We’re continuing a series entitled Simple. Over the next few weeks we’re going to be talking about our mission and vision; why we exist as a church. We’re going to talk about some of the same things we talked about in 2007 when we had this simple idea to start a church in South Tampa.
Because the thing is with simple ideas is that as you move down the road, sometimes people forget why they began doing it in the first place and they begin to complicate things. And I believe one of my primary jobs at Logos Dei is to keep things simple; don’t overcomplicate things. Keep the main thing, the main thing – no matter what season we find ourselves in as a church.
So, here we go . . .
When we began to think about starting a new church, we knew one thing . . . there were already a ton of churches in Tampa. The problem was that 80% of people in the area didn’t connect with any of them. Sure, there were churches growing but their growth came from the 20% who already went to other local churches but for whatever reason, were hopping around from one church to another.
So, in 2007 we began to dream about a church for people who didn’t go to church. I think our vision was best articulated by Jesus in Luke 15 . . . when one sheep gets lost, the shepherd will leave the ninety-nine others and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it
So that is what we did. A small group of us left a local church to start a new church for people who don’t go to church. Jesus said, “Leave the 99 for the 1 lost,” but in our case, we left the 20 to find the 80, because 80% of people—just don’t connect with God through the local church.
It’s not that people don’t want to connect with God, in fact, 95% of those who don’t connect with a church say that they want a connection with God . . . it’s just that they’ve either had an unpleasant experience with a church or see it as irrelevant with too many rules and hoops to jump through. The church was getting in the way of people connecting with God.
But I believe that church is the primary connection between people and God. I believe that church should be the magnet that draws people to God—not an impediment.
People should be able to walk into Logos Dei Church and say, “I didn’t understand all of it, and I’m not sure I believe all of it right now, but I like those people. They are so weird, but they are the finest people I have ever been with. There’s just something about them that draws me closer to God.”
That is our charge. Our mission.
This issue of the church getting in the way of people connecting with God is nothing new. That trend started in the first century; a few weeks after Jesus left the earth.
Let’s listen to our text: ACTS 15:1-19
Before we jump in, let’s put this in to context.
At first, those coming to Christ were Jewish; Jesus was Jewish, His disciples were Jewish, all the first Christians were Jewish. And because they were all Jewish, everybody knew the Old Testament, they knew the language, they knew the customs and traditions. They even met in Jewish synagogues.
And so naturally, they began assuming, “You have to become Jewish before you become Christian.”
Meanwhile, Paul is out in Gentile world telling everyone, “There’s this guy named Jesus, He came from God, He rose from the dead, and if you put your faith in Him, you can be forgiven of your sin.”
And these Gentiles who aren’t Jewish, begin to embrace the faith. They didn’t know all the Jewish customs and traditions—they just believed in Jesus.
When the folks back in Jerusalem got word that there were non-Jewish people becoming Christians and they weren’t adopting Jewish customs and traditions, they were like, “Hold on a minute. You can’t just love Jesus and believe in our God, you have to do some other stuff too.”
So, the church in Jerusalem calls a business meeting and they decide that unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.
Suddenly, what was supposed to be simple . . . For God so loves the world that he sent his son and who ever believes in him will have everlasting life . . . becomes complicated.
So, Paul and Barnabas, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to meet with these religious guys to share with them all these remarkable stories about how these Gentiles have come to faith and how it was evident that God was in their lives—without surgery.
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees, if you remember they are the one’s who job it was to make sure that all the rules are followed . . . they say to Paul, “Thanks for your stories and we think it’s great that they want to join our club—but not so quick! You must become Jewish to become a Christian.”
The leaders who know the law and have influence have created this HUGE obstacle for outsiders to believe in Jesus, because, they don’t want just anybody thinking they can be a part of this movement. They must be willing to pay the price if they want to join the club. Now where’s the scalpel?
In other words, “It is not simple. It is complicated.”
After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “If you make it difficult for unchurched people to become part of the church—if you make it difficult for people to connect with God through the church . . . you are testing God. You are working against God.
What’s God doing? Seeking to save that which was lost. Leaving the 99 to find the 1. But the church is protecting all that has already been found and making it difficult for those who have yet to be found.
So, Peter says, “Look, you want to put this heavy yoke on people who know nothing about Judaism—a yoke you and I couldn’t even bear? Come on! You haven’t even kept the law. In fact, you have to admit that in your dark times that the law is a pain in the neck. It’s a burden.
And yet, you want to take a law that you and I don’t even keep well, and you want to try to make these Gentiles . . . who have never heard of such silliness, follow them?
And at that point, the whole assembly becomes silent.
He goes on. “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
As Peter finishes his speech, James stands up and says something that totally rocked their world. Something that I want Logos Dei Church to be all about.
James says, “We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” We should not make it difficult for the 80% who long for a connection with God.
Coming to God should be easy and accessible to everyone. And if we don’t make it easy and accessible, we are testing God. We are working against God.
For some reason, the natural tendency is for the church to complicate it and to make it difficult for people who are turning to God. The church wants to say, “It can’t be quite that easy, because you’ve got to do, and you got to go, and you got to jump higher, and you can’t be involved in that.”
And before long, without really meaning to—nobody does this on purpose—we make it difficult for the people who are turning to God!
A few years ago, when we started all of this, we had one thing in mind—we’re going to make it easy and accessible.
Here at Logos Dei, we’re committed to making the Gospel easy and accessible. Because we believe that Jesus came not just for religious people, we believe Jesus came for everybody!
We don’t think the church is only for churched people—we think the church is for everybody!
Everybody is going to face a crisis in life and want to know, “Does God really care about me?”
Most people would love to be able to pick up a Bible but it makes no sense to them. So, we made a commitment—we’re going to keep it Easy and Accessible. No matter how much it costs—easy and accessible.
So, when someone who knows nothing about the Bible and Jesus shows up, they can say, “Okay… I can’t find Genesis, but boy, did I find a place where I can connect. I didn’t understand all of that stuff that guy said in his sermon, but my children sure do like it here!
Because the church is for everybody, because everybody matters to God!
God so loved the world (God so loved everybody) that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him has eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)