Intro: Saying goodbye to East Side in ten days. To prepare our church family for this time of transition,
I'm preaching from Acts 20; the Apostle Paul's farewell speech to the leaders of the Ephesian church. Last Sunday,
we discussed the past challenges of our ministry together. Today, we're using Paul's speech to discuss some of the
present difficulties our ministries are facing.
Paul's Difficulties! (Read Acts 20:22-27.)
Paul continues his speech by focusing on his present situation, and how it will affect the Ephesians. Paul is
leaving; he is traveling to Jerusalem. Paul doesn't know what will happen once he reaches Jerusalem, but the Holy
Spirit has made it clear to him that there will be suffering involved! What would motivate Paul to walk this path?
First, he is "compelled by the Spirit," (v. 22.) Secondly, Paul valued "testifying to the Gospel of God's grace"
(v. 24,) even above his physical comfort and life! He makes the sad announcement to the Ephesians that he doesn't
anticipate seeing them again. He declares his conviction that he is innocent of their spiritual condition; he has
proclaimed the whole will of God to them!
Application : As I read Paul's words, I'm amazed at some of the similarities, and shamed by some of the
differences between him and me. I have felt the Spirit leading me to accept Alpha's call, but I'm hoping that
imprisonment and hardships aren't on the agenda! Whatever God has in store, I desire to "finish the race and
complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." As far as
whether I see my East Side friends again, I hope so! Whatever happens, know that I, too, have tried to boldly
"proclaim to you the whole will of God." Which leaves each of you w/the responsibility: Have you received the
gospel of the grace of God to which I've testified during my time here? After I leave, will you continue to
trust and live out the Gospel?
The Ephesians' Difficulties! (Read Acts 20:28-31.)
Paul continues his speech w/a warning to the Ephesian church leaders: Keep watch over yourselves and all the
flock! He calls them to shepherd/care for the church. Why? Three positive reasons, two negative reasons. First
positive reason: Paul spent three years, passionately preaching the Gospel to save their souls, (v. 31.) Second
positive reason: B/c the Holy Spirit has made them overseers/elders, (v. 28.) Third positive reason: God bought
the church with His own blood, (v. 28)! Weighty responsibility! First negative reason: Dangers from without:
Savage wolves/false teachers will invade to devour, (v. 29)! Second negative reason: Dangers from within: Men will
arise from within the church and distort the truth, to lead people away from Christ, (v. 30)! We protect what's
valuable! Paul: Our church's people are valuable! Protect them!
Application : East Side is facing some difficult times. Good news: Pastor Ty is willing to fill the pulpit
while the church secures an interim, or a pastor. Good news: Church leaders are looking for a pastor who will
preach God's Word. Pray for each other, and for your leaders! Pray for God's wisdom, guidance, provision,
protection. Devil would love nothing more than to sabotage any progress East Side has made in living out the
Gospel. "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock." We protect what's valuable! Our church's people are
valuable! Protect them! Some may grow discouraged. Some of you may think of leaving; (something that often happens
when a pastor leaves.) If that's you, don't just leave w/o saying goodbye; if you feel you must leave, then leave
well! And if you intend to stay, then stay well! Listen to, pray for, respect each other. We are the church of
Christ, we are all part of the Shepherd's flock, even if we end up worshiping in different buildings! As I
leave, as East Side encounters these present difficulties, will you continue to trust and live out the Gospel?