Dear church,

Some blessings are in disguise. I talked to a pastor recently whose church began doing online sermons during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pastor’s father was an old construction worker. The pastor said he learned every possible way to cuss when growing up – in multiple languages! His father was not a church-goer.

But the pastor said his father did start tuning into his online messages during the coronavirus lockdowns. And so father and son “attended” church together for the first time in their lives. The father died after about eight weeks of attending church. His son, the pastor, found great consolation in knowing they were together on those Sundays – in that unique way. They heard the same words from God during those gatherings.

The difficulty of COVID-19 brought blessings. It was a lesson to me to hear it.

And it was doubly a lesson in reading Acts 8. Stephen was martyred and the church began to be persecuted. And the church was scattered. It was a blessing in disguise.

Philip first went north to Samaria. He “proclaimed to them the Christ,” and many Samaritans put their faith in Jesus. These conversions brought out Peter and John to the same region. They finished the work of Philip – and had a little run-in with Simon the Magician” – and then traveled back to Jerusalem “preaching the gospel” as they went.

Philip then went south to the road to Gaza. Notice how the church was scattered by persecution, and the gospel began to spread in two directions (at least). Philip met up with the Ethiopian eunuch, who was probably a Jewish convert, and found himself telling the man the good news about Jesus.

This is a chapter about the good news going out from Jerusalem. Jesus’ prophecy was being fulfilled – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Already, in these earliest days of the church, we see lives changed when people tell the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This was a vocal thing. Philip “proclaimed to them the Christ.” Peter and John had “testified and spoken the word of the Lord.” They were “preaching the gospel.” Philip “opened his mouth” and “told him the good news.”

Certainly, there is a lot of biblical support in this single chapter for the preaching of the gospel that we do every Sunday. The gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t a silent gospel. It is meant to be spoken. (We have a lot of introverts in our church, so this is a challenge for us!)

And so we preach the gospel when we gather. And we read God’s Word aloud to each other. And, lately, we’ve been sharing with one another the insights we’ve received from God’s Word – out loud with each other. There already is a biblical description in Acts of the church speaking the gospel together – “they lifted their voices together to God and said … ” (Acts 4:24-30).

And so we won’t ever stop being vocal readers and tellers of the gospel message.

You can practice this even today. Go find a quiet place and read today’s chapter out loud. Let God’s Word take oral form. Learn to hear your own voice say these things. This is practice – because we never were meant just to consume the Word. We were meant to speak it.

Chris

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