the people. So then those who had received his word were baptized. As the gospel was given, they received it. It's what you do when you hear of Christ. You receive him, you believe in him. So they are believers.
Watch what happens. They are then baptized. Can you imagine this? That day there were added 3,000 souls. Suddenly there are 3,000 brand new Christians. And you think, I felt uneasy with the growth. Imagine Peter.
It's amazing. There's no corruption. There's no tradition. There are no bylaws. There's no building. There's no senior pastor. There's no leadership structure.
There's no splinter group. Just 3,000 people living their lives now that Christ is living within them. So what did they do? Watch closely. Next verse. They continually devoted themselves.
Get your pencil ready. Mark the word teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer. That's the lowest common denominator of a church. You can't have a church if you take away any of the four. You have to have teaching, teaching and preaching.
You've got to have fellowship. That's not dinner on the grounds. That's closeness, koinonia. That's sharing in life. That's close relationships. That's harmony. That's sharing in one another's life, teaching, fellowship. Third, they had worship, breaking of bread. That means not only meals, but following the meal, they took time for the Lord's table.
And they mentioned baptism, so they had the elements that were served as well as these ordinances, baptism in the Lord's table, and then there was prayer. You can have more than four. You cannot have less than four and be a church. And the reason I tell you this is because no one ever taught me that. I've been in church all my life. No one has ever taught me these things I'm sharing with you.
I've learned these things. So I went to church when we formed Stonebriar that was strong in teaching. This pulpit must be strong. Every adult fellowship must be strong. Our teenage ministry must be strong in the scriptures.
Our children's ministry must be strong in teaching from the earliest, youngest child able to learn all the way up to the oldest adult whether we're meeting homes or in gatherings like this. God's Word must continue to be taught. The Word of God is like the spine of the body.
And the Spirit of God uses His Word as Christ the Head, speaks through His Word to His people. So we will be fed by the teaching ministry of His Word. There has to be fellowship. Otherwise, we're a school.
We're a place that dispenses information. So there has to be fellowship. A school doesn't have to have fellowship. It's great if it does, but it doesn't have to have fellowship. A church has to have fellowship. At a school, you don't have to have worship, but at a church you do.
You have to have prayer as well. Now I've taken the time to tell you what was there. Let me tell you what wasn't there.
Listen just as well. There was no organizational structure. There were no politics. There were no cliques. There was no governmental guideline. No rules and regulations. No economic status promoted over another. There were no power grabs or control freaks. There was no infighting, maneuverings, or board meetings.
There were no financial squabbles, no turf protection. Remarkably, this pristine setting provided room for the Spirit of God to work and guide. I said to the Lord when I found these truths, guide me into this great Jehovah.
I'm a pilgrim in a barren land. Help me maintain this. Help us do this as a church. Direct our steps for your greater glory. I just didn't have the time early on to implement it. Now I will.
Now we will. Who was leading the ministry? Obviously the apostles, those who were gifted to teach. There were no officers. There was no authoritative guru. There was no chairman of anything.
Chairman is never found in the scriptures. There were givers. There were worshippers.
There were singers. There were followers of Jesus. There were fellow believers. That was the body. It must have been magnificent. You know what else there was? Integrity, trust, joy, confidence, unity, generosity, compassion, harmony, stability, grace, grace. Was it working? Well, it says, verse 46, there was gladness and sincerity of heart.
That's a good place to start. Look at 47. They were praising God and having favor with one another, and the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. Hang on. Look at 44.
Come on. Four, verse four. But many of those who had heard the message believed the number of the men came to be about 5,000.
Stay with me. 514. All the more believers in the Lord.
Multitudes of men and women. He's no longer giving numbers. They were constantly added to their number. Six, seven. The word of God kept on spreading, and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
It's remarkable. 931. I won't keep doing this, but let's go to this one anyway. So the church throughout all Judea, all Galilee, all Samaria enjoyed peace being built up, going on in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase. 1121 to 24 says the same thing.
14 one says the same thing, and it goes on and on. F. F. Bruce calls it the spreading flame. It's a spreading flame.
It's like that crescendo. It's just growing, and it's growing, and it's making a difference, and Caesar, Caesar is running the empire, and all the while, persecution notwithstanding, the people grew, stayed together, worked together, stayed in the work, and loved it and sang their songs, and stood together arm in arm when their loved ones were killed for the faith. It was magnificent, and none of that persecution separated them. They were together.
They were together having these things in common, pulling alongside one another. How magnificent, and my comment was, oh God almighty, give us that again. Make it happen again.
Make it happen again. So we pulled together the council of these men and began to go through this. So I just said to Dr. Toussaint, I said, Dr. Toussaint, just talk to us. Just tell us what stands out in your mind.
He says, I'll tell you this. I've been looking at that finger since 1961. I'm going to tell you this. It is not a business.
It is a spiritual entity. Let's never forget that. Only finger longer than that is Dr. Ken Cooper, but that's another subject. I won't get into that. Better edit that out, Tony. That's not a good thing.
We had a great time together. Everything but a doxology. All of this has led me to these three statements. Get your pen ready. Don't let anybody else take this for you. You write it yourself. You're going to come back to it.
I'm going to bring us back to it over and over and over again. One, two, three. Number one, clear biblical thinking must override secular planning and a corporate mentality. Clear biblical thinking must override secular thinking and a corporate mentality. However we're organized, we must think spiritually.
So, add that to your statement. Think spiritually. Think spiritually. Our counseling needs to be spiritual counseling. Our instruction needs to be spiritual instruction. Our songs need to be spiritual songs. Our hymns need to be spiritual messages. Our teaching needs to be spiritually inclined. Our relationship with each other needs to be spiritually connected. connection with each other is an intimate fellowship where people can trust one another.
It ought to be a safe place for children, a safe place for single women. The church ought to be a safe place where the spiritual overrides everything else that you have to fight with in the marketplace. Or it isn't the kind of church Jesus Christ is the head of.
Here's the second. Studied accurate decisions, studied accurate decisions must originate from God's word, not human opinion. Studied accurate decisions must originate from God's word, not human opinions. Add to that, stay biblical. Stay biblical. Carry your Bible.
Use your Bible. A Bible ought to be a part of every gathering that we're a part of. A Bible is our guide. A Bible shapes the thinking of our future. A Bible will assist us with principles when it comes to building buildings and equipping it. The Bible will be our guide. Studied accurate decisions must originate from God's word, not human opinions as wise or as intelligent as human opinions are. This isn't about human opinions. That includes my own human opinion.
This is about God's word. Third, wise essential changes must occur to counteract any sign of erosion. Wise essential changes must occur to counteract any sign of erosion. Add to that, be flexible. Please notice I did not use the word easy. These are not easy changes.
These are essential changes. Do I wish I had seen a lot of this earlier? Of course I do. Don't you wish you'd have seen a lot of things earlier in your marriage? Don't you wish you had seen things before you fouled up your other marriage and got into this one? Of course you do.
Of course. And that does little good. That's shaming.
Shaming gets us nowhere. We face the fact we regret those things and we say we're going to go on. We're going to trust God to use it. We'll lose some people. Regrettably, we'll lose some people. We'll go on. And I want to assure you when I am gone, the man who takes my place will stand exactly where we are or he's not the one you ought to have. This church deserves someone who stands for these principles.
We're going to do everything we can to make that happen. Two quotations and then I'm through. Just listen. Don't face for your keys.
Don't go there. Just listen. Listen.
The first is from E.E. Cummings, poet and artist who wrote in another era, to be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting. When I realized the truth of that, I decided it was worth the stand and I took it.
And it wasn't easy. To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting. I don't want my life to be filled with fighting, but my life must include fighting. I don't want to be known as a fighter, but I can't be a wimp and lead this ministry. I'm nobody's whipping boy. I have to stand for what God teaches me and I have to stand, if necessary, alone. Thankfully, I'm not standing alone, but I would if I had to.
And so would many of you. You understand where I'm coming from. I just had a brother walk up just after the second service and lean on me and say, oh, man, you'll never know for five years what I've been going through. And today I hear this.
Thank God. This is what I needed to hear. And he described to me what he's been going through. Here's the second quote from A.W.
Tozer. The world is waiting to hear an authentic voice, a voice from God, not an echo of what others are doing, but an echo of what others are doing and saying, but an authentic voice. An authentic voice. By God's grace, I want to remain that authentic voice. I have no hidden motive.
I have no secret event. I have no shame in anything I've told you. But I want you to know that I want my voice to come from the living God not to be an echo of what others are doing or saying. And that's what you need. And with the grace of God, that's what we will continue to do. You have my word.
Now, is this fun or what? We're in for the best years of our lives. We got a whole bunch of them in front of us. And our dreams are greater than our memories.
How good is that? Father, keep us unique and keep us authentic and keep us strong and keep us close. Guard us from independent and selfishly motivated tangents or those silly hobby horses that we can all start to ride. Keep our eyes in your word and our hearts on Christ. Keep our focus clear and this church strong.
Guard us from fear. Remind us that there cannot be faith without risk, but that that relies, that stands firmly and relies on the rock of Christ on whom we stand. It's in His strong name we have begun. It's in His strong name we continue. And it's in His strong name we pray.
And all His people said, Amen. You can certainly see how this teaching series is deeply personal for Chuck Swindoll. The biblical principles are the driving force behind his pastoral ministry and reflect the manner in which he shepherds the flock at Stonebriar Community Church. You're listening to Insight for Living and we've preserved the closing moments of today's program to hear more teaching from Chuck, so please stay with us. First, if you missed any portion of this new series that started on Monday, remember we've provided a simple way for you to catch up.
You can download the free mobile app that includes every program or download the daily podcast from any major podcast provider or just stream the program directly from insight.org. As a complement to the study called The Church Awakening, we're also pointing you to a helpful biography that Chuck has written on the Apostle Paul. It's called Paul a Man of Grace and Grit.
Paul played a strategic role in the church's earliest gatherings. He's clearly a pioneer of the early church and his story helps us model the way we gather as local churches today. To purchase a copy of Chuck's biography on Paul, go to insight.org slash offer. At Insight for Living, we're pleased to receive notes, letters, and phone calls from friends who affirm the value of Chuck's Bible teaching.
You might be encouraged to hear this one that came from Pennsylvania. It said, Chuck, thank you for leading me for nearly 30 years. You make me smile often, laugh deeply. Even when I fell away from God, it was your familiar voice that helped me find my way back home. Well, uplifting comments like this are made possible through the financial support of listeners like you, and you can partner with us by calling us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888.
To give a donation online, go to insight.org slash donate. Again, as promised, here's our Bible teacher, Chuck Swindoll. The people of God must return to a hunger and thirst for righteousness.
You must be wary of eating husks and leftovers and being entertained. You must demand a halt to superficial religion. You must refuse to be entertained and have it called worship. You must openly state, we expect more of our pastor than a 12-minute sermonette.
We will not put up with that any longer. These United States do provide for us the opportunity to protest, and I think it's high time the people of God protested against those who have taken the church in the wrong direction. Stop watching and supporting and sending your money to media ministries that do not feed your souls, and do that soon. It's as simple as that.
If they don't have the finances, they cannot continue, and there are those who continue, continue to support them. Back in the days when grace was hardly mentioned, I decided I would do a series on grace. It later came to be called The Grace Awakening, and in that series I said it's time to stop submitting to legalists. It's time for us to quit living like we're under the law. It's time to stand fast in the liberty where with Christ has made us free, and it was like a voice in the wilderness. I wasn't the only voice, but there weren't many, and from that came a whole movement, and the famine that had been ignored long enough began to shift and change, and now legalists are exposed for what they are, and grace abounds, and it's the way it ought to be in the church of Jesus Christ. I'm Bill Meyer. Join us when Chuck Swindoll addresses some of the common struggles that surface in our churches. Tomorrow on Insight for Living. The preceding message, The Church, Let's Start Here, was copyrighted in 2008, 2010, and 2011, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2011 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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