Acts 10 is an important chapter in the history of the early church because it transitions the church from focusing on itself and it’s own cultural heritage to focusing on the Gentiles and God’s heart for all people, not just the Jews. Peter’s vision of the great sheet descending with all kinds of animals to eat was a powerful metaphor for ministry to the Gentiles. Peter’s encounter with the men from Joppa, with Cornelius and the outpouring of the Spirit accompanying the proclamation of the Gospel gives us insights today into doing church with guests in mind.
What direction is your vision heading in? Too often our vision is focused inward, rather than outward. Peter’s vision from God was about others, the Gentiles. Authentic visions from heaven will be more about others, than they will be about us. Check the compass of your vision. If your vision is more about you then it is about others, you may have the wrong vision.
God will send guests your way if your vision is in alignment with his plan – Immediately after Peter’s vision, the Holy Spirit sends three Gentiles to Peter to ask him to come and share God’s Word with them and their master, Cornelius. Why should God send guests to a church where no-one in the church has them in mind? They’ll only get disappointed and potentially hurt. When our vision is in alignment with his plan for the salvation of lost people, guests will be sent our way.
Presume that God is already at work in guests lives – Peter was told that Cornelius had a supernatural encounter with an angel. Often we think that God’s not at work until we meet them cause apparently we are God’s answer to the world’s problems but the truth is, people are more ready than we realize. Trust that God has already been at work in their lives and gone before you to prepare the way for your ministry to them.
Invite outsiders in to be your guests – Peter invited the three men to be his guests. Build an invitational culture into your life and ministry. Make it easy for guests to connect with your life group and church. Don’t make guests jump through 10 steps to access the gospel, take them straight to it and bring them into your world.
One guest is a doorway to a whole new network of people – When Peter met Cornelius, his influence expanded to everyone that Cornelius knew. One of my team said to me once, “I don’t know where the people are going to come from.” I said, “That’s easy, through the relational networks of the next guest that walks into our church.” Everyone of us has a network of people that we are connected to that also has a network of people that they are connected to. One person is a doorway to many other people. As God works on one person, he also creates space for you to minister to the other people in that persons life.
Keep the focus on the message of the Gospel – Peter didn’t teach some weird doctrine to his new friends. He kept the message simple and straight = Jesus Christ and him crucified. He kept true to the Gospel and to what he had personally witnessed to. The Gospel works but we need to stay centered on it.
Don’t shy away from the supernatural – As Peter was speaking to them, the Holy Spirit pours out powerfully on them and they start to speak in tongues. Now right here is where many seeker-friendly churches draw the line because it’s presumed that this is not what people are looking for but it’s what God does when he is given room to move in people’s lives. As people hunger for God, He shows up and performs the miraculous. Never make excuses for moving in the power of the Spirit. Let God be God and get out of the way.
Lastly, be prepared for criticism from religious people – When Peter returned to Jerusalem with news of what God had been doing amongst the Gentiles (11:2-3) he was severely criticized for hanging out with the uncircumcised party let alone ministering to them. Satan hates people getting free and he will even incite religious people to look down their nose at you to try to stop you from doing church with guests in mind. Love these people and be gracious with them but keep doing church with guests in mind and God will continue to bless your ministry.