Ministry is Messy

July 24, 2011

David Sorn

The apostles experience "messy ministry" while trying to tell people about Jesus.

Ministry is Messy

July 24, 2011

David Sorn

The apostles experience "messy ministry" while trying to tell people about Jesus.



Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor of Renovation Church.

Before we get started this morning, I want to take a few minutes to tell you about another exciting thing we are doing.

In just a few weeks, we are going to be having our second ever church baptism on August 11th.

I am super excited about this. And I think many of you ought to be thinking about getting baptized.

We have a lot of newer believers in this church, and I think this will be important for you to consider

Baptism is simply an outward symbol of what has happened on the inside of your life when you accept Christ.

The Bible describes it as a symbol of what Jesus’ death did on Easter weekend

We die (to our old life), are buried (under water), wiped clean (by the water, our sins are left behind (under water), and we are resurrected (come up from the water) as clean and sinless.

Now, baptism doesn’t do that. Your faith in Jesus does that. But it’s an awesome symbol of what God has done in your life.

And Baptism is an important thing to do after you believe

We see plenty of examples of this in the Bible. For instance, when a jailer puts his faith in Christ, here’s what happens

(Acts 16:30-33) - NIV

30He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.

We don’t always do such a great job of it here in the northern united states, but baptism is something that typically followed belief pretty quickly…

And we do it because for one, Jesus commanded it

(Matthew 28:18-20) - NIV

18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

It’s an integral part of being a follower of Jesus

Secondly because Jesus himself was baptized

And thirdly because it’s an outward witness to the world of what God’s doing in your heart.

So, with that being said, I want to encourage many of you. I know a lot of you have put your faith in Christ in the last year or so, to get baptized.

And others of you have been Christians for a little while now, and you haven’t taken this step.. But it’s probably time.

We dealt with this a lot last year, so let me address it now.

Baptism is NOT something you “Get ready” for. Or spiritually mature for.

IN the olden days, they dunked you right after you believed.

It has nothing to do with getting ready, but everything to do with obedience and showing the world what God has done.

We’ll give more details in announcements. And there’s plenty more we could say about it. If you have questions, feel free to ask me.

All right, let’s get started with the message this morning


I want to talk to you this morning about getting messy in ministry.

About jumping right in and not sitting on the sidelines.

I’ve been thinking about it, and some people are just more willing to jump in and get messy than others.

It makes me think of little kids.

A couple of weeks ago, my 2 year old nephew came over to my new house, and we had watered the flowers out in front, so the sidewalks were all wet.

And when I said WE watered, I mean, not me.

But anyway, my 2 year old nephew walks up and he sees the puddle in front of the house and it’s about as appealing to him as an ice cream truck.

His eyes light up, and he takes a big jump, and jumps right in the puddle.

And then proceeds to start wiping his hands all over the water…and then…smiling…walks right in my house.

And that’s a kid that just doesn’t fear getting a little dirty.

And many of us start out that way…but we often lose it along the way.


We are going through the book of Acts in the Bible as a church.

The book of Acts is the 5th book in the NT, and is the story of how the church got started after Jesus ascended into heaven.

We’re going to look at a passage today where a couple of the early leaders of the church are willing to get messy for the Good News of Jesus. They’re fearless. They’re willing to suffer for it.

Last week, Jon Vaala spoke to us about the opposition that Paul and Barnabas faced in Psidian Antioch, and today we’re going to see some opposition in even more cities

(Acts 14:1-7) – NIV

1 At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. 4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the good news.

So, Paul and Barnabas use their usual tactics of going to the Jewish Synagogue first, and then some of the Jews AND Gentiles believe…

But this makes the other Jews upset because they feel like they’re losing “their people/ their power”, and they start to persecute Paul.

Same thing happened in Jesus’ time.

And we can start to see that for a lot of people, it’s not about God, it’s about religion and power. Sad.

The passage continues

(Acts 14:8-20) – NIV

8 In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. 11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15“Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. 19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.

So the people in Lystra get so excited about what God’s doing, that, in their excitement, they mistake Paul and Barnabas for the “gods” of Zeus and Hermes.

Some background on why that might have happened. First of all, those were TWO of the major “gods” they worshipped at the time.

But second of all, About 50 years before Paul and Barnabas arrived at Lystra, there was a legend told that the gods of Zeus and Hermes once visited that very region disguised as ordinary men.

IN the legend, They were turned away from a thousand homes where they sought lodging, but were finally taken in by an elderly couple in to their humble home. The gods then turned that house into a temple and destroyed all the other 1,000 homes that rejected them

And THAT legend may be the reason why these people are so quick to just start worshipping Paul and Barnabas as Zeus and Hermes.

But Paul and Barnabas “tear their clothes,” which was the proper Jewish response to such blasphemy and also extreme anguish.

Notice that their response is the complete opposite response to that of Herod, who just 2 chapters earlier accepted the people’s praise of him as a “god,” which then by the way, he was then was struck down and eaten by worms.


What I really want you to see in this passage was just how messy ministry was for these guys.

They were just kicked out of the last town, Pisidian Antioch, as Jon covered last week.


And now, in this new town, Iconium (the 1st town we looked at today), the unbelieving Jews stir up the Gentiles w/ poisonous rumors about Paul and Barnabas, then, there’s a plot to kill them, so they have to move on again.

And JUST when it looks like God is moving in Lystra…the people don’t get it.

Of all things, they think the apostles are Zeus and Hermes!

And then, just as some of the people in Lystra do indeed start to get it, and believe, people come from these other towns, from Pisidian Antioch, and from Iconium.

They traveled from these cities to ruin their ministry

The people from Iconium came 20 miles!

The people from Pisidian Antioch came 110 miles!!

You know, I’ve racked my brain for a LONG time on this one, but I don’t know of a successful church that is really reaching people for Christ that doesn’t have other people speaking against it…usually “religious” people!

But let’s continue with Paul and Barnabas’ messy story. As the people from these other cities come and stir the people of Lystra up, Paul gets STONED!

But he gets back up…and goes on to the next city…which we’ll cover next week.


This is crazy stuff.

And yet, for us…often at the slightest form of opposition, we quit.

We shrink back.

We think…I’ll just consume Christianity instead.

Don’t be a consumer…be a mover.

Last month, while cruising Wikipedia, like the nerd I am, I came across the story of John G Paton.

Paton was a missionary to the South Pacific Islands of what is now called Vanuatu.

Which, the only time I’ve ever heard of that before, is I think there was a season of survivor filmed there.

Paton felt called by God to bring the Gospel for the first time to the people of Vanuatu, and arrived on the island in 1858

The natives were in fact quite hostel, and many of them were even cannibals at the time.

But that wasn’t his biggest obstacle.

3 months after Paton’s arrival, his wife gave birth to a son, but 19 days later, his wife died from tropical fever.

To make things worse, 17 days after that, his newborn son died to the same fever.

And even though he stayed committed to the islanders amidst the mess his life was becoming, and even though he was trying to do good for their island and teach reading, sewing, and other life skills, and eventually the gospel of Jesus Christ, they still threatened his life. They still attacked him.

Multiple times he faced illnesses. Multiple times he faced danger.

Yet, he just kept teaching.

4 of his 6 children died in infancy, in at least part, due to the lack of medical care there.

Yet, he just KEPT teaching. Kept talking about Jesus. Despite the mess. Despite the opposition.

And 41 years after his arrival, by 1899, almost the entire island had accepted Christ, and they had even printed a New Testament in their Native language, AND they had sent missionaries to 25 of 30 of the nearby islands.


And I think it should force us to ask…what makes people like this tick? What makes people like the Apostle Paul and Barnabas tick?

Why do this? Why go through this?

Did they have some amazing giftings from God? Sure.

But some of them, especially a guy like John Gibson Paton, is not all that different from you and me.

But why keep going? Why keep serving? When ministry can be SO messy? SO MESSY.

It’s because they believed in CHANGE!

But some of us, just don’t want to get dirty.

Growing up, The joke in my family is that my mom always says “Be Careful, more than she says I love you.”

Or at least, it means the same thing.

And growing up, I was always the “careful kid.” Even at a young age.

When the other boys would be going off crazy jumps on their bikes, or walking across the ice in the winter, or playing tackle football, or having some crazy mud fight, all too often I was the kid standing off to the side cuz I was afraid I might get hurt.

Sure, did those kids sometimes break their arm or twist an ankle or just get all messy.

Yeah. They did. But they also LIVED.

The same is true with your individual ministry. The part of your life where God is calling YOU to make a difference for Him.

If you’re not willing to get dirty, you probably won’t experience God using you.

And thus, you probably won’t get to feel what it’s like to really live.

Don’t be a consumer…be a mover.


But most of us, once things start to get dirty…once we start taking risks…and getting involved with a church…or helping people out…or serving…

Something goes wrong….It gets messy….

And we say, “SEE! SEE! I told you this wasn’t a good idea! I told you this wasn’t worth it!!”

But I think it’s important for us to remember that opposition is not always a great barometer of God’s leading.

This is where the open door / closed door theology isn’t always helpful.

Christians throw this out a lot. Well, I’ve had some “closed doors” here, so God must not be moving. I’m going to wait.

But, If Paul stopped every time he hit a closed door, he would have never changed the world.

Sometimes there are good things behind closed doors. Sometimes there are incredible things behind “DOOR NUMBER 3,” but if you don’t open it, you’ll never know.

The important thing is to LISTEN to God, not just stop because a door is closed.

Or because some things got hard. Some things got tough.

Because listen, Paul experienced SOME Major hard things in Lystra. He got STONED for goodness sakes!

But, some very cool things happened in Lystra. For one, this is the city where Paul will meet Timothy. His main assistant throughout the Bible.

Also, these cities that he went to today are in the Roman province of Galatia, so when you read the book in the Bible, Galatians, it’s Paul writing to these people.

Really cool!

And when you step out in ministry, and we try and bring change…we will face opposition!

And, we can’t be dismayed if people feel put off by you asking them to church. Or talking to them about God. We’ve not been to the point where we have been stoned, where we have shed blood.

Do you ever just stop and wonder what we’ve missed out on because we weren’t willing to face opposition and take risks?

And why? Because we’re afraid? Afraid of what?

You serve the God of the universe! What are you afraid of?

Perhaps our fear is only a result of trusting too much in ourselves.


So why aren’t we like the Apostle Paul or even like that missionary John Gibson Paton?

I think, it’s because we’ve become content with spectator Christianity. We’ve become content with sitting in comfortable seats and watching other people take risks and change the world.

Just like real life, we’ll watch reality shows of people taking risks from the comfort of our home …and we’ll applaud the people who do, but we won’t do it ourselves.

But God is calling you to get off the couch, and get messy

Don’t be a consumer, be a mover.


Another reason we’re not like those other guys….

We don’t understand the purpose behind our own spiritual development.

We talk about this often here.

But imagine with me that Paul and Barnabas were like the average American Christian.

If they, were…I imagine they would probably just attend their home church.

They would come often. Attend lots of Bible studies.

Learn lots of great things. Debate with their other Christian friends about free will and predestination.

Pick out their favorite Christian speakers…maybe Barnabas would like listening to Peter…and Paul would go hear John

They would have their favorite Christian harp players… And trumpet players..

And they would learn a lot…debate a lot…


Let me ask you a question:

“What are you doing with your life?”

Listening and learning is not enough.

Our Christian faith can not be just self-serving.

That’s why our goal at this church is to be changed TO ____ CHANGE!

Now, did Barnabas and Paul learn? Did they study? Did they probably even debate?

Yes! But always with the intent to be changed TO CHANGE!

But what is the motivation behind why you learn? Why you come to church? Why you read the Bible?

What is it??? Why do you do it?

For most of us…it isn’t much more than “so I can learn some things” or “I should”

But listen, we can’t change the world off of “I should”

And when we don’t understand the reason for why we encounter God in the first place, we just settle into spectator Christianity, like I mentioned before.

In part because our spiritual goals are merely selfish.

We’re just watching. We’re not participating.

Don’t be a consumer, be a mover.

You want to come alive again? Start serving.

You want to feel God moving in you again? Start serving.

You’ll remember the purpose behind why we do this thing!


And let me recommend a simple starting point.

We mentioned a few weeks ago, that we are going to 2 services here at Renovation starting on Sep. 11th

God is doing some amazing stuff here and is reaching a lot of people for Christ.

And we want you to be a part of that movement.

Not just to sit here and consume it. And watch it. But to be a part of it.

Because what we’re doing…the movement God’s doing in this city, is going to take all of us.

Everyone has a part to play.

God’s calling us to huge things here….and WE NEED YOU. WE NEED YOU TO HELP.

Listen, If you’re just checking this church out…maybe you’ve only been here a few weeks…maybe you’re just checking God out… then that’s fine. Ignore what I’m saying…and just check him out.

But if you’ve been here a while, a couple of months, and you know Jesus…be a part of the movement

There are so many different ways you can serve here on a Sunday morning and beyond…and everyone of them has purpose.

We greet people because it might be someone’s 1st time to church in 20 years…and their first impression…matters.

We set-up and tear down every week…because what God is doing here is changing lives.

We work with the children and teach them about Jesus because 85% of people who come to Christ do so before the age of 18

Everything has purpose.

Every position counts.

And if we’re going to change this world, if God is going to use us to turn Blaine from the easiest city to get lost in to the easiest city to get found in, we need everybody.

And this is my challenge for you this summer: I don’t want you to sit here and WATCH what God is doing, I want you to be a PART of what God is doing.

Don’t be a consumer…be a mover…

Some of you are going to have major ministries here (ministry leader…small group leaders…passion about greeting)

Others of you will just find passion in being a PART of something.

And although I believe every Christian regular attender here should be involved with the movement of God here in some way, find a way to stop watching and get involved.

But that might not be the ONLY way you serve.

It’s an important way…especially if you’re a part of this body

I believe God is probably calling some of you to go out and do things on your own…and maybe it has nothing to do w/ our church. Who cares. I don’t care. Change the world. You don’t need the church to do it for you.

Maybe God’s calling you like some of the guys in our church to go out and do street witnessing downtown

Maybe he’s calling you to start a ministry to a group of people in our community

Maybe he’s calling to you start a vacation bible school in your neighborhood for the kids…

I have no idea…but I can guarantee you this…he’s calling you to change the world.

He’s calling you to be changed…to encounter Him…and let him change the world through you.

Let’s pray.

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.