The clarity of the message is very important
|Some men came from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.' This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. (Acts15:1-2)|
In the first verse of the Book of Acts, Luke gives a very clear yet subtle clue as to the main topic of his second volume. The Book of Acts (his second volume) is about the ongoing ministry of Jesus. In Acts 1:1 Luke indicates this by stating that his former book (Luke's Gospel) is only about what Jesus "began" to do and teach. Acts will trace Jesus' ministry onwards and outwards "to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). In the light of Jesus' ongoing ministry, the role of the disciples is to be "witnesses" of what they see and hear of Jesus' work and teaching (Acts 1:8).
When a controversy arose over the question of circumcision or non-circumcision of Gentiles, as seen in Acts 15, the way that the Christian leaders handled the situation was to go back and together trace how Jesus had been at work and what pointers the work of the Holy Spirit gave on this issue. As they strove to be faithful witnesses of Jesus' ongoing presence and involvement in the world their attention was drawn to what had taken place when Peter had been invited by Cornelius the Gentile, to visit him in his home and to minister to him, his wider family and Gentile friends. After listening attentively to the discussions and testimonies, James summed up the conclusion that they came to as follows: "Simon (Peter) has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself... It is my judgement that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God." In this way the church collectively identified what God was doing and as a consequence, aligned itself with the ongoing ministry of Jesus.
The end of the Book of Acts is left open ended without giving a clear conclusion to either Paul's ministry or his life. This open ending is a subtle reminder to all of us today that the challenge of being witnesses of Jesus' ongoing ministry still applies. Jesus' work and ministry has never come to an end. Today, the issue of whether to be circumcised or not is resolved but other new and just as pertinent issues face us.
To be a missional congregation or church is not a question of having new and fancy programmes, but for Ministers and Sessions and each Christian, like the early Apostles, to discern where and how Jesus is at work in one's context and to align one-self and one's congregation with the ministry of Jesus.
Eddie Germiquet is Ministry Secretary of the UPCSA and is closely involved in the selection and training of candidates for the ministry. He was ordained in 1978 and prior to his present position ministered in a number of congregations including St Paul's (East London); Fort Beaufort (Eastern Cape); Meyrin Protestant Church (Geneva) and Durbanville (Western Cape). He is married to Lauren and has four grown up children.