WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–“Christ declares that he expects the local church to expect to be supernaturally impactful,” Charles Lyons, pastor of Armitage Baptist Church in Chicago, told students at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Feb. 25.
In addition to his chapel message at the Wake Forest, N.C., campus, Lyons spoke the night before at a banquet associated with the North American Mission Board’s Nehemiah Project, which sends seminary-trained church planters across the United States and, in Southeastern’s case, is focused primarily on New England states like New Hampshire and Maine.
When Lyons, speaking from Acts 1, brought his unique, high-energy style to chapel, he found an audience ready to be challenged.
Many churches today think of numerous reasons why Christ’s command to be witnesses across the globe does not apply to their particular situation, Lyons said, noting that Christ knew the handful of believers he left behind, as identified in Acts 1, would take his admonition seriously.
“He expected that band of 120 believers to embrace the mission of permeating the world with the good news of Jesus Christ,” Lyons said. “How could he ever think of laying such a burden on this humble handful? Yet he did.”
God has great expectations for his church to reach all across the world, Lyons preached, but that mission starts locally.
Lyons’ own church is an example of a church that took its mission seriously. More than 25 years ago, when he began as the pastor, the church bought an old Masonic temple in downtown Chicago on a street corner overrun by gang warfare.
Through the years, Lyons said, thanks to the prayers of the people and the grace of God, several nearby bars and nightclubs shut down and gang leaders were brought to Christ.
“Oh, to see not what the power of a program can do, not what the power of a budget can do, not what the power of our new visual system can do, but what the power of God can do in a land and in a community where some humble people will pray and believe,” Lyons said.
Beyond locally, Lyons said God wants local churches to have an impact regionally. The best way to do that, he said, is to follow the New Testament model of church planting: reach the cities first.
Lyons, who has spent 28 years in urban ministry, calls cities the “sociological hilltops” of the modern world.
“What happens in the city affects the rest of the region and the rest of the culture and the rest of society,” he said. “You want to impact the world — reach the city.”
God also expects his church to have an impact across ethnic lines, Lyons said. Again, Armitage — which is one the most ethnically diverse churches in the entire Southern Baptist Convention — is a good example.
Lyons said many Christians, and the churches they attend, are afraid to reach across ethnic boundaries and appreciate other cultures despite the New Testament’s command to believers to reach out beyond their individual comfort zones.
“I’m stuck being who I am, and you are who you are,” he said. “But you can learn some different things to reach somebody. You can learn to appreciate some things from some different cultures and, yes, you can incorporate them into the life of your church.”
Only by faithfully living out Christ’s prescription in Acts 1, Lyons said, can the church ever hope to fulfill his plan of reaching the world through the power of one church. Lyons said it’s time to stop talking about the power of God and take that message to the streets.
“We talk too much,” he said. “The world is waiting to see.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: VISIONARY FOR CHURCHES.