#DISTRUPTIVECHURCH - THESSALONICA
Read Acts 17:1-9
Thessalonica was a leading city in Macedonia three days distance from Philippi down the Via Egnatia. In focusing on Thessalonica, Paul and his team continued their strategy of brining the gospel to major cultural centers of the Greco-Roman world. Though Paul only stayed a short time in this city – we see that the whole city was disrupted by the introduction of the gospel message and the small community of people who responded to it. Whenever the gospel comes to your city, your church or life - expect disruption. Not just a little - the kind that turns your world upside down.
The Cause – the gospel is a disruptive message
In Thessalonica, Luke highlights Paul’s approach to sharing the disruptive message of the gospel. He used four words to describe his delivery – reasoned, explaining, proving, proclaim. Taken together, we see that Paul was very careful not to be disruptive in his approach to talking to other people about the message of Jesus. Paul knew the normal process of coming to faith in Jesus involved reason, reflection, questions and time.
Though Paul was very careful in how he shared the message; it was what he shared that ignited an uproar in the city. Verse 3 says Paul’s main focus was on how it “was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead” (also see Luke 24:25-27)
This message is so disruptive because it completely turns upside down most people’s understanding of the message of Christianity. Most people think the message of Christianity is, “In order for you to be approved and accepted by God and be a Christian … here is what’s necessary for you to do”. But Paul was saying the whole bible is not about what we need to do; it’s about our need & what God has done in Jesus to meet that need. The necessity of a suffering and dying Savior means we are so broken and sinful we can’t save ourselves.
This message disrupts everyone – whether religious or irreligious. Both religious moralists and irreligious skeptics approach Christianity as a system of self-salvation based on moral performance. But the necessity of a suffering Savior means our sin and brokenness are so deep and so serious that are only hope is to have substitute stand in our place.
The Effect – the gospel disrupts the status quo
The picture of this new church in Thessalonica also shows us that no one was neutral to this disruptive message. Some were persuaded; others rejected the message and stirred up a mob - but no one was indifferent.
The Jewish leaders who rejected the message did not reason or dialogue with Paul. Instead they become “jealous”. This new community formed of Jews, Greeks and leading women was a threat to their religious/social status quo. Likewise, the Greeks who rejected the message didn’t give a fair hearing or trial to the Christians accused of disrupting the city. They were concerned this new movement was a threat to their social/political status quo.
On the other hand, those who were persuaded (v4) joined a new community that immediately turned their world upside down. Jason (host of the new church) and the others were willing to let go of their previous status quo life to follow this new King Jesus no matter what the cost.
This shows us two things 1) Christianity is most difficult for those who have the most to gain for keeping their status quo intact 2) Spiritual growth always involves a disruption to our status quo. A Christian should regularly ask: What is keeping me from fully following Jesus in life and mission? Could it be that I am too comfortable it in my status quo?
The Benefit – the gospel turns us and the world right side up
Why does the gospel disrupt our lives? Verses 6-7 give us the answer – it’s in order that God might turn our lives upside down as we learn to follow Jesus as king. Disruption is how Jesus “right sides up” the world and us.
Disruption reveals what we are hoping in for change– Luke wants us to see that the charges made against Paul and the church were, in one sense, complete false. They had no interest in opposing or replacing Caesar. Christianity’s hope for change (for right side upping the world) is not in politics. Luke wants us to see that Paul and the church were not attempting a political revolution because Jesus’ kingdom is independent of and not dependent upon any political system, emperor, nation or President.
Disruption is how God turns us right side up - If following Jesus as King means He will turn our worlds upside down, the most disruptive times in our life are the times we have the greatest opportunity to grow. From small disruptions, to bigger life disruptions, we should listen and look for how God might be at work in the chaos, difficulties and dead ends of life.
What about the sermon stood out to you or impacted you most? Do you have any follow up questions about the sermon?
How do you read the bible upside down? In other words, how to you approach the people looking for what you need to do rather than the story of what God needed to do for you? How have you learned to read the bible “right side up”? Are you still learning? What difference does it make whether we read the bible from the
If the gospel isn’t regularly disrupting us, then we have to ask ourselves if we are missing the message.” Do you agree with this statement? Why is the message so disruptive? How has the message of Jesus disrupted you?
Is there area of your life where you feel like you are settling for the status quo instead of following Jesus? What would it look like for the gospel to disrupt you in this?
Why is it important to see that Jesus kingdom is independent of and not dependent upon any earthly nation, ruler or system of government?
“The most disruptive times in our life are the times we have the greatest opportunity to grow” Is this true for you? Are you in the middle of a disruptive time? How might God be turning your “life right side up”?