Pieces: Our Connection

Act (NASB) 4:32-37 (32) And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. (33) And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. (34) For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales (35) and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. (36) Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), (37) and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.

I’ve never had much patience for puzzles. Models, now those were a little bit more my speed – a 3 dimensional puzzle. Much more hands on. But what really got me…that would be Legos. Pieces that could be brought together not just in a model but could be taken apart and built into new models.

We’ve got to have all the pieces. To merely have wisdom or to only be recepients of grace leaves us as fat house cats – becoming consumers, never realizing what we are called to be – the Church – people of a mission.

When Luke went from recording the history of Jesus’ life to recording the history of the early church, he made the leap. In the verses we read, Luke connects what the disciples were teaching about Jesus – all that we say in the Apostle’s Creed – with extraordinary and regular social concern.

What the church did, was come together, to connect with God and with one another. They had pursued wisdom – knowing the truth about Jesus and received God’s grace – that Jesus had died for the forgiveness of their sins. When they came together – they became the church. They shared a message (v 33), they shared a common passion (v. 32), and they shared a willingness to share with those in need (v 34-35).

This was the kind of study of the Bible that inspired John Wesley to rethink church. It was his pursuit of wisdom and receiving grace that helped him see there was another way to see church: there needs to be a passion for the Gospel of Jesus AND for others and there needs to be accountability – everything can’t be laid at one apostle’s feet BUT all of them. But what was more, Wesley said there should and could be an EVIDENCE for individuals and others – FRUITS of the change – like the life Barnabas lived (v 36-37).

John Wesley once said, “The love of Christ constrains us, not only to be harmless, to do no ill…but to be useful, to be “zealous of good works”; “as we have time, to do good unto all…”

A little girl went up to the neighbors on a errand for her mother. She was late getting home and her mother asked for the reason why. The child shared that her friend had fallen down while carrying her favorite doll and the doll had broken. She had stayed to help her friend. The mother wondered what her daughter could have done to help her friend fix the doll. The little girl replied simply, “I just sat down and helped her cry.”

Sometimes, sharing ourselves is enough. But as a church, we are part of mission – part of the Church – something bigger than ourselves. British battleships have been known to have a sign on the bridge of their ship stating: “Remember the Next Astern.” It is a reminder to the captain that as part of a fleet, to think before issuing orders which may create difficulties with the nearest vessel.

At Crossroads, we value our connection to God and to our community. As a United Methodist Church, we are a church that believes in connection. We believe that we can do more together than we could do on our own. We believe it is in keeping with the church of the New Testament and the movement that John & Charles Wesley began which became the United Methodist Church we know today.

Is the Church perfect? No. Are her pastors perfect? Are her people perfect? No. So if all things were equal, we’d be failures but it is Jesus’ desire to make us perfect. So all things are NOT equal!

We are being called to RETHINK Church. Look around you. Haven’t you already been rethinking church? We’re meeting in a school, in a gymnasium. Honestly, I’ve been laughed at in conversation about whether we could do what we’re doing. From the music, to the acolytes, to the banners, to the canned food drive, to pet blessings, to Murphy-Harpst Children’s home, Shine Time, Connection groups; we ReThink.

One consultant said to me in the form of a question, “You really like being a church planter in a denomination?” Yes. But not any one – this one. There is a continent-wide University in Africa because of the United Methodist Church. M.U.S.T. Ministries exists because of the United Methodist Church. Crossroads United Methodist Church exists because of the United Methodist Church.

Out of pursuing wisdom and receiving grace, came the vision to see a church exist in north Paulding. A church unique in that WE are part of a larger connection. Unique because you and I know better than any how important giving is. The funding to help Crossroads came from every church in North Georgia. Every United Methodist Church in North Georgia has been paying and will be paying part of my salary for 5 years.

Why? Because as a church, we can do more together than we can on our own. Beginning the end of June, Crossroads will have to begin paying part of my salary for the first time – we’ve grown up enough for that, we’re moving from baby to toddler and we’re making a difference because we CAN do more together than we can on our own.

In June, I’ll be going to Athens, GA as part of a yearly meeting which we do with pastors and church members. This Annual Conference is important for a number of things. For Crossroads, we have a unique chance to do more together this year here in our first year. There is an incredible need that our connection is aware of that I’d like to share with you today.

Outside of the United States, there is a larger connection of Methodist Churches called the Central Conferences. Like our North Georgia Annual Conference, pastors and their families serve faithfully.

Rev. Peeter serves in Estonia. At 80 and retired, continues to serve a small group of Estonians who gather each week for Sunday worship and midweek prayers at the United Methodist church in Narva on the Estonia-Russia border. The voice he combined with those of others to sing for church groups during the Soviet years is still strong.

Tabitha is a member of Revelation United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and the church would not be the same without her. In addition to her choir duties, she is chairperson of evangelism, serves as conference and district women's society adviser, and works with the women's group in the church. She is still a faithful member of the last church where her husband was pastor before he died in 1998. The Rev. Alfred Katsande was a pastor for 40 years. He retired from Revelation United Methodist Church in 1997 at the age of 72.

The difference is that Peeter receives a pension from a pilot program we in the US began a few years ago. Tabitha receives no pension. Throughout the Central Conferences, there are many like Peeter and Tabitha who have served and today need to be served. They have a need. Our family has already committed to supporting one pastor’s pension plan. It costs $38 a month for 3 years to fund this one pension and meet the General Conference goal. I’m asking you in the next few moments to consider your support. Would you match us? If every family at Crossroads committed to give $1 a month for three years – you can match our family’s support. The $38 a month is above our tithe of 10% and other giving.

It is our chance to do more together than we could ever do on our own. It is about our connection.

For more information visit: www.ccpi-umc.org

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