I see a church growing together in a faith so visible that people ask everywhere we go “what do you have that I don’t"?! "How do I experience that"?!
I have been captivated for some time by a particular story of Paul and Silas being thrown into prison. Not so much because of why they were thrown into prison (although there is a powerful message there) but what happened while they were in prison.
Quick background: Paul and Silas were taken to the authorities by the owners of a slave girl who made a great deal of money for them by “fortune-telling”. After a run-in with Paul and Silas the girl is set free from the oppressive spirit that made her susceptible to the manipulation of her owners. The freedom the girl experienced through Jesus meant that her owners would take a major financial hit. They learned what many have over the years, it’s hard to continue manipulating a person who has encountered the truth of God.
Not everyone is always excited when Jesus starts changing lives, especially when life change in you encroaches on the sometimes selfish bubble many have built around themselves. We all know those individuals who are happy that you or I have found something that makes us feel better as long as it doesn't really change anything in our relationship with them…this is tough when you have an authentic encounter with a loving God who is in the business of transforming EVERYTHING about you.
Acts 16:25-30 “25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (NIV)
There is so much wrapped up in this text that it is difficult to not unpack ALL of it. That is for another day. But, there is a key concept at work that I believe is crucial for us as a church to not only observe but to apply. As pastor of Journey Church Detroit I believe this is a part of the God given vision for our church: to grow together in a visible faith that shakes the foundation of a city. With careful observation we see the singing of Paul and Silas as a powerful picture of praising God in the tough times, although it didn’t seem to capture the attention of the “jailer” at all. We see that his life and eternity altering question “…what must I do to be saved?” came after something that is even more crazy than singing in jail…and that was staying IN the jail when the opportunity to escape was right in front of them.
There are many examples throughout scripture where great faith possessed by ordinary people was made very visible through their actions. What I love so much about this story is that it not only captures the importance of a faith backed by action, but it also demonstrates how sometimes our faith is made just as visible through inaction. Sometimes the statement made by what we do isn’t nearly as powerful as the statement made by what we don’t do.
This is not a plug for “lifestyle evangelism” as there is no substitute for verbally sharing about God’s love demonstrated though Jesus. (Romans 10:14). The key lies in what happens next. If we keep reading the story we see in Acts 16:31-32 that because of what Paul and Silas did (which really is more about what they didn’t do) an important opportunity arose. Because their faith and trust in God was made so visible, it lead to the opportunity to share about Jesus not only with just the jailer but now with his whole household!
It so very important that our relationship with Jesus is not something we tuck into a closet and only pull out on Sunday mornings. I believe that visible faith, while looking different for everyone in different situations, is one of the methods God will use to transform the Detroit metro area (or any city for that matter). Think of the power that exists when a group of people unite under the Name of Jesus and commit to impacting every square inch of their sphere of influence for the kingdom of God!
I believe the church exists in part to do just that (Ephesians 4:11-12). Think of the possibilities that exist if a movement were to take off in which people grew together in a visible faith that caused others to ask them everywhere they went…”what must I do to have what you have?”. I believe with all my heart that this is exactly what we are standing on the edge of in the Detroit Metro area.
Visible faith can instill hope in others that they might also experience what we have. When we allow the love of God to overflow out of us we see the perfect storm of public faith, contagious hope, and limitless love. FAITH + HOPE + LOVE = A City Transformed.
- Pastor Bill Comai -