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Distinctives of a Contagious Church, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
The Truth Network Radio
April 26, 2022 7:05 am

Distinctives of a Contagious Church, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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Today on Insight for Living. As we're thinking together about rebirthing the church, we need to think about what it is that causes a community to take notice. There's a passion. There's a Spirit-directed energy. There is the work of God engaging the lives of one another in a way that there is no other.

There is meaningful direction going on. There is genuine compassion in reaching out. When you drive down Main Street of any town in the country, it's not unusual to find a wide variety of churches from which to choose.

So how do you know which is the right one for you? Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll presents another message in his series titled The Church Awakening. Looking at the essential elements of a healthy church. As we review these factors, be thinking about their prominence in the church you've chosen to attend.

Chuck titled his message, Distinctives of a Contagious Church. The basis of it is 2 Timothy 2, verse 1. Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Verse 8. Remember Jesus Christ risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal. But the Word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, and with it eternal glory. You're listening to Insight for Living.

To search the scriptures with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures studies by going to slash studies. And now the message from Chuck called Distinctives of a Contagious Church. There are some movies that, when you just mentioned the name of the movie, you remember the line that lingers in your mind. And when you think of the movie, you think of that line. The Field of Dreams, one of those fantasy movies of yesteryear, there is a line in it that lives on, even past the scenes that we will someday forget.

That line is, if you build it, what? There you are, they will come. When I graduated from Dallas Seminary, I thought that would be true in the church. If you preach it, they will come. I have lived to realize that while it does take strong and good and consistently interesting preaching, it also requires a context of other things. You certainly cannot have a contagious church without a strong pulpit. But there must be more than that. There must be more than conviction from one person or the gift of one person at work. A contagious church is made up of a context of things in order for people to stop and realize this is a place worth coming to and being a part of. Speaking of context, I was reminded of it when I read this story recently, a true story.

In a banal setting and at an inconvenient time, would people pause to observe transcendent beauty? This is the question the Washington Post sought to answer when it commissioned Joshua Bell, one of the foremost violin players of our generation, to play in a Washington subway during morning rush hour. Dressed in nondescript manner, jeans, t-shirt, baseball cap, Joshua Bell opened up his case, took out his violin called the Gibson X. Huberman, handcrafted 1713 by Antonio Stradivari, and began to play magnificent music. He started with Chaconne from Bach's Partita No.

2 in D minor. Some call it the greatest piece of music ever written. Others consider it one of the greatest achievements of any man in history for 45 minutes.

One of the greatest musicians alive, playing one of the greatest instruments ever made, played some of the greatest music ever written. Did anyone stop to listen? It was all videotaped on camera. 1,100 people walked by. Seven stopped to listen. 27 threw money into the open case for a total of $32. The night before, Bell had sold out Boston's Symphony Hall, where the cheapest seat goes for $100.

He regularly earns $1,000 per minute for concerts. Context matters. You know what else I learned from this? I should have stayed with the violin.

What was I thinking? Don't misunderstand. In no way am I trying to diminish the importance of the preaching of the Word of God. But trust me, there are preachers all around the world who faithfully declare the truth, but their place of service is not contagious.

As a matter of fact, I was a part of a church at one time where that was true, and I preached just as passionately there as I do here. But there wasn't growth. It wasn't contagious. There weren't the marks of a contagious church present.

In fact, I remember one Fourth of July weekend, seven people in the entire place, four were Swindolls. That is not a contagious place. As we're thinking together about rebirthing the church, we need to think about what it is that causes a community to take notice. It isn't just a building, if it is the building at all. It's the people. But it isn't just numbers of people. There's a passion. There's a Spirit-directed energy. There is the work of God engaging the lives of one another in a way that there is meaningful direction going on. There is genuine compassion in reaching out, and there certainly is a sense of electric excitement about where we go together as a body. There are distinctives that make a church contagious. I was led in my thinking to this last piece of literature that Paul ever wrote in 2 Timothy, that final letter, the second chapter of this simple four-chapter book.

By simple, I mean brief, not simple in content. I've said for years that the thing that makes 2 Timothy come alive is, when I remember, it is dungeon talk. The man doesn't write it sitting in a rocking chair watching the surf of the Mediterranean. He isn't sitting in some villa sipping warm tea and relaxing in the afternoon sunshine. He's alone in a dungeon. Chances are good most of you have never even seen a dungeon.

So allow me. John Pollock, author of The Man Who Shook the World, gives this brief description. Paul was once more seized, shackled, and this time placed in rigorous confinement in Rome. Not as an honorable citizen, but chained like a criminal. He was among the felons in the Mamertine, an obnoxious dungeon.

Reached only by rope or ladder let down through a hole in the floor above. His weary body must lie on rough stones. The air was foul, sanitation nonexistent. The trial that was to follow would be a trial where he would stand shackled in chains, bearing the marks of age and torturing. Before a godless Caesar named Nero.

James Stalker does a good job describing the irony. On the judgment seat clad in imperial purple sat Nero. A man stained with every crime. A man whose whole being was steeped in every nameable and unnameable vice.

Nothing but a compound of mud and blood. And in the prisoner's dock stood the best man the world contained, his hair whitened with labors for the good of men and the glory of God. Such was the occupant of the seat of justice. And such was the man who stood in the place of the criminal.

T.R. Glover, the English classicist of Cambridge, made an unforgettable comment about the contrast when he wrote, the day was to come when men would call their dogs Nero and their sons Paul. Love that line. Here sits Paul under the flickering torch of a flame writing on manuscript his closing words.

It's dungeon talk. He's cold, he's lonely, he's come to the end. It's time for him to pass along to a younger man in his 40s. Some insights, some guidelines for ministry and he does that in this last letter especially. It's as if Paul is handing Timothy through the pen, the baton and a relay saying run with it.

Run with it now. Paul having served so faithfully and long is now handing it to Timothy and Timothy in turn as we will see is to hand it to others. So the letter is insightful because it is so relevant. Don't let anyone ever tell you the Bible is out of touch. The one who tells you that is out of touch.

What an ignorant statement. It is ever relevant, not only inspired but timeless in its truths. Paul says at the end a good fight I have fought and the course I have finished and the faith I have kept. And Timothy you be like that.

You live like that. You minister in a church like that. And we find today the first century writing is apropos in the 21st in which we find ourselves today. And so with that in mind I suggest that we look at four timeless characteristics of a contagious church. If you have a pen handy I'm going to have you underscore four verbs.

How's that for a little pedantic beginning of this message? Four verbs. The first one is in verse 1, be strong. The second is in verse 2, entrust.

Mark that. The third is in verse 3, suffer hardship. And the fourth is in verse 10, endure.

You get them? Be strong. Entrust. Suffer hardship.

Endure. From the four verbs, and by the way always pay attention to the verbs as you are trying to interpret the scriptures. They are the bony structure of literature. They hold thoughts together. And you put the flesh of the other words around them but you see the emerging of the truth by observing the verbs.

So to begin with let's stay with the first verb. Distinctive number one, it is always necessary to be strong in grace. Verse 1, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. A church that's contagious is strong in grace.

And it's led by people who are strong in grace. Paul could write it because he modeled grace. He calls himself in one place the apostle of grace. Isn't it amazing that this legalist, this Pharisee, this man who earlier in life is making sure that Christians are wiped out, is stopped on the road to Damascus and is made blind by a light from heaven as the Lord Jesus speaks to him and calls him of all people into his work. And Paul becomes the spokesman for grace. And he gives the message of the gospel to all people, the dogs, the Gentiles, not just to his own people, the Jews. So he says to us, model grace, proclaim grace, remind people of grace, salvation is by grace through faith. Peace with God comes because of his grace demonstrated to us at the cross. The grace in the Christian life, remember our Lord Jesus, who though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor that we might have his riches. That's grace, receiving what we don't deserve. John Newton put it best, "'Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home."

Churches of grace are attractive places. People who come out of toxic religion will always tell you of the rigors of the regulations and rules of that former place where they managed to survive. Lists of requirements and demands, judgment placed against them if they didn't measure up to some preacher's requirement of them.

Not a biblical requirement, but his own list. You must look like this. You must dress like this. You must observe things like this. You must say it like this.

And you're structured and strapped by the rules. I call it religious bondage, and it is not a contagious place. It's a frightening place. Folks sometime wind up at Stonebriar Church coming out of that context and they arrive here with a sigh. I tell them often you just need time to heal. You just need time, and you'll be given room to grow and to heal here.

Occasionally they'll share their scars, and it's frightening. Toxic religious places have no acceptance of others. A graceless church like a graceless pastor is a frightening thought. Spurgeon writes of this, what he calls a graceless pastor. When a preacher is poor in grace, any lasting good which may be the result of his ministry will usually be feeble and utterly out of proportion with what might have been expected. The graceless pastor is a blind man elected to a professorship of optics, philosophizing upon light and vision, discoursing upon and distinguishing to others the nice shades and delicate blendings of the prismatic colors when he himself is absolutely in the dark. He's a speechless man elected to the chair of music. He's a deaf man fluent upon symphonies and harmonies. He's a mole professing to educate eaglets. I like that line.

Steve Brown has a great line as he says. Some people say legalistic churches are a lot like grace churches. He said they're no more alike than saying a taxidermist is like a veterinarian. Well, you say either way you get your dog back. Well, yeah. One of them collects dust and never moves. The other one's busy and barking and slobbering and pooping and eating and jumping around. And he's alive.

He's a real thing. Let's be veterinarians. Otherwise we become a museum of memories, a place where dust settles and our favorite offertory is the way we were. It's all about what once was. That's a frightening place. A church of grace is alive, anticipating, willing to risk, free of judgmentalism but not free of holiness. There's a vast difference.

We'll get to that. The second distinctive I find in the second verse. Those involved are faithful to mentor the young. Churches that are contagious faithfully mentor those who are coming along in the Christian life. I love that thought, don't you? We don't see people as folks to serve so much as counting heads and, you know, the money. We see people as opportunities to build into their lives.

Now, where do I get that? Look at the verse. He's writing to Timothy, says, The things that you have heard, the word you refers to Timothy, you have heard from me, that refers to Paul, in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust, look at that term, it means to deposit as a trust, deposit in the lives of faithful men, those same things, and they, these men and women, will be able to deposit that in others. Let me ask you to turn your outline over on the back side. I'm going to give you a simple little chart that I want you to write down. In the far left margin, just write the name Paul. Just put Paul. Draw a little arrow to the right, about an inch long, and then put Timothy. And another arrow, and after that arrow, write faithful men and women. And one more arrow, write others also. Duane Litfin, former president of Wheaton College, calls this the endless chain of Christian discipleship. Let me show you how it works.

Look at your chart. Paul, the apostle, poured his life, heart, soul, truths, confrontations, encouragements, affirmations, he poured the techniques of the Christian life into Timothy. Timothy is a recipient, just as the second runner in the relay gets the baton from the first runner.

And he is now running with that baton, running the second leg of the relay. He's got the baton out, and Timothy is entrusted to send that baton to faithful men and women that he comes in contact with. And get this, Paul would not even know some of those people. That's the way it works. One touches the life of another, who then touches the lives of people in his or her sphere of influence that the originator wouldn't have even known. And to make it even more exciting, those people in turn send it on to others also. That is a contagious ministry of multiplication. A church is not a gathering of people that sit and listen to one person preach.

It's not just that. As important as a message, a sermon would be. This is just the start of the baton.

This is where information and techniques and words of encouragement and words of challenge are leveled. And you take that baton and you then build into the life of someone you will touch in the week, in the months ahead. As Prof. Hendricks used to say to us, everyone needs a Barnabas. That's the one who handed the baton to Paul.

And every Paul needs a Timothy. We need someone before us who mentored us. We need someone beyond us whom we're mentoring. Otherwise, we're a stagnant lake with little life. We're just a pool of information where people sit, take notes, walk out, wait till next week to sit and take notes and walk out. Wait till next week to sit and take more notes and walk out.

What's wrong with that picture? There's no contagion. The only reason the apostle makes that deposit is that there might be change in the lives of those being mentored. That's our goal as a church.

Otherwise, we're just a dusty old museum full of relics. Just as the home is a place for transferring family techniques, the church is a place for passing along spiritual techniques. It's remarkable to picture Paul sitting in a dungeon writing these words to his protege, Timothy. Though bound in chains, he wanted Timothy to exercise his grace muscle to establish a community of believers that was safe, attractive and filled with affection. You're listening to Insight for Living and the Bible teaching of pastor and author Chuck Swindoll. He titled today's message, Distinctives of a Contagious Church.

To learn more about this ministry, visit us online at Well, if you'd like to gain a better understanding about the man who wrote this letter to Timothy, you'll be pleased to learn that Chuck has written a book about his life. In this biography, you'll discover the character traits that Paul developed along the way. The biography is titled, Paul, a Man of Grace and Grit.

It's a story of strength and determination, and it's chock full of compassion and conviction. To purchase a copy, go to slash offer or call us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. You often hear us say that Insight for Living relies on your personal support to make these daily programs, not only on your local radio station, but on a variety of channels that make learning more about the Bible easily accessed by people everywhere.

It's our goal, our mandate to make disciples of Jesus Christ in all 195 countries of the world. If it's been a while since you've responded to the need or you've never stepped forward with the contribution, we invite you to do that today. To give a donation, just give us a call.

If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. By the way, we hope you're taking advantage of Chuck Swindoll's daily devotional. It's sent to your inbox each morning to help you start your day with God. The email devotional is free, and to sign up, go to slash devotional. I'm Bill Meyer. Chuck Swindoll's message about the distinctives of a contagious church continues tomorrow, right here on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Distinctives of a Contagious Church, was copyrighted in 2008 and 2010, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2010 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-27 12:46:17 / 2023-04-27 12:54:46 / 8

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