Dr. E. Dale Locke & Rev. Trevor Johnston
Sermon Series: The Exciting Church
Week 1: That Remembers its Beginnings
1. In this series, we’re going to talk about, “What makes a church a church?” Before you heard this sermon, how would you have answered this question?
2. This sermon series is called “Exciting Church.” If you’ve had past experiences with church that were less-than exciting, share about that with the group. (Please don’t name the church! The goal isn’t to bash other churches, but rather to learn from our experiences.)
3. What might be some reasons why many churches are not really known for being exciting or are even experienced as outright boring?
4. Read Matthew 16:13-20: When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
5. Normally our Bible translations are very accurate, but over the centuries, the word “church” in verse 18 has been translated in a couple of different ways, with very different meanings. The original Greek word is “ekklesia” which means “an assembly or gathering” and puts the focus on the people who make up the church. But the Goths (an Eastern Germanic tribe from around 300 A.D.) translated that word in verse 18 as “Kirch” which means “the Lord’s House” and focuses more on the building. This has had an impact on the view of what the church is, even up to this day. What difference would it make in practice if people think that Jesus was talking in verse 18 about a building or a monument, rather than about people?
6. Most of the beautiful cathedrals of Europe are nearly empty, when it comes to their worship services. What do you think happened to cause the decline in church attendance across Europe?
7. William Tyndale was the first person to translate the Bible into the English language. He did this at a time when the Bible in each church building was chained to the pulpit and only the pastor or priest was allowed to read it and explain it to others. Why did William Tyndale feel it was important for ordinary people to have the Bible in their own language, rather than just hearing it read and explained by professional religious leaders?
8. Tyndale translated word “ekklesia” in Matthew 16:18 as “congregation” meaning a gathering of people. Why did this word feel threatening to the church authorities at that time?
The church as a movement!
9. Jesus said that his church would be built on everyone who answered his question the way that Peter did. What would be your personal answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you think I am?”
10. Why is this such an important question?
11. Acts 1:8 records Jesus’ last words to his followers before he returned to heaven from earth. Read his words there: “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.”
What does this verse tell you about Jesus’ purpose for the church to exist?
12. What makes a church exciting?
13. How can we as a church avoid the tendency to drift toward becoming more of a monument than a movement?