Acts 1: What does the church do when faced with a monster task?
The “monster mission”
What do you do when you’re given a monster task with not enough resources or time to accomplish it?
You’ve just been elected to PTA, given monster task of raising $100K for computers, by June 1.
A letter from IRS arrives certified mail: you’re being audited, five years of receipts.
You’ve been promoted, you’ve got to sell the house and move in 1 month.
You have personal debt that seems to be mounting, school loans, house, car, and it doesn’t seem to be going the right way.
What do you do when faced with a monster challenge? How does the early church respond to the monster task Jesus has given?
In this first text in the Acts series (Acts 1), Jesus gives His disciples a monster task: In Acts 1:8 Jesus says, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth!”
What I want us to see is how the disciples responded to this monster task . . . then think about how we respond to monster tasks in our lives, church, and world.
The disciples look up
The risen Jesus gives a monster task (we’re going global!). Then Jesus leaves! What is the disciples first response? They are amazed that Jesus has just left them! Do you ever feel this way, like Jesus has left you? What did it feel like, looking up into the sky and hearing the angel say, “What are you looking at?”
When they finally look at each other, what do they do? How do they respond to this monster task of going global?
Does one of the disciples say, “We better form a committee!” This is church work, right!
Does another say, “Samaria, that’s mission work” and if we’re going to go “to the ends of the earth?” we’re going to need a mission committee!
How does the first collection of 120 disciples of Jesus, the first church, respond to this monster task?
More ministry staff! Greeters! Name tags! Deacons!
With all these people being baptized, we’re going to need a warm baptistery!
In Acts 5 they have their first church deaths (Ananias and Sapphira) . . . funeral arrangements! More church stuff. Growing or declining church? New building, renovate, buy, sell, budgets, programs, ministries!
The first disciples did none of these things. What did they do? When churches face monster challenges, the first thing many churches do is to organize their own MIGHT, and that’s why the first church’s response is so surprising!
Look at Acts 1:14. When Jesus gave the first church a monster task, the first thing they did was to pray. And later in chapter 1, when replacing Judas as one of the important and symbolic 12 (Israel) apostles, they select two men, but they pray first (v. 24). Only after praying do they draw straws and leave it to God to decide further.
Who taught the disciples to pray?
So, where did the disciples learn to pray first? The disciples knew Jesus had fasted and prayed before entering ministry (Luke 5). They experienced Jesus praying all night before selecting apostles (Luke 6:12). In Luke-Acts, I believe Luke wants us to see the primacy of the Holy Spirit and prayer. He shows Jesus praying and disciples asking, and Jesus instructing them on prayer in Luke 11. And Luke with the other gospel writers shows Jesus praying before going to the cross.
So the churches learned from Jesus that before a monster task, before healing, before choosing the twelve, before going to the cross, Jesus prayed. They learned this prayer strategy from Jesus. How did churches historically respond to slavery, war, sin, monster challenges?
Martin Luther said, “I have so much to do every day, that I will never accomplish it without starting my day with three hours of prayer!”
Abraham Lincoln said: “I have been many times driven to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of those about me seemed insufficient for the day.”
What about our church? Your church? God’s church today? When faced with a monster challenge, we need more committees, right? We need to organize, more ads, a better web site, a better preacher, ministers, relevant programs? Of course there is nothing wrong with improvement, in fact, we always want to improve at The Journey! But where do we begin when faced with monster challenges?
We begin with prayer
We learn from the first church, who learned from Jesus that the first strategy for a monster task is this: Prayer. What does it look like to have a Prayer Strategy? The Journey has learned from these stories and our life together, by necessity and collective crying out in problems we face, that prayer is our first and best response to any monster mission, task, or problem. Keep reading the book of Acts, and we’re going to see the disciples, over and over, imitating Jesus to make prayer the first response, calling upon the name of the Lord as their first and best strategy for the monster mission task to take the gospel global.
Greg Taylor, M.Div.
Greg Taylor is the preacher for The Journey. He holds degrees in Print Journalism from Harding University and a Master of Divinity from Harding School of Theology. Greg is working on his Doctor of Ministry at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where The Journey is located. Greg is married to Jill, who is a math teacher at Broken Arrow High School. They have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob, and of course they are very proud of each of what God has done in each one of their lives. Greg is author of several books you can order from your favorite bookseller.