Defying Gravity Part 1: Church for Unchurched People

On Sunday 7th February at our morning service, we started a new series called 'Defying Gravity' with a talk called 'Church for Unchurched People'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

If you would like to listen to the talk on-line, please click here.

We used aclip of the space shuttle lauching to open our service. You can watch that by clicking here.

Just before the talk we watched a trailer for the film Moneyball. You can watch that by clicking here.

Talk Notes and Summary


Churches have been given a mission by Jesus – he was really clear about it. Jesus said that the mission of the church should be seeking and saving the lost. That was his priority and he said that the church was to be his body, his representatives when he was no longer on earth so that ought to be the church’s priority too.

The problem is that there is a gravitational pull that continually pulls churches in a different direction and that is towards church people.

We need to apply considerable force to break free from this pull and focus on unchurched people. But it’s not easy – it’s why Jesus was crucified, because he prioritised non religious people and the religious people didn’t like it.

Throughout history the church has struggled with this and has been dragged back by this gravitational force field. One example we are going to look at today comes from one of the first churches and the story is in Acts chapter 15 verses 5 to 20. You can read that by clicking here. The church was in a place called Antioch.

In Antioch lots of people become Jesus followers and many of them weren’t Jewish – they are what were called then Gentiles. And suddenly the church was faced with a dilemma. Was Jesus for everyone or was he just for the Jews (Jesus was a Jew). And if he was for everyone what about all the religious laws and practices that the Jews had kept up until then, should everyone have to do them? Which doesn’t seem too bad until you realise that one of those practices was for all the men to be circumcised!

A couple of leaders Paul and Barnabas are appointed to travel back to Jerusalem from Antioch to ask the leaders there what they should do. Some of the new Jesus followers argue that they must be circumcised (verse 5). Peter then stands up and argues the opposite view (verses 6 to 11). Peter says being saved, following Jesus is not to do with whether you conform to some laws or not.

James the brother of Jesus – then gets up to speak (verses 14 to 20). James says in verse 19 we should not make it difficult for the gentiles who are turning to God, and circumcision makes it difficult.

What was true back then should be true for us today. We should make it as easy as possible for people , we should encourage it, welcome it, partner with God to make it possible. But churches often make it incredibly difficult for people to turn to God. We put up invisible barriers like the jargon and language that we use, our attitudes, our insistences that God is only for people like us, the way we do things, the methods that we use.
How do we do that? How do we make it easy for people to turn to God?

Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)

1. Prioritise: in our lives and in our churches make lost people a priority and often that means sacrifice.

2. Be intentional: it’s so easy for this gravitational field to drag us back this way…for the busyness of life to lead us into what is easy rather that an intentionality for the lost – both in our church and personal lives.

3. We need to rediscover Jesus’ heart for the lost.

4. We need to invite people. All the statistics tell us that the way lost people come to meet Jesus is through personal relationships.

We need to step out, take risks and move with boldness, be prepared to give up some of the things we like for the sake of the unchurched. We need to follow Jesus in his priority for the lost .We need to defy gravity, prioritise the lost and make it easy for people to turn to God

Questions for Reflection

1. Can you think of any examples where people or organisations have lost sight of their primary mission?

2. Do you agree that the primary mission of the church is to seek and to save the lost?

3. William Temple the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1942 said “The church is the only organisation, that does not exist for itself, but for those who live outside of it” what does this mean? Do you agree with him?

4. Why do you think the religious laws and rituals made it difficult for people to turn to God in Antioch?

5. What does it mean to make it easier for people to turn to God?

6. How might we do that? Can you think of ways churches sometimes make it difficult for people to turn to God?

7. How might you in your life make it easier for people to discover God?