“You’re starting a mission church? What’s that? Why are you starting a new church?”
If I had a nickel for every time I have heard that question over the past month, I’d be a rich man. For those of you who haven’t heard yet, we are starting a new church in the DC area called St. Timothy & St. Athanasius Coptic Orthodox church.
The concept is similar to the “mission church” idea that has sprung up in some spots of Canada and America [see www.smsv.ca and www.stpaulchicago.org] – one where we can share Christ and our Coptic Orthodox faith without some of the cultural barriers that might hinder the spread of the gospel in America.
Not that I needed a reminder, but just in case I did, God gave me one this morning. He reminded me of why we are doing what we are doing. This morning I read Acts chapter 10 – the story of Cornelius. It is a wonderful story that I encourage everyone to read. But if you need a quick summary, here is what happens.
Cornelius is a devout man who fears God, but he has just one problem…he isn’t Jewish. He is a Gentile and therefore – according to the common belief at the time – he could not be a worshipper/child of God. At this point, there had not yet been any spreading of the gospel to Gentiles. In other words, being a child of God was restricted only to an ethnic group of people who had thousands of years of history with God.
But all that changed in Acts 10. Acts 10 is a turning point in history. By the end of Acts 10, God had made it clear that the gospel was not just for those born into the faith. God showed that no human being is unclean or unwelcome in His heart and in His kingdom – including those outsiders that we walk right past every day. Most of all, as St. Peter eloquently put it,
“In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35).
Why are we starting a new church in the DC area? Because “in truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.” The DC area has many souls who fear God and work righteously. They are here and just like Cornelius, they yearn for the Truth. They long for the same gospel and the same salvation that came to me and many others at a young age.
The new church is our way of fulfilling the Acts 10 mandate – to take the gift that He has given us and begin proactively spreading it throughout our community – knowing full well that “what God has cleansed you must not call common” (Acts 10:15).
The message today is that God shows no partiality. We are not any better because we have been in the church longer than others. God loves the unchurched just as much as He loves church people. It is time for us, the Body of Christ, to put our hands together and shine the light of Christ’s gospel and His message to everyone around us – whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, American or Egyptian or whatever.
“I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22