Thursday, September 3, 2015


Ah...the old Encyclopedia Britannica.  With a random bust of Napoleon, naturally.

Once upon a time, there were Encyclopedias.  People sold them in malls and door to door.  Parents would lay out hundreds of hard-earned dollars so that their kids could have access to knowledge on virtually every subject.  The books would arrive in a big wooden shipping crate, space would be cleared on the family bookshelves for all twenty hardback volumes, and the next time little Billy Bob needed to know where Dwight Eisenhower was born, or who fought in the Crimean War, or what year the Titanic sank, he could find out without leaving his house.  But it was expensive, took up an enormous amount of space, and was immediately obsolete; between the time you ordered the books and they arrived, stuff happened that wasn’t covered in them.  Then, at the turn of the 21st century, a couple of internet entrepreneurs had a crazy idea to create a free online encyclopedia with articles written not by experts but by regular people.  Anyone who wanted to write an article could do it; after all, everyone is an expert on something.  That way, it would be available to anyone with a computer and an internet signal, and it would be constantly up to date.  In January 2001, Wikipedia was launched.  Wiki is the Hawaiian word that means “quick.”  A wiki is a webpage that doesn’t have an author; instead, people who read it are the authors.  Critics said it would never work.  “You can’t have ordinary people writing articles on an encyclopedia; you’ll just spread the ignorance.”  They underestimated the intelligence of the common person.  Just try editing a Wikipedia page in an incorrect way.  If you went on the page for the Houston Texans right now and wrote, “The Texans are the best team in the NFL,” within minutes, someone would see that and challenge it.  On the other hand, if you wrote, “since their founding, the Texans have won 88 games and lost 120,” and you cited a source like, it would stand.  Today, 495 million people from all over the world visit Wikipedia every month.  It contains so much information, if you tried to put it in print form, it would take over 15,000 volumes.  It has democratized knowledge in a profound way.  For most of my life, and for the years before, you learned things by asking experts and hoping to find the right books.  Now, all you have to do is look it up on your smartphone.  In fact, I’ll bet someone right now is checking their phone to see if I was right about the Texans’ all-time record.

We’re in a series called “What the World Needs Now.”  The Bible says what the world needs is to be reconciled with the God who made us, that reconciliation can only happen through Jesus Christ His Son, and they will only meet Jesus when His people, the Church, start being what we’re called to be.  We’ve talked about the need for a radical revival in churches today, how we need to put Him fully in charge of our lives and our congregations.  We talked last week about how, if we want to transform our community, each of us is must be willing to do more.  But what are we each supposed to do, specifically?  That’s what this Sunday's message is about. 

And here’s the sermon in a sentence: Our church will never be what it was meant to be until we truly democratize ministry.  Let me put that another way: Most members of evangelical churches think, “My job as a church member is to attend, give an offering, and pray, so the professional, trained clergy have the resources to do the real work of saving souls and changing the world.”  And those are the good church members!  Frankly, I think Satan is thrilled with that arrangement.  That way works for a lot of us, too: Ministers like me are happy because it makes us feel important and keeps us employed.  Members are happy because it absolves them of responsibility; they can see their churches as a place to get their spiritual and emotional needs met.  You know who isn’t well-served by that arrangement?  Lost people.  They never get introduced to the One who could save them.  99% of them are never going to visit a church on their own.  Even fewer will meet an ordained, seminary-trained minister in person.   They are left on their own.  Think again about encyclopedias.  For hundreds of years, they seemed like a great idea, the most logical way to get information to people.  Then some computer nerds said, “Why not put the knowledge in the hands of everyone?”  And it worked.  We need a similar thing to happen in our church; we need a Wikichurch, where everyone does their part.  Jesus had this idea two thousand years before Wikipedia was ever even thought of.  Sunday, we'll look at how it happened in the early church, in Acts 6.

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