CHURCH PLANTER’S SEND OFF
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Today is a very special morning for us.
Since the very beginning of this church, we’ve talked about how we don’t want to be a church that is all about itself, and how we want to plant (start) new churches.
Our goal is to plant 10 new churches in 10 years.
This fall we are planting our first two.
In April & May, our two church planters were here with us, learning from us, sharing their vision, and recruiting some of you to join their Launch Teams.
Today is a very proud day for us because we are commissioning ELEVEN people from Renovation church to go out and join these new church plants.
At this time, I’d like to call our church planter Nick Whittenhall forward.
Nick is planting Ignite church in Oakdale.
I’d also like to call forward, from Renovation, Tony, Annie, and Ava Wesp, who have joined the Ignite Church Launch Team.
Which we are super excited about.
Ok, let’s get some more people on stage here.
We’d like to invite forward, our church planter, Bryan McInnis, who is planting Hope Bridge Church in Plymouth
I’d also like to call forward, from Renovation, Mya Morcilio, McKayla Morcilio, Trevyn Morcilio, Tom Reycraft, Carole Reycraft, Stephanie Graber, and San & Sarah See-haw-koon (who couldn’t be here today)
Also, we have some members from the Hope Bridge and Ignite Launch Teams here today observing
If you’re here from Hope Bridge or Ignite, would you stand??
We are so proud of the boldness of the 11 incredible and brave people we are sending out from Renovation!
Their boldness to start something new, and help reach countless MORE people for Christ in a different part of the metro.
In the Bible, when the Apostle Paul and Barnabas first left Syrian Antioch to go on his first journey to reach people for Christ in a new area, the people came around them and laid hands on them
I’m going to ask these brave people to step down, in front of the stage, and if you know them to come up around them, and lay hands on them…and I’ll pray for them (PRAY FOR THE TEAMS)
Thanks everyone. You can have a seat.
Both churches will be working fervently over the next 2 months in final preparations, and they will both be having their Grand Opening on Oct. 7th!
So, please be in prayer for them!
We are continuing in the Book of Acts this morning.
Acts is the 5th book of the NT, and the story of how Christianity gets started after Jesus ascends back into heaven.
If you’re new today, or if you’ve been in and out this summer, here’s 30 second summary of “Previously on, The book of Acts”
Our hero, the Apostle Paul has been wrongly arrested in Jerusalem by the Jews, and they also tried to kill him.
He was secretly taken away to Caesarea to stand trial in front of Governor Felix there, but Felix ended up doing nothing with Paul, and just left him in prison for 2 years.
Now, Governor Festus has come in to replace Felix, and he doesn’t waste anytime getting to Paul’s case.
That’s where we join the story today.
We’ve been on again off again, verse-by-verse, studying the book of Acts here for 2 years.
And each week that we do, we cover a story at a time.
That means that sometimes we’ve done as little as 7 verses at a time, and we’ll often do something like 25 verses at a time.
However, today’s passage is the longest, continuous story in the book of acts.
So, rather than just read on and on and on the screen, I decided to mix it up.
Growing up, my mom was the Children’s Librarian at the library in Cambridge, and part of her job description was to do the weekly story time for the small children that came in.
So, today, in order to mix it up, I’d like to do some “Story Time,” with Acts chapters 25 & 26.
So sit back, relax, if you need to, just close your eyes, and picture the story. We won’t have it on the screen for you.
If it’s super important for you to read it, you can find it on page 906
Let’s get started
(Start playing “thankyounotes” music
(Acts 25:1-12) – DON’T PUT ON SCREEN
Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, 2 where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. 3 They requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. 4 Festus answered, “Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. 5 Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.” 6 After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. 7 When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them. 8 Then Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.” 9 Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?” 10 Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well.11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” 12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”
So, Paul, appeals to emperor of all of Rome, who happened to be Emperor Nero at the time…who later in history, actually goes crazy on all the Christians, but is still fairly normal at this time.
Because Paul, as a Roman citizen, appeals to have his case heard before Caesar, they will have to transport him to Rome to have his case heard.
Which is going to be much safer for him than having it heard where the Jews could possibly kill him.
We’re going to see in a second, that Festus is going to confer with King Agrippa, who was higher up than Festus, and a King of the area.
His full name is Herod Agrippa II.
He’s the great grandson of Herod the Great, who was the Herod that tried to kill Jesus as a baby.
Let’s continue with story time. Again, sit back, and picture the story.
(Play music again)
(Acts 25:13 – 26:32) – DON’T PUT ON SCREEN
13 A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. 14 Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said: “There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. 15 When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned. 16 “I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges. 17 When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. 18 When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. 20 I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. 21 But when Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.” 22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear this man myself.” He replied, “Tomorrow you will hear him.” 23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 Festus said: “King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write. 27 For I think it is unreasonable to send a prisoner on to Rome without specifying the charges against him.” Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense: 2 “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews,3 and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently. 4 “The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. 5 They have known me for a long time, and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. 6 And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. 7 This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. 8 Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead? 9 “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities. 12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting ,’the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ 19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.” 24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.” 25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” 28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” 30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31 After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.” 32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Wow. Ok. So, there’s a lot there.
One could probably spend a whole series just on that story
But what I really want to concentrate on today is the last exchange between Felix, Agrippa and Paul.
Where Felix says, “You are out of your mind Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane!”
TRUE AND REASONABLE
But Paul responds to him, “I am NOT INSANE. What I am saying is TRUE and Reasonable”
And indeed the Good News of Jesus is TRUE. And it is Reasonable.
Because it’s what life is all about.
But here’s what I think we often forget:
We forget that to a lot of non-Christians. We look a little insane.
I’ll never forget, a number of years ago, I went back home to Cambridge for a wedding of a high school friend.
And it’s always weird when you go back home isn’t it? The older you get, the weirder it gets.
People change. Our memories fade, and before you know it, you can barely even remember people’s names.
But anyway, I was chatting with another acquaintance before the wedding got started, and he asked me the obligatory question, “So what’d you end up doing with your life?”
And I had been a real successful student and all, so I’m assuming he was picturing something in business or something, but I said, “I’m a pastor”
And without hesitation he said, “Why did you do that? Why would you want to do that?!? Really? Just a pastor?”
And I remember being kind of taken aback by it…see because in the Christian world, what I do, being a pastor, and a church planter at that, is applauded.
“Oh good for you! You must really be holy and love Jesus more than the rest of us!” Ha. I wish.
But to the rest of the world, often our lives look a little silly.
The Bible even tells us this:
(2 Corinthians 2:15-16) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION
15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.
Our faith might be “True and Reasonable” like Paul said, but let’s not forget that we can look a little bit insane to people.
What smells like flowers to some, can smell like death to others
A NON-EMBARASSING INSANITY
And here’s the problem.
I think, over time, some of us do recognize that, HUH, we are a little different than the world.
But instead of letting that oddly, different light shine bright…instead of using that to our advantage, it’s like we almost become embarrassed of it.
Especially when we get around people of high regard.
Maybe that’s a boss, or an important family member, or someone in the community that’s important…or some person you like and are trying to impress
A lot of us, get around important people, and oddly enough, our first instinct is to downplay our Christianity
We think, “Oh, well, I just want to fit in here. I don’t want to cause waves or look weird or anything”
And it’s almost as if we’re apologizing for being Christians. For looking a little insane.
Buy why in the world would we ever downplay being children of God? Messed up people loved by the Savior? What’s to be embarrassed about?
Rather, we should take the attitude of Paul, when even in the presence of a governor, in the presence of a KING, he KNEW that he STILL had something they did NOT.
He had eternal life. A relationship with Jesus.
So He boldly tells them about it.
And it’s ironic because we get around important non-Christians, and instead of our first thought being:
I HAVE something they do not…I should offer it
Our first thought is: I AM something they are not…I should tone it down
THE INTRIGUE OF INSANITY
Over the last 25 years, Christianity has made some good steps forward in evangelism as we’ve focused more on what we call “Relational evangelism”
Which is not just talking to strangers, but to the people you know
And one of the tenets of that is trying to fit in with the people you know, so you can use culture to reach them.
It was said, that Christians were too out of touch.
And in many ways they were.
I can remember, when I was a non-believer in the 90’s, I was listening to Biggie & 2Pac, and Christians were trying to get me to listen to Petra.
I kept thinking…is this a joke?
So, it was thought…in order to reach people, we need to know their music, their TV, their culture…
To the Jews, I became a Jew. To the weak, I became weak
And this can be an important part of evangelism
After all, that thought comes from Paul himself in 1 Co9
But I think what we can learn from this long passage today, is that we’ve probably gone a little bit too far.
Because…we don’t look any different anymore.
But think about the basic scenario of this passage:
The Governor, The King himself, the high-ranking military officers, the prominent men of the city, and all the dazzling garb of the high and mighty, come out to listen to a broke, no-name, poorly dressed prisoner who was NOTHING like them.
I call this the “Intrigue of Insanity”
To them, Paul is, I don't know, perhaps, a little insane in the membrane.
But…BUT…it’s intriguing, and they want to come hear him.
He’s talking about something, that despite all their power, all their wealth, they DON’T HAVE.
And it may sound a little insane, but it draws them in.
And when we just blend in like everyone else, when people don’t know we have anything to offer, when we look just like everyone else, in an odd way, the gospel is actually less attractive to people.
BECAUSE….if you look EXACTLY like the world…deep down inside, people already KNOW their life doesn’t work…so what’s compelling about your life?
It looks the exact same as theirs! And it doesn’t work!
But Paul….Paul is different. Something about him is way different. And they want to hear about it!
So let me ask you a crazy question: How are you going to look slightly insane to this world?
And I say SLIGHTLY insane, because there is that other side…we are NOT called to not be so far away from people that they can’t understand us.
But we’re not called to look identical either.
How are you going to look different? How is your faith going to raise eyebrows around you? How is how you spend your time going to raise eyebrows?!?
I can give you a real quick and easy application from your way in today.
Start serving. Start volunteering. Start giving of your time.
For the vast majority of this world, we live for one person only: Ourselves.
I don't know how it happened, but to serve, has become counter-cultural.
If you’re not on a ministry team here at Renovation yet. Sign-up today.
God is doing some pretty amazing things here, and as we like to say, “Don’t just watch the movement here, be a part of it”
If you’ve been here for a little while, my challenge to you, is don’t act like the rest of the world.
The rest of the world says, “Oh, a religious service for ME to get something out of”
Raise some eyebrows. Say, “I want to help change lives here. I don’t need to just sit here. I can help. I can BE A PART of something”
Help set-up, help in the café, help pray for people, help usher, help teach our children about Jesus…many of them in this church…learning about Jesus for the first time, help greet people…again in this church…some people coming to church for the first time…help get the word out through signs
But, if you’ve been here a while, don’t do what the world would do: Which is NOTHING.
Look different. Be different. Live for something beyond yourself!
Where else in your life can you intrigue people with your insanity to live for Christ?
I mean seriously, you oughta look moderately insane to your friends and family once in a while.
People thought Jesus was crazy!!!
Even his own family!
(Mark 3:21) – NIV
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
The way you spend your money…the way you spend your time…the music you listen…the movies you watch (or DON’T watch)…the way you love people….forgive people….oughta cause the people around you to be INTRIGUED by your choices.
We as followers of Christ, have to live like we mean it.
If we continue to blend in with the rest of Western Civilization, then yes, Christianity will soon be an afterthought in this part of the world.
But…what if we started to not be so afraid of looking different?!?
What if we believed, like Paul, that if we actually looked different, that even the people of high position would WANT to hear us out, not because we were like them, but because we’re NOT like them
Can we believe, that even if they call us insane, then at least we have a starting point to have a conversation?
Rather than them never even thinking about it?
A couple centuries ago, a famous preacher once had an encounter with the great English actor Macready.
The preacher said to him, “Tell me something. What’s the difference between you and me? You are appearing before crowds night after night with fiction, and the crowds come where you go. I am preaching the essential and unchangeable truth, and I am not getting any crowd at all. The actor replied, “It’s quite simple. I present my fiction as though it were truth, you present your truth, as though it were fiction.”
I mean think about this: We say we believe all these INSANE things to the world:
God exists. He created us. Jesus was also God. He rose from the dead. He’ll forgive us (why he died). When we die, we believe he’ll take our bodies and raise them to an immortal state where we’ll be judged and sent to hell or heaven. “
We have all of these BOLD beliefs, but then we live like they mean nothing.
And consequently, people don’t notice us. Or believe us
I once read a biography about the famous evangelist George Whitfield, and one time he was in the same town as the famous philosopher David Hume, who rejected Christianity.
Hume once saw his friend running down the street, and he asked him where he was going.
He said, “I’m off to hear George Whitfield preach.”
Hume replied, But surely you don’t believe what Whitfield preaches do you!?”
He said, “No, I don’t, but HE does.”
We’ve got to live like we believe. Be bold this week. Don’t live in fear.
God can do great things through you.
Live OUT you what you believe deep inside.
And trust (like we see in his Word today), that if you’re to live out your faith…that even if it might look a little insane to other people…that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.