A Challenge We Are Willing to Accept

By August 28, 2016Church

4:17 pm, Sunday, July 20, 1969

People gathered around their television or watched through a store window. What were they watching? The moon landing.

September 12, 1962

It was on this date that President John F. Kennedy spoke at Rice University regarding the goal of sending a person to the moon:

“But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”

Not because they are easy, but because they are hard. A challenge we are willing to accept, unwilling to postpone, and intend to win.

I wonder how the 11 apostles felt as they gathered with Jesus 40 days after his resurrection. They had seen him crucified, dead, and buried. They were eyewitnesses to his resurrection.

Now they are gathered around him – not knowing he is about to ascend back to the father. As far as they know, it’s a regular day.

They ask him a question like it’s any other day:

“6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)

But Jesus doesn’t directly answer their question. Instead, he offers them a vision for their lives:

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8

He tells folks who had never travelled more than 100 miles from where they were born that they were going to be his witnesses at home and around the world.

And – by the way – world will like you about as much as they liked me.

This vision will not only transform them but the world. Notice how the Book of Acts records their progress …

  • Acts 2:41: About 3,000 were added to their number that day.
  • Acts 4:4: But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
  • Acts 5:14: Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.
  • Acts 6:1: In those days when the number of disciples was increasing
  • Acts 6:7: So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
  • Acts 9:31: Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.Acts 12:24: But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.
  • Acts 16:5: So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

And there are still 12 chapters left in the book!

We still live in Acts 1:8 world, only we’re not in a Jerusalem neighborhood and Pueblo isn’t quite the same as Samaria (it’s close).

Our Jerusalem is where we live. It’s South Denver. It’s our communities. It’s your neighborhood.

Our Judea and Samaria are those regions close to home but more than a ten-minute drive. For Mountainview, that would be Denver Metro and Colorado as a whole.

When Jesus spoke of the “ends of the earth,” he wasn’t advocating for a flat earth. He was reminding us that the gospel is for people both near AND far away. In a day and age when the disciples might never travel more than 100 miles from home, the “ends of the earth” weren’t that far away.

For Mountainview, it is places such as Ukraine, North Africa, the Middle East, Nepal, and Jamaica.

I believe we have a graduated responsibility for each part of Acts 1:8.

We have a primary responsibility to impact our Jerusalem – South Denver. This is where God has placed us and he did so for a purpose.

There are 17 churches in Highlands Ranch. This includes 2 Catholic, 3 Lutheran, 2 Methodist, and non-denominational churches. 5 meet in schools. 10 of the 17 would be considered conservative, evangelical churches. Of those 10, Mountainview would be the 3rd largest behind Cherry Hills and Mission Hills (technically they’re not in HR but I’m choosing to love my neighbor!).

There are 100,000 people who live in Highlands Ranch. Not everyone who attends church in Highlands Ranch lives in Highlands Ranch. But let’s assume they did.

To reach 75% of the people who live in Highlands Ranch, each church would have to average 4,500 people. To reach 50% of the population, that would be 3,000. To reach only 25% would mean 1,500 each. And this would include every church that meets in a school.

And this is just Highlands Ranch! When you look at South Denver as a whole, the need is even greater.

Let’s put faces on those 100,000. They are …

  • Husbands and wives, moms and dads.
  • Engineers and accountants.
  • The people who own the businesses you shop at.
  • The students who sit in classrooms.
  • The people who spend their nights watching Netflix.
  • The people who have no immediate family nearby to spend holidays with.
  • The divorced, the widowed, and the never married.
  • The people who sit in the ICU waiting rooms by themselves.

Personally, I’m not all that interested in 4,500 or 3,000 or 1,500 people attending Mountainview.

I am very interested in having every person within our sphere of influence having the opportunity to hear that God loves them and has a plan for their life.

It’s why we need new and strategic places of worship here in Highlands Ranch. We need new and strategic places of worship in Sterling Ranch, in Littleton, and in the older neighborhoods where young 20 and 30-somethings are moving into.

According to Jesus, the power is in the Holy Spirit. We cannot make a difference across the street – much less across the world – unless the Holy Spirit provides the people, the resources, the power.

Why did Jesus give the Acts 1:8 mandate right before ascending back to heaven? I believe point of ascension is about perspective.

It is always our challenge to rise above the day-to-day routines and activities and to see the world as God wants it to be.

The truth is, there is much that tries to hold us down – in our lives, in the church, and in the world. But the message of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus is this: God will not be held down. We cannot be held down.

How many of you remember the old station wagons? Wood paneling. Vinyl seat covers. The rear-facing third seat. For a kid, that was great.

For a church, it’s not.

We must remain a forward-thinking, forward-looking church.

In 1962, President Kennedy told the nation: “we choose to do these things “not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because they will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”

That goal was to put a man on the moon.

Our goal – our vision – is not to put men and women on the moon, but to help them find heaven.