Sermon delivered July 12, 1997

by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

The Church Key

I have in my hand a "church key. Do you recognize that? (a pop bottle opener) Why do we call that a church key? Is it? No! It won't work. It's not a church key. I have in my hand another key. Do you think that will work? Is this the key to the church? Well, it is; and it isn't. What is the spiritual "key to the church?" Well, let's talk about that.

     Some churches are filled with tithers, 
             others are filled with tippers. 

          Some churches evangelize, and baptize,
             others fossilize. 

What makes a church successful? Fortunately the Bible has the answer. All you have to do is look at the first church. They were very successful. In Acts 2: 42-47 is the success story of the early church. They had three thousand one hundred twenty members. Here is what made the early church successful and vibrant. Here are ten keys to strong churches.

Something drastic must be done! Did you know that just 16 percent of Canadians aged 19 to 24 attend church, (according to Vision 2000 Canada). If current trends continue, 95% of Canada will be unchurched by the year 2000. -- Moody Monthly, January 1990 -- We used to think of them as a Christian nation a lot like ourselves. Something has to be done.

There are ten keys to a successful church listed in these few verses beginning with Acts 2:42

Key # 1--- Acts 2:42-- They devoted themselves to the apostle's teachings. They were faithful and true to what they had been taught: to the truth, to the doctrines, to their learning. They were students of the Bible. They knew the truth. They knew what they believed in. When a church drifts away from Bible preaching it disconnects itself from the source of life, Jesus. When a pulpit has social preaching instead of Bible preaching you are drifting away from success. Social preaching is to church members what uprooting a garden plant is to a gardener. I believe that we need to make sure that in our churches that we stay close to the Bible. Not only in the church, but in the homes you need to dig for truth every morning. Each member must also personally and daily dig for truth in the Scriptures.

KEY # 2--- Acts 2:42-- Not only did they devote themselves to the apostle's teachings, but they devoted themselves to fellowship, the breaking of bread. They associated together. They had a lot of good fellowship together. I think, perhaps the best counterfeit to what goes on here at the church is what goes on down at the neighborhood bar and the tavern.

People go there because they get fellowship there. No questions are asked. No addresses are given. But it's permissive, it's accepting in its fellowship. It's unshockable. It's democratic.

The bar flourishes not because people are alcoholics, but because the human heart desires fellowship. So they seek a counterfeit at the price of eternal loss. The same type of thing with the person who takes "crack", or the person who smokes marijuana. That individual is getting "high", slapping God in the face and saying, "I'm going to use some artificial means for my happiness."

Come to church. Linger. Fellowship. Visit. Make friends. Invite someone for lunch on Sabbath. Break bread together. Journey to heaven together.

Key # 3--- Acts 2:42 I says that they devoted themselves to PRAYER. You can't have a successful church without a praying people. We must be a people of prayer. Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?

The morning is the gate of the day, it should be immersed with prayer. Each end of the thread on which the day's actions are strung should be anchored in prayer. If we felt the majesty of life we should be more careful of its mornings. He who rushes from his bed to his business and waiteth not to worship is as foolish as though he had not put on his clothes, or cleansed his face, and as unwise as though he had dashed into battle without arms or armor. It is our privilege to bathe in the softly flowing river of communion with God, before the burden of the way begins to oppress us. -- Charles Spurgeon We need to have a life of prayer.

You can't live without prayer. You're going to fly off the handle without prayer. You need to begin the morning with prayer.

Key # 4-- Acts 2:43 says that Everybody was filled with AWE. We need some of that! The early church had a deep heart experience with Jesus. An inward reverence for God. They knew they had something special. They had the Holy Spirit in their lives. Their admiration and wonder for God were fresh and precious. Miracles were happening. They had the truth and they knew it. We serve an Awesome God! Keep fresh in your heart how great our God really is.

KEY # 5--- Acts 2:43 Many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles and witnessed by all these people. For a church of action: they were out doing these things for Jesus. The first church produced fruit. They were busy for God. They went out and helped people and miracles followed them. They lived a life of service to others. These early Christians did not cloister the good news to themselves, but they spread the good news. We can be thankful for that. We need to be a people that shares Jesus with others, to help others. We need to be a people who Witness, give studies. In helping others you strengthen yourself.

KEY # 6--- Acts 2:44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. They were unified. They had unity and cohesiveness. All the believers shared their assets and their time. They were unified. I appreciate that about this church. Do you notice all the trouble we have here at McDonald Road? They aren't very many are they? I wouldn't trade this church for any other church. I believe God wants His people unified.

Unity is one of the ingredients required to make up a successful church. Take a chocolate chip cookie for an example. A cookie requires several ingredients such as sugar, flour, oil, etc. Just so a church needs ingredients to make up the congregation. If I took the chocolate chips out of this cookie, what would I have? It wouldn't be a chocolate chip cookie anymore. If you leave this church as one of the viable ingredients of McDonald Road church we don't have the same church. It's not the same without you. You are a vital ingredient to this church. We need you. Unity is a vital ingredient for a church to have. I praise God for the unity in this church.

KEY # 7--- Acts 2:44(last part) and 45 It says they had everything in common. They sold their possession and goods and gave to everyone as they had need. They were a church of UNSELFISH GENEROSITY. I like that about the early church. The early Christians followed Jesus example by giving generously. Jesus gave His life for them, and they wanted to give as much to Him as possible. They sold their possessions for the cause that they believed in with all their heart.

A young evangelist was in need of a new suit. He didn't have much money. He found a pawn shop that had acquired a surplus of nice looking black suits from an undertaker. He bought one for a bargain. Only after getting the suit home did the young preacher realize that the suit had no pockets! In a funeral home you don't need pockets if you're in a casket when you're dead. In death you can't take it with you. The time to give is when you're living.

KEY # 8--- Acts 2:46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread together in homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Every day! Every day they worshipped. They had daily Worship. They attended church as often as possible. Those early Christians attended church every day! They actually went to the church and worshipped every day! EVERY DAY! Now, I believe we need to be more often in church. Church attendance ought to be special to us. So often it's not. We need to be in church.

Three pastors got together for postum one day and talked about a common problems. Each pastor found out that their church was infested with bats. They had these bats in the attic of their church.

One pastor said, "I got so mad, I took a shotgun and fired at them. It only made more holes to admit more bats."

"I trapped them alive," said the second. "Then I drove 50 miles before releasing them, but the bats beat me back to the church."

"I haven't had any more problems," said the third.

"What did you do?" asked the others, amazed.

"I baptized them, and I haven't seen them since."

Why is it that when some people are baptized they say, "Well, I did it. Now I can stay at home." We need to be faithful. When this early group of Christians formed a church, 3,120 member church, they were all were in attendance. They didn't have any back-sliders. They attended every day! We need to be there.

II Peter 2:20 makes a statement about the danger of not attending church. Did you know there is a danger in that? "If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning." It would have been better for them not to have found the way of righteousness than to have known it and then turned their backs on the sacred commandment that was passed on to them. Then it mentions what happens to a dog. Don't leave the church. The church is important. It is vital for your Christian walk with Jesus Christ.

There are a lot of excuses for not attending church. Can you imagine a dyed- in-the-wool sports fan giving reasons for giving up sports. Can you imagine a sports fan saying, "I'm not going to watch any more football in the fall, no more baseball in the summer, an no more basketball in the winter. I'm not going to attend those games. Forget it! I've had it all. I quit! I will never again attend sports.

    Here are my 11 reasons:
  1. - Every time I went, they asked for money.
  2. - The people I sat next to were not friendly so I'm not going back.
  3. - The seats were too hard and not comfortable at all.
  4. - The coach never came to my house and visited me.
  5. - The referees make decisions that I can't agree with so 'm not going back.
  6. - The game sometimes went into overtime and I got home late, and I can't stand that!
  7. - The music there wasn't my style of music.
  8. - Games are always scheduled when I am busy. I want to be somewhere else.
  9. - I suspect that I was sitting next to some hypocrites because they came just to see their friends and just sat there and talked the whole time and didn't even participate in the game.
  10. - I was taken to too many games by my parents when I was growing up, and I'm getting away from that.
  11. - It is so crowded, I didn't have any elbow room and I had to park way out: no room for parking close in. I'm not going back.

Can you imagine such a thing! I will tell you that a Christian without a church is like a honey bee without a hive. Life is just not as sweet! The church is made for keeping Christians strong. Attend church. Jesus went every Sabbath. Hebrews 10:25 (NIV) says, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- -and all the more as we see the Day approaching." We need to be in church. Quitting church is like quitting Jesus. Christians, like automobiles, begin missing before they quit!

KEY # 9)-- Acts 2:47 Indicates that the early church PRAISED God. They had a life of praise. Do you have a life of praise? I enjoy just praising God. Did you ever pray a prayer just of praise. It'll do something for you. James White used to come down the aisle of the church praising God and shouting praises to Him. I wonder if some churches would disfellowship him for that today. He had enthusiasm, shouting praises to God. You know, I believe preachers do a better job when there are lots of "AMENS" from the congregation. One reason so many black ministers preach powerful sermons is that their audiences support them.

The early church praised God. They lived a life of praise instead of doom. They were a happy people, a rejoicing people. God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, and the church is the gas station where you get that fuel; as well as your home; your own personal Bible study; as well as point number ten that's coming up next. Jesus is the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. Wise people praise Him.

I want to ask you a question: This early church that's mentioned here in Acts 2: they grew phenomenally. Did they advertise? Do you think they advertised? I believe they did. And I think the best advertisement for Christianity is a loving and loveable Christian. People could see the smiles on their faces. They could see these people praising God. A rejoicing Christian is one of God's best advertisements. That was a factor in the growth of the early church. So, Laugh a lot, and........when you are older, all your wrinkles will be in the right places. Praise God!

KEY # 10--- Acts 2:47 says they were respected and loved by everybody. They had the favor of all people. They were loving and loveable. Christians should be the most loving and loveable of all people. When you come into God's church you will be warmly and lovingly received. When you go out you will be respected. The church grows when its members are honest in their community; when they pay their bills; when they keep their word. Christians ought to be people who live the Christian life who don't have a double standard.

In the third century, Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage, wrote to his friend Donatus: "It is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and good people who have learned the great secret of life. They have found a joy and a wisdom which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are Christians... and I am one of them." I am pleased to be a Christian today. So thrilled to be a Christian.

These ten keys, that I have gone over with you, can be expressed in a negative way. The cause for failure in churches today, all ten of them,

1- The Unread Book                6- The Unbroken heart
2- The Uninvited friend           7- The Ungiven gift
3- The Unbent knee                8- The Unattended pew
4- The Unimpressed Soul           9- The Unhappy member
5- The Unused witness             10-The Unrespected Saint

When you come to church,   
Enter Expectantly
 Greet others Cordially
   Kneel Prayerfully,
     Study Diligently
      Worship Reverently
       Give Generously
        Listen Attentively
         Leave thoughtfully
          Share Truthfully
           And come back regularly

Let's try our best to be the type of Christian that others will look at us and say, "I want to be a member of that church. That church has something. And that something is Jesus Christ. I think it is high time that the last church gets the spirit of the first church so that we can all go home together.

Opening Hymn- 348
Closing Hymn- 365 
Scripture  Acts 2:41-47 (NIV)

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