Monday, October 22, 2018

Church in HD: If We Are The Body...

When I was young I was athletic, but I was not highly flexible. I was good at a few sports and excelled at baseball. Additionally, I enjoyed playing most any type of game. (My wife will tell be the first to tell you that has changed!) But one game I never really liked – because I was not flexible was the Twister. You remember Twister, right? The premise was simple – don’t fall over. But the challenge was being able to contort one’s body in all kinds of positions while only allowing your hands or feet to touch the ground. Four colors. Four body parts. Each part would eventually be on a color, and you could only hope you could make the right decision so you could remain off the ground and off one another.

Of course another game involving the body was Operation. Operation was not about contortion it was about hand-eye coordination, having control, overcoming nerves, and keeping a steady hand. If your hand slipped slightly the buzz would startle you. Although an actual electric shock did not affect the player the buzz from the game would make it feel as if you had been shocked.

And for those who were even younger, many children grew up with puzzles to teach them about the parts of the body. 8-10 piece puzzles with the head, the torso, legs, arms, hands, and a foot taught children the basics of how a human body is constructed. And, if they got bored putting the same pieces together all the time, they could mix and match pieces in a fun way on a head shaped like a potato. We will come back to Mr. Potato Head later.

Why do I mention these childhood games? Well, they all have a similar focus – the body. And the Body of Christ is what we will focus on today from Scripture. The concept of the Church as the Body of Christ is a repeated theme in the New Testament. The meaning of this phrase is that we are multiple, yet we are one. And although we are multiple and different as individuals parts, we function best when all parts are doing what they are designed to do.

This series on taking a deeper look at the church has primarily focused on Acts. We began in Acts 2 and have worked our way forward to Acts 6 today with another two weeks to go. But like we did two weeks ago, we are going to move our focus to 1 Corinthians using Acts as our launching point. Two weeks ago we saw the unity in the church from the end of Acts 4 and contrasted that with the division in the church in Corinth even as they came together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Just a few sentences later, in what we know as 1 Corinthians 12, Paul continues to address the divisions in Corinth by showing how the church is really one body so to be truly functional is to work with and care for one another. That is our focus today.

One God, Many Gifts, for One Body (1 Corinthians 12.4-11)

1 Corinthians 12 begins with Paul saying he wants the church of Corinth to understand. He then shows that the Trinity is perfectly involved in the development of the church. Regardless of how people are gifted to serve, it is the same Spirit who provides those gifts. Regardless of how people choose to serve, they are serving the same Lord. And regardless of the activities being done, they are being done for God. So, one God has given a variety of gifts, aptitudes, desires, etc. in order for the church to function best. As Paul continued in chapter 14, God is a God of order.

Consider Creation for a moment. God did not make everything the same. He made different types of fauna and flora and He made humans to be different from them all. Why? Because as God created the overall ecosystem, it all works together to serve a singular purpose. Likewise, God provided each of us with different skills, and in this context, giftedness, to serve Him as one united body.

Paul then lists a few of the gifts God has given – wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, and interpretation. Paul says that all of these gifts are not to be withheld for our own pleasure, but are given by the Spirit, to whom the Spirit wills, for the “common good” (v7). That is, we all benefit when everyone serves according to his/her gifts.

One Body, Many Parts, One Composition. (1 Corinthians 12.12-26)

Paul then elaborates on his point by turning to the human body as an example. If I seem repetitive on this point, notice how repetitive Paul is. One body. Many parts. Many members of one body. Single members collectively as one body. Etc. Paul is speaking to a church that has deep divisions – even factions as he stated in the previous chapter. But the letter starts by talking about the divisions and people choosing to follow different lines of thought. In fact, the wording he used in 1 Corinthians 1 is remarkably similar to how people put signage in their yard at election time. When he says, I follow Apollos or I follow Peter, etc. it is like saying I vote for this candidate or that candidate. The problem was that Apollos, Peter, Paul, etc were not in opposition with one another, but the supposed singular body of Christ had become as divisive toward one another as our current political system is today.

Notice the imagery Paul uses beginning in verse 15. He makes statements that one part of the body does not consider itself a part of the overall body because it is not a certain part. Then in verse 21, he says that one part of the body says to another part, “I do not need you.” We see this as imagery and it is, but the imagery is addressing a very real issue! Remember in 1 Corinthians 11, which we reviewed a couple of weeks ago, some were gathering before the meal to eat their fair share before others arrived – leaving only scraps. Then, in 1 Cor 12.1, Paul begins by saying, “Now concerning spiritual gifts.” What he is doing – as he does in much of this letter to Corinth – is responding to a message he received from the church in Corinth. They had asked him some question related to how people with differing gifts should respond to one another – and Paul is replying.

So, imagine that the letter to Paul may have said something like, “We have people who say they should do this and others who don’t think it is important.” Paul writes back with examples from the human body which show the statement to be absurd. Effectively, Paul is saying that they should consider which part of the body they are willing to live without. Notice what he wrote beginning in verse 22. Read 1 Cor 12.22-24. Some parts of the body are more well known, they are more visible, they may even appear to be more useful. But all parts of a human body are necessary and so it is with the Body of Christ.

Why?

Because God designed the human body as one collective unit (v. 24) and the church is designed the same way.

One Composition, Many Appointments, for One Purpose (1 Corinthians 12.26-31)

Paul concludes this section by challenging them to consider how a body functions. Verse 26 states that all individual parts of the body either rejoice or suffer together. Think about it. You have likely experienced a tingly sensation throughout your body before – perhaps a good tingle from excitement and euphoria, and a bad tingle from anxiety or nerves. The sensation is real, but likely originates in one particular area, yet influences the entire body in that moment. This is the essence of what Paul is stating in verse 26.

He continues by providing a strong reminder of this current theme. NOW, you ARE the Body of Christ – with each of you being one part of it. He is saying that if you truly belong to Christ you need all of the other parts of the body – so care and nurture one another (tying this back to verse 25). He then lists another set of gifts with the idea that not everyone has all of these gifts, because again, as verse 4 and 11 combine to make clear, the single Spirit of God (i.e. no division) gives the gifts He chooses to each person as He wills.

So the purpose of the Body is singular – and that is to do what the head of the body desires – and the head is Christ. And what does Christ desire? Well that is our final point today.

One Purpose. One God. One Love. (1 Corinthians 13.1-13)

The text may be familiar, but imagine you are in Corinth on the day Paul’s letter arrives. Imagine you have never heard these words about love before this moment. And imagine you are hearing these words after just having heard Paul’s words about the gifts and the body. With that mindset, take a moment to read 1 Corinthians 13.

The point Paul is making in the overall context is that it is more than considering how good you think you are or how well you do what you do something. That type of thinking is the “childish ways” (v11). Instead, love is our ultimate purpose. Love is the command of Christ and if we are not loving others, particularly those who are part of the Body, then we gain nothing (v.3). Indeed, we are nothing (v.2). But Jesus did not give His life and call us to be part of His body that would be nothing. Jesus gave His everything so that we could truly be something – and that something is being a functioning member of the Body of Christ.

CONCLUSION

I began this sermon by talking about certain games and puzzles. Of course, childish games and puzzles give way to more complex ones. It is not enough for a medical student to consider the body in eight simple pieces. Rather they must learn the full anatomic structure of the body and how it works together.

But I think one thing that many adults lose as we age is the desire to imagine possibilities. That is why the three-dimensional Mr. Potato head is fun for children. The puzzle pieces fit in different areas that simply will not work for a two-dimensional puzzle where every piece has its defined space. Likewise, sometimes three dimensions is not enough. Twister is a three-dimensional game, but with a little imagination, someone added walls and added a fourth dimension.

A part of being one body is to nurture one another, or as Paul wrote in 1 Cor 12.25 to provide the same care for one another. That care is expressed in general empathy and specific concerns, but it is also expressed in helping others to grow into all that God would have them be even if they are different than you (or do things differently from you).

The JOURNEY letter for this week is: NNURTURE.

Our verse for Nurture and for the Mission (Equip the Saints) is from Ephesians 4.11-13. This passage is once again about what God gives to His Church for the sake of the body. Let me read all the way through verse 16. (READ Ephesians 4.11-16.) Mature manhood (v13) – represents the body maturing. Jesus as the head (v15) of the body (v16)  joined as one (body) by joints will allow the body to grow and be built up in love (v16). Equipping the Saints for the work of ministry no doubt includes helping each member of the body to reach their potential as an individual member of Christ’s body. But it also requires helping body parts work together in order for the body to function properly as a collective representation of the Body of Christ.

PRINCIPLE: The Bible compares the God’s people to a body. Bodies were made to function and each part is important so the body can function as a whole. As we care for ourselves, let us also care for one another.

QUESTION: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?

NEXT STEP(S):

  • LEARN: Take time this week to determine what your talents, skills, and desires truly are. Knowing how God made you is critical to serving Him to the best of your ability. Even if you have done this before, it is a worthwhile exercise to do again.
  • LOVE: Jesus gave us the Great Commandment: Love God, love others (Mark 12.30-31) and the New Commandment: Love one another (John 13.34-35). These are not options if we are truly a part of His body.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Church In HD: That the Christ is Jesus

Today is a Sunday in October. That statement may be obvious to you because at this moment you are sitting in a church building looking at person standing on a platform talking to you while his Bible is open in front of him. But for most people Sunday does not mean sitting within a congregation. According to one study approximately 46% of Americans go to church or synagogue once per month with only 23% saying they go weekly. (1)

23% of Americans equates to approximately 80 million people. For comparison sake, choosing from numbers published this week, over 90 million watched parts or all of just six (6) of last week’s fifteen (15) games in the NFL. (2) Add to that the number of people who watched the playoffs in baseball, college football, etc. and you can see that sports are a big deal for television, which doesn’t even count local school and non-school related sports and leagues.

So, sports dominate over a time of worship. And many people will use excuses to not come to church that they would not use about sports. The following information has cycled through the internet many times, but it does provide a reminder for how shallow some excuses really are.



The reality is we worship what is important to us and we make excuses to avoid what is not important. God knew this, which is why He gave us commandments about worship. In our hearts, we will worship something, but our goal must be to make the object of that worship something truly worthy of worship. For the Christian, the object of worship is not an it, but a who – God Almighty. But that is not just true for the Christian, it is true for mankind in general because we are told that we have been made in His image.

Of all Creation, only man was made in the image of God. Therefore, our goals, our desires, our purpose, and, indeed, our worship, must be toward Him. Indeed, it must be about Him. The point of our life is ultimately not about us – it is about God. Many know this, but it is hard to remain true to it. Yet, we are reminded of this truth in a teaching apparatus used for children since the 17th Century. The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with the question: What is the chief end of man? The answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

If that is man’s chief end, it is the chief end of the church as well. We are not perfect, but perhaps the story we see today will encourage us to live more like those in the early church.

To Glorify God Is To Obey The Word of God. (Acts 5.17-26)

Acts 5 begins with the story of Ananias and Sapphira being killed for lying to the church. Then, many miracles and wonders are done. But this gets Peter and the other apostles thrown into prison.

But notice what happens. An angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and told them to go stand in the temple and speak about Jesus. I think many in our day would have heard the first part of that statement and gone on their merry way. “Look God has released us, let us go home, watch some TV, and stay out of sight for a few days.” But that is not what the apostles did. Despite the fact that they were out of the frying pan, they were now going to be directly in the fire. Speaking about Jesus in the temple would certainly draw the attention of the religious leaders – the same leaders who had just put the apostles in prison the night before (v 17-18).

So, the next morning, the high priest called together the council and the political leaders of Israel to put the apostles on trial, but the apostles were not in their cells. They soon found them “standing in the temple and teaching the people” (v 25). The apostles were then asked to follow to the trial (notice the guard dared not do it by force for fear of the people (v 26).

Again, if chains were released and doors were open, I think most people today (even Christians) would simply escape to a place where they believed they would be safe from returning to prison. But the apostles heard the message from the angel and did not dismiss it. Rather then seeking safety, they followed God’s command and actually put themselves in harm’s way. That is knowing and trusting God. That is truly bringing God glory.

To Glorify God Is To Speak Truth Regardless of Consequence (Acts 5.27-34)

Beginning in verse 27, the apostles are before the council. Verse 13 says “all” of the apostles were present, but does that mean twelve (now including Mattias), or 120 (as was in the upper room in Acts 2)? We simply do not know for certain. I tend to think it is the lower number, but we have no way of knowing. Likewise, we do not know how many were present in the council. The usual council was 70 members, but verse 21 said members of the senate were present as well. So we can guestimate that upwards of 50 were present, at a minimum. If so, the likelihood is that the apostles on trial were outnumbered by the leaders, perhaps by a 5:1 ration or maybe even greater. In other words, the odds were stacked against them from a human standpoint.

But when the high priest reminded the apostles that they were ordered not to teach about Jesus, Peter responds by answering with a statement which would have everyone in agreement: We must obey God not man (v 29). The problem is that the religious leaders believed they were God’s spokesman, not the uneducated fishermen and others before them.

But Peter continued with a charge against them – it was the leaders who were responsible for Jesus death on the tree (v30). But God! But God raised Jesus. The apostles witnessed it. And all they are doing is telling others what they had witnessed.

Peter spoke more than just some of the truth, he spoke the whole truth and nothing but the truth while he stood on trial. The reaction – the leaders now wanted the apostles dead. At this point, the apostles are taken out of the area so the leaders can discuss what should happen.

Let’s follow two lines of thought here. One we know. The other will cause us to consider our reaction.

What we know is that one of the most respected Pharisees made a case to let the apostles go. The man, Gamaliel, was the man who taught Paul (see for instance Acts 22.3). His argument was that other “great leaders” had come and led others to believe something great but each time they faded away. The same would happen to this new teaching if it was from man, but if it was truly from God, nothing can stop it, and you “might be guilty of opposing God” (Acts 5.39).

Meanwhile, the apostles are waiting. If it was you, what would be going through your mind? When Peter charged these leaders with being responsible for having Jesus crucified, would you find yourself saying, “Peter, shut up! Maybe we can get out of here!” Or would you be saying, “Right, tell ‘em Peter. They need to know what they have done. And they need to know what Jesus did for them through His death.”

Personally, I want to be counted in the second group. But in the moment, what would I have done? What would I do today? Do I allow my speech, and even my worship, to be dictated by my surroundings or by my reverence for God? What about you?

So, to glorify God is to obey God’s word and to speak the truth regardless of circumstance. And finally,...

To Glorify God Is To Fulfill His Purpose For Our Lives (Acts 5.40-42)

The religious leaders called the apostles before them, had them beaten, and said, “No more talking about Jesus!” What was the reaction of the apostles? To praise God for being beaten and continue to proclaim the name of Jesus.

The truth is that we make time for what is important. We talk about what is important. We give to what is important. We can check our calendars, our conversations, our bank statements, and especially our prayers to know what is truly important to us. For instance, we often pray for safety, and I get it. But the disciples were more worried about being bold for Jesus (Acts 4.29) whatever the cost. That is true reverence. That is complete worship.

As we take a high-definition look at our church, we have to ask where we fall short of the biblical standard of worship. Worship is more than singing, praying, teaching, and giving. Worship is knowing God and taking time to be with Him.

Church, do we obey God’s word or do what is comfortable to us? Do we speak His truth or do we cower when opposition is, or might be, present? Do we seek to fulfill our goals or to find God’s purpose in our lives and fulfill it completely? For me, I see a difference in how the apostles lived and how I live. Of course, they were not perfect. And, sometimes, I get it right. But, on the whole, I have no doubts that their degree of faithfulness to Jesus was greater then than mine is now.

Most people today are looking for a God who will satisfy them rather than seeking how they can serve Him. That is true in 2018, but it has been true for decades. Listen to this quote from a book by David Wells written in 1994.

“We have turned to a God we can use rather than a God we must obey; we have turned to a God who will fulfill our need rather than a God before whom we must surrender our rights to ourselves. He is a God for us, for our satisfaction – not because we have learned to think of him in this way through Christ but because we have learned to think of Him this way through the marketplace. Everything is for us, for our pleasure, for our satisfaction, and we have come to assume that it must be so in the church as well.” (3)

If that is our view of God, then it will impact how we see and serve His Church. We must move beyond the idea of a God who serves us in order to ready to be a people who serve God. As I said a few weeks ago, the only thing I have complete control over in this church is me. I must seek to make changes in my life that allow me to better revere God. I must partner with the Holy Spirit to allow God to mold me into the servant He wants me to be. If I do that – if each of us does that – then we will become the church that He desires us to be!

CONCLUSION

The last couple of years the Kansas City Chiefs have started their season 5-0. This year’s team looks to be as exciting of a team as the Chiefs have had in a long time and people are already talking about the Super Bowl. If the Chiefs win the next two weeks, they will be the AFC favorite for the Super Bowl by a large margin. And, when talking about football and television, the Super Bowl is the highest watched event in America each year. In fact, the Super Bowl rates as 19 of the 20 highest rated television events in American television history. The only exception is the series finale of M*A*S*H. (4) And yet, the Super Bowl compares nothing to the football event that happens every four years – the World Cup finale has over 1 billion people watch from all over the world. (5)

Why do I come back to this idea of football and television? Because the Chiefs have a realistic chance of playing in early February next year. And, while I have joked about it in a few prior years, one day I will be faced with the prospect of having church or watching the Chiefs play in the Super Bowl for the first time in my life. (I was four months from being born during Super Bowl IV.)

So, I will state right now that if they Chiefs make the Super Bowl and are set to begin play at about 5:15, I will be at church at 6 pm. Now, that said, last year I considered using the game as a means of outreach to the community, but we had just come back from Kenya. So this year, I am doing further research on this idea to ensure we do not violate any copyright laws. But if we do show the game, and serve food, and engage in some meaningful fellowship, we will pause to make sure that we take time to give glory to God because ultimately nothing else matters.

The JOURNEY letter for this week is: RREVERE.

Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12.32). He meant that in a literal way – being lifted up from the earth on two pieces of wood and held there by spikes. And He meant that in a literal way, after He rose from the dead and was taken up to be with the Father in the place we call heaven. But He means for us to lift Him up in our lives as well. He wants us to bring Him glory in what we do, in what we say, and in how we live. Like the early apostles, He wants us to bring Him glory in our obedience, our speech, and by fulfilling our calling as a child of God. If we do these things then we will show Him, and the world that we truly revere Him.

PRINCIPLE: Worship is more than coming to church; it involves giving every part of us to Someone greater than us.

QUESTION: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?

NEXT STEP(S):

  • LEARN: Take an honest inventory of your life to determine any areas that you hold for yourself instead of giving to God.
  • LIVE: Commit to giving more of yourself to God. Begin to live with an abandonment of self because of a complete trust in God. This can begin to happen by actually doing the answer to the question: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?
  • LOVE: Love God, love others, and love one another (Mark 12.30-31; John 13.34-35). Loving is not always easy, but if we love Jesus, we will obey His commands (John 14.15).
  • LEAD: Only one truth can save any of us – knowing that “the Christ is Jesus.” Help others to not only discover this truth, but to embrace it in their lives. They will need an example to follow – so learn to lead them well.


Footnotes:
(1) https://www.statista.com/statistics/245491/church-attendance-of-americans/ - accessed Oct 12, 2018).
(2) http://www.sportsmediawatch.com/nfl-tv-ratings-viewership-nbc-cbs-fox-espn-nfln-regular-season-playoffs/ - accessed Oct 12, 2018).
(3) David Wells, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994, 114).
(4) (https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/02/04/how-many-people-watch-super-bowl-viewership-ratings – accessed Oct 12, 2018).
(5) Ibid.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Church in HD: A Common Bond

One of the greatest privileges we have as a church is to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. But as we take a look at what the Bible says about the Lord’s Supper we see that people made the occasion into something they wanted it to be rather than the purpose for which it was intended.

As we prepare to partake of the Lord’s Supper today, we need to examine Scripture and then examine ourselves in order to made sure we are prepared to partake in a worthy manner. Taking the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner is not my idea, it is Paul’s expression – at which we will review in just a minute.

First, let me remind all of us that this series is about taking a deep look at areas where we might not rather look. That is the idea of the Church in HD. We are taking a closer look at what Jesus said, at what Paul wrote, and what Peter shared, etc. in order to place ourselves better in line with the good parts of the church in its earliest stages.

The book of Acts paints a picture of a church in unity. For instance, Acts 4.32-37 reveals a church which is almost completed united. Certainly differences existed as would become evident in Acts 15 especially, but the early church recognized Jesus words that people would know they were His disciples if they loved one another – and that love for each other trumped any difference they held.

But as the church grew and spread to other areas more problems arose. So, rather than placing our focus on Acts 4 today, we will use Acts 4 as the foundation for what should be, and turn our attention to Corinth to see how Paul addressed a division related to the Lord’s Supper.

(I encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 11.17-32 before continuing with this post.)

Let me make a few quick observations.

1. When the people gathered it was worse than when they didn’t. Why? Because divisions existed. These divisions (or factions as Paul then calls them) were because people did not come to be united, but to do as they pleased. Verse 21 says that some left the gathering hungry, while others gorged themselves.

2. The Church is to gather to bring glory to God. In fact, that is verse just before 1 Cor 11. Paul says whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for the glory of God. Then he moves into this teaching. Again, church is not about what we want it to be, it is about becoming what God wants it to be – in other words, bringing Him glory.

3. After reminding the Corinthians of what transpired the night of Jesus’ last meal, Paul then exhorts the people to be worthy of taking the Lord’s Supper. We must first examine ourselves ensuring we have nothing hidden before partaking. Specifically, in this context, Paul is talking about being at peace with others – that is, we don’t have a beef with others and others don’t have a beef with us. Otherwise, if we partake we bring judgment on ourselves. Why? Because we are taking elements that represent the body and blood of Jesus who died so that we might be forgiven. So if we take the elements while holding grudges and not being willing to forgive then we are saying that we want what Jesus offers without being willing to grant it ourselves. To do this, Paul says will actually negate your forgiveness. In fact, Paul said that because some have not been willing to forgive they have become weak, ill, and some have even died.

Is Paul right or is this his opinion? Let’s review Jesus words we talked about earlier this year. Matthew 6.12, in the midst of the prayer He taught His disciples says, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive the debts of others.” And then, two verses later, Jesus continued the thought. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

So, before we take the Lord’s Supper, we need to examine ourselves. We need to see where unity needs to be restored. We need to consider if we have issues with others or if others may have issues with us. How do we do this? Well, let me read two more commands from Jesus.

Matthew 18.15 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” Sin is a key word here, but I think we can still apply the principle if we have been offended, even if the offense is not technically a sin – but we should be careful to make certain our preferences are not opposed to God’s.

The second passage is from Matthew 5.23-24. “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” If Jesus words are true of the gift we offer, how much more true are they before we take elements to remind us of the gift He offers us.

So, we have our marching orders. Be united. Examine ourselves. Forgive others. Tell others where they have offended us. Go to others and make peace if we have offended them. And be ready to forgive again. Then we partake.

CONCLUSION

That is the message. So before we partake, I want to challenge each of us to examine ourselves. I want each of us to seek God over these next few moments and determine if we are ready to partake. If not, when the elements are passed, I would encourage you not to partake – as Paul said, you will be drinking judgement on yourself. But if you realize an issue does exist, then be wise and make amends. Remember, Jesus said those who do what He says are wise – those who do not obey these words of mine are fools. So be wise. You may have to swallow some pride, but swallowing pride is better than swallowing God’s judgment.

(NOTE: At this point of the message, the congregation was asked to pray for God to reveal any issues that needed to be resolved and to be bold enough to resolve them if any were discovered.)

Follow Jesus' commands and go to that person or persons and make peace. If you have to pull someone aside, do so. But in making peace with others, you will be at peace with God and you will be ready to partake of the Lord’s Supper when the moment comes.

JOURNEY: The JOURNEY letter for today is: UUNITE.

PRINCIPLE Love and unity are the essence of God and the Trinity. If we welcome God in the church, we need to work through any differences and be united in loving and serving Him.


QUESTION: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?

NEXT STEP(S):  LOVE: Partake of the Lord’s Supper having reconciled ourselves with one another and with God.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Hub Sunday – “The Hub”

Today is our third Hub Sunday. In the initial one at the end of July, I discussed the concept of WHY, we are doing this. That message was about our need to be missional wherever we go and whatever we do. Early this month, we went into the community on Labor Day Sunday to serve the town on what we called Labor for the Son Day.

Today, I want to provide some updates on WHERE we have served to reveal the significance of the idea of being a hub. As a part of the where, I have invited Dr. Jeremy Burright, the superintendent of Fairfax Schools, to share a little about his vision for the school and how our church might serve the school.

Before we get to that point, I want to share some things we have been doing. Some of you may be aware of some or most of these items, but one of my goals of having Hub Sunday every month is for us to share what God is doing through this church – wherever that may be. Why should we share this? Primarily to celebrate what God is doing. But, as we celebrate, these days can be an encouragement to each one of us to do some small part. As I mentioned in July, one set of passages where Scripture supports this idea comes from Paul (and Barnabas) who returned to Antioch to share what God did on their travels. (Read the following verses – Acts 13.1-3; Acts 14.26-28; Acts 18.22-23.)

But, Jesus did the same thing with His disciples as they went out into the towns of Israel. (Read Mark 6.7-13, 30-32.) Matthew 10 and Luke 10 share the same basic story with more of Jesus’ teaching the disciples.

So, what are some of the places we have/are serving?

Of course, this month, we focus on raising funds for the Missouri Missions Offering. But let us briefly review some of the places members of our church have served over the past few years. We will track this with some board that will have colored paper taped on them where we serve. We have served: 
  • Locally – VBS, God Squad, No Hunger Summer, Labor for the Son Day, preparing church for the renovations, serving meals to families after funerals, Adopt a Family (as a church, and through Community Groups), Food Drop, our annual dinner to serve widows which has now expanded to the community, etc.;
  • Throughout This Area – Food Pantry, Meals on Wheels, Baptist Student Union;
  • Within Missouri – God’s Mountain, Grand Oaks, etc.; 
  • In Illinois – helping to build a church; 
  • And around the world – Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Kenya, OCC. 

That reminds me a little bit of Jesus statement of proclaiming His Name in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of th earth.

Some projects are short in duration – like our Labor for the Son Day. Some spent 30 minutes, others an hour or a little more. Some did physical labor, and others made visits to members who had not been here for awhile.

Other projects take a while. You have heard about the plarn mats for months, and I have held one up when we were downstairs last month. But we are getting quite a few done now and will be shipping a batch to Kenya in a couple of week to make certain these can be used.



And speaking of Kenya, here are a few pictures of the well that was repaired last month in Lesurwa – where Benson is pastor.



Also, I have been promising a video for a while, but we had trouble getting sound through when Simon sent the first set of videos. After the well was completed, this came through just fine.


This well is from donation made through our church. Most of the money came from people out of town and out of state, but what that means is that people are hearing about what we are doing and are wanting to partner with us to make a difference. Consider our vision verse from Matthew 5.16: we are being salt and light in order that others would see our good works and glorify the Father who is in heaven. People ARE glorifying God because of what Fairfax Baptist Church is doing. Perhaps people are not beating down our doors to come, but our tasks is to be faithful in going and God is blessing us because we are starting to do more.

One of the joys many of you have is contributing loose change each month during the piki offering. As we prepare to sing, let us take a moment to take this offering again so our brothers in Kenya – Michael and Benson – can have gas for their motorbikes for another month.

BEING MISSIONAL

Dr Burright and I meet each month to simply talk. I began having discussions with Dr. Garrett during his last year here – which is part of how NHS came to Fairfax. When Jeremy came to Fairfax, my intention was to continue those discussions. Last year, we met two or three times, but our schedules got in the way. This year, we have both committed to the hour or so being more of a priority. Why?

The reality is that the school and the hospital are the primary institutions in this town. The Church (even this church) might have been a part of that conversation in the past, but that is not true any longer. But we do not need to lament that fact. Instead, let us celebrate that this town is still alive and well because of the school and because of the hospital. And if we are to be a large church in a small town, then we need to engage where the opportunities allow. Remember, being a large church is about influence, not necessarily numbers. So, where can we have influence? Well, the school is one of the greatest areas we can have influence.

Therefore, I have invited Dr. Burright to come and speak today in order to share a little about himself, about what his vision for the school, and how we might help.

Dr. Burright’s portion of the message was here.

OUR JOURNEY

Our strategy is comprised of the acrostic JOURNEY. One reason that word was chosen is that we are all on a spiritual journey – some with Jesus, some towards Jesus, and others away from Him. But another aspect of the JOURNEY is that we each have an opportunity to prepare those who are younger to be better prepared for their geographical journey. We know that most of the students who graduate from Fairfax do not return to this area. So, the question we must ask ourselves is: What can we do to help the students commit themselves to letting Jesus be the guide on their life’s journey? The Children’s Festival yesterday was one aspect. God Squad starts this week – that is another. The new Root Group starts on Thursday as well. VBS is still very important. We have the Community Youth Group. But all of those are about others coming to us. No Hunger Summer is one way we go out to the families and children in the community. Serving the school is a way to go to them. Sure, we cannot go in and sing Jesus Loves Me or stand and preach whatever we want, but that is no different than when Paul travelled to other places. He went to the synagogue to teach (where people generally believed in God) and then went from there.

It is possible that any service we provide for the school will not cause one person to come into this church. Am I ok with that? Well, again, our purpose is to be about loving God and loving others even if that love is not returned as we might expect. But I can assure you this. Someone will ask, “Who painted this?” Or “How did this get done?” And the answer will be someone from the church, maybe even Fairfax Baptist Church. Again, remember the passage related to our vision is that we are salt and light. Verse 16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

If we serve – and do it well, God will be glorified. If God is glorified, that is what matters. If He chooses to have someone come and be a part of this fellowship of believers, let us welcome them. If someone decides that seeing what we have done causes them to return to God, but do so in another Bible-believing church, Amen! Again, our competition is not other churches that teach the Bible. Our competition is any part of the culture around us that is against, or even apathetic toward, God.

So, let us be a sending Hub. Let us be a church that is known not for coming to church, but for going and serving as a part of the Church. Yes, we should still come for discipleship, fellowship, and worship, but we do so in order that we can better minister and share God’s message with others.

What’s Next? The Challenge

Dr. Burright has given us some options on how we might help the school. Some of the opportunities will requires some physical work (such as painting), others will require making a relational commitment to one or several students, etc. The question before us now is how to proceed? But before we can proceed, each person needs to consider what they will do. If we leave the idea at the level of us, then we can excuse ourselves because someone else will do it (and if they don’t then that is their fault). But if we make it personal – What will I do? (not what can I do?), then something will happen. And like the Labor for the Son Day, if you are unable to physically do something, that’s ok, you can pray! But again, our response goes beyond what each of us can do, our response is to actually do. The question we must each ask ourselves is: Will I do what God asks me to do?

Remember, our God is a sending God. He sent His Son. He is sending us. So, how will you respond?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Church in HD: A Better Perspective

As early as 1862, images were transferred across a series of wires. This test would lead to what is now the television. In the first half of the 20th Century, the TV became somewhat popular, and when color TV became available to the public in the 1950s, a new craze was born. But the early TVs with their rabbit ears and generally poor reception did not have a great picture.

Fast forward to 2009, and the government imposed that all television viewing must be digital. With that switch, the high definition television was in high demand. With higher definition came a picture that was not distorted as the size increased, so the 32-inch television (which was a good-sized TV in the first decade of the 21st Century) gave way to 40, 48, 55, 80 inches, etc. Now, we have Ultra High Def which has brought about an even brighter and more vibrant picture. We can say that the digital revolution has brought about a new perspective.

God wants to give us a new perspective as well. The perspective He desires for us is one that aligns with the life of Jesus which is recorded in His Word. A part of that perspective relates to the Church Jesus promised to build. Jesus promised to build the Church. He commissioned the the Church to do the work, and He gave a promise that Holy Spirit would empower the work.

But, before we are ready to partner with Him in that work, we may need to change our perspective on the Church. A part of that perspective is based upon our previous experiences, but a part of our perspective is based upon our personal ideas of what the church is or what it should be. That is what this series is designed to help us overcome. We need to get our own ideas out of the way and see what God’s design is for the church.

It is like the rhino who was painting a picture. Its perspective altered the true nature of the landscape he was trying to paint. If we are not careful, we will let our thoughts dictate what God’s church should be like instead of letting Him build what He has planned. Sometimes we have to get ourselves out of the way in order to see clearly.



Spiritual Formation Comes From Obedience (Acts 2.37-41)

Last week, I mentioned that Peter preached a great message. What made it great was that it got the attention of those who heard it and they desired to know what to do because of it. Peter told them what they needed to do and they did it. Repent. Be baptized. And they were. Now, we think of baptism as an event within the life of the church, but in the Jewish custom, baptism was not just getting dunked. It was a matter of identifying with something or someone – in this case Jesus. It was setting aside what was formally important and re-defining one’s life. In this case, the life would now be defined by Jesus. This obedience to repent and then to be baptized was the first step towards spiritual formation.

Obedience Leads to Spiritual Formation (Acts 2.42-47)

Yes, these first two points are saying the same thing. But the point must not be overlooked. In the first instance, their obedience was to be saved, now their obedience will lead to growth in their salvation. Notice what happened to this new group of Christians. Before this day of Pentecost, we know that approximately 120 were in the upper room (Acts 1.15). Now 3000 more souls were added to the church. What did they do? They became devoted to the teaching of the apostles. We do not know exactly what they taught or when they taught it, but we can have a very good idea. In the Great Commission, Jesus instructed His closest followers to “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Notice what these three thousand people did immediately after choosing Jesus. They engaged in:
  • Fellowship – they desired being with one another (Oct 7 – Unite)
  • Breaking of Bread – they desired to eat together, mealtimes are great for discussions
  • Prayer – certainly to understand what God wanted for this new group
  • Unity – they had all things in common (not uniformity as we will see later) 
  • Sharing – they cared for those in need
  • Daily Time Together – again, a desire existed to be together and to learn and to talk
  • Praisedaily worship
  • Including Others – more people believed; invited others to see what God was doing

The apostles also did signs and wonders. The apostles did great things which got people’s attention, but the idea is not just what they did because, as Jesus said, we are salt and light.

The point is that their obedience to what the disciples taught caused them to engage in discipleship, fellowship, worship, ministry, and evangelism – the five focal points of a kingdom-focused church. For Fairfax Baptist Church, those five focal points are represented by the:
  • OObserve (Discipleship)
  • UUnite (Fellowship
  • RRevere (Worship)
  • NNurture (Ministry)
  • EEngage (Evangelism)

Ultimately, the work of the apostles was to make disciples and that is what they did. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide His followers into all truth. In other words, the goal of making disciples was spiritual formation which leads to transformed lives.

Consider for a moment how much time you waste in a week. Thankfully, in Atchison County we don’t have stop lights, but each day in cities all over this nation, consider the collective number of minutes lost while sitting at a stop light. Or what about junk mail? It is called junk for a reason. But how much time is lost, let alone how much money is spent on sending it out. If I get the mail by going out through the garage, most of the time junk mail doesn’t even make it into our house. It goes straight into the recycle container.

The point is we waste a lot of time doing things that do not matter at all. When we stand before Jesus, He will not ask about how well we read our junk mail. Yet, junk mail, and other time wasters keep us from doing what He wants for us – to be transformed through spiritual formation. And, one to two hours per week of church do not lead to spiritual formation. Spiritual formation comes from our being obedient to Christ and, in turn, allows us to be spiritually formed to become like Christ. And this is where I have to get really ugly because of the high definition focus.

Last week, I mentioned a question that would be prominent through this series. That question was, and is: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church? I cannot answer that for you. But for Andy Braams, the answer is to lead. If I lead well, and lead as Jesus would have me lead, it will make a difference.

Last month, while we were meeting downstairs, I confessed that despite the success of the renovations, I had not handled parts of this renovation process well. Comparing the life of David to the situation, I mentioned the 5 A’s of overcoming mistakes. Be Aware. Acknowledge. Apologize. Act. Apply Additional Generosity. At the time, I told you that I was not certain what the additional generosity should be. Well, I have a better perspective after God got hold of me this week.

Before I share that perspective, let me offer you another question to ponder. What is one thing you would change about this church? As I mentioned last week, I am not allowing myself to get ahead in this series in expectation that God will speak to me at the right moment about changes that need to be made. Well, He gave me one which ties directly into the question I asked last week.

The one thing I need to change about this church is the only thing I have control over – myself. I need to change me. God hit me over the head with this on Tuesday in such a way I could not escape it. In fact, after I went to bed, and stirred for an hour, I got up and wrote this sermon because He would not leave me alone until I got some things recorded and began to make plans to rectify the situation.

Let me share just a few items:
  • I need to pray more. We need teachers. We need leaders. We need more children in SS. I have prayed about this, but not as much as I should.
  • I need to train more. We have good teachers, but we can all be better. It is not enough to ask people to teach, it is imperative that each teacher be equipped to be the best teacher s/he can be.
  • I need to model more. I mentioned that we lack children in SS. Oftentimes, teachers show up and no students come. I can relate – it happens occasionally on a Sunday night or Wednesday to me. But will they come, if we do not go? That is, if we take the time to go make contact with them, maybe they will come to us. I need to model this better.
  • I need to equip more. Some will think of this as delegation, but the Bible is clear that those who are the leaders of the church are to equip the saints for the work of ministry. In part, this is training (like for the teachers as I just mentioned), but it is also making certain people are prepared biblically to go and do what God’s servants are to do – and that is to make disciples.
  • I need to lead more. All of these items, and others have to do with my leadership. Don’t get me wrong, we have done some good in our time at Fairfax. But what has been done is like the tip of the iceberg and what God wants to do through us is what still lies beneath. So, I need to pray, train, model, equip, guide, share, delegate, trust, encourage, celebrate, exhort, and challenge us more (and probably a few others I am forgetting). And all of that stems from my leadership. Thus, I need to lead more.

I also need to continue to improve my teaching and preaching skills – particularly making the application more readily understood so we will not just be hearers, rather we will be doers, which according to Jesus words means we are wise (Matthew 7.24).

The point is that the one thing I can do well, and have been asked to do at this time, and do for Jesus, is lead. If I do that, it will be a benefit for me, for each of you, for Fairfax Baptist Church and for God’s Kingdom. I just needed a new perspective. And I got it big! But it is one thing for me to know it and another for me to do it. Remember, the difference between the wise and foolish builders was that the wise builder was like the one who does what Jesus says. That is, the wise person is obedient. In fact, Bill Hull, claims that nothing else should matter to the Christian. In his words, “Obedience is the only sound objective of a Christian spirituality.” – Bill Hull

If we are obedient, we will keep the Great Commandment. We will fulfill the Great Commission. We will be in fellowship. We will desire to worship. We will love one another. Etc. Etc. Etc. Obedience is the fullness of what we will do when we understand what God truly wants for us and from us. We cannot be obedient until we have learned what Jesus asks of us. Matt Perman says it this way, “Coming to church is not coming to learn, it is coming to engage with God, in service, with others. But that begins with learning. The Great Commission says we are to teach everyone to observe everything He commanded. Ephesians 4 says that the people are to be equipped for ministry which requires teaching.” (1)

As we move further into this sermon series, my prayer is that we will all continue to gain a new perspective on what God wants from us individually and for this church. Some may be stubborn, but remember, God used a donkey to talk to Balaam to change his perspective. So watch out because God may surprise you by what He does to get your attention.

CONCLUSION

Remember when you were in school and you had an exam coming. Perhaps you had missed a couple of days and wanted to know what might be on the test and specifically you wanted to know how to pass the test. You found someone you trusted to get the information and/or the answers. Well, we have a final exam coming. And while I do not have all of the answers, I am the one you said you trusted to lead you and this church. My NT life verse speaks directly to my desire for people to be prepared for the final exam and yet, I have failed at one key part – wisdom.

Colossians 1.28-29 says, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

I must toil harder and longer and with more of His energy, because I want us all to pass that final exam. I want all of us to be presented mature in Christ! God has unfinished business at this church and I must use every ounce of wisdom He has given me and will give me to lead this church to become what He desires it to be. The goal is to present EVERYONE as mature in Christ. Some will not choose to be mature, but for those that want their spiritual formation to continue, my responsibility is to do what I can, which primarily includes making sure each person has an opportunity to be equipped to be more effective in his/her walk with Jesus.

JOURNEY: The JOURNEY letter for today is: OOBSERVE.

PRINCIPLE Spiritual formation and obedience to Christ are inextricably linked together.

QUESTION: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?

NEXT STEP(S):

  • LEARN: Study more about the Church during this series. I have flagged two studies in RightNow Media to help you dig further into God’s plan for the church.
  • LIVE: Commit to serve God through His Church. Answer the question: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?
  • LOVE: Love God, love others, and love one another. See Mark 12.30-31 and John 13.34-35). These are not options, they are what Jesus expects from His Church.
  • LEAD: Assist in making some necessary changes to the church. Ask God what changes He desires to make. But only ask if you are ready for Him to say the change must start with you – because your answer may be just like mine!


(1) Matt Perman, https://www.whatsbestnext.com/2018/04/what-is-the-meaning-of-spiritual-formation/

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Church in HD: Aligned with God?

Last week, was a great day for Fairfax Baptist Church. We were able to celebrate the new and fresh look of our sanctuary. It provided a new and fresh feeling among the people too. The day was good. The day was important. And the day was worth celebrating.

But...

If we are honest, not everything about the church looks as nice. Again, we need to celebrate what God has done. I am thankful for last Sunday, but let’s face it, our focus was on what looks good, not on the remaining areas that need improvement. And beyond general maintenance, we have one particular area that is in need.

Our downstairs children’s area recently had some flooding and the carpet has been ripped up. That is an area where we do not want to bring focus. But if we are to be good stewards of this building with which we have been entrusted, we cannot just turn off the lights and shut the doors of certain rooms, we need to look everywhere for areas which need improvement. And wherever we find those areas, we need to evaluate the situation, make plans to improve, execute those plans, and then evaluate the results.

But...

We also need to remember that the church is not a building. When Jesus said, He would build His church, He was not talking about brick and mortar. The materials Jesus has used for these last 2000 years is the hearts and minds and hands of His people. God’s people are the Church. We are a part of that church, and just like we want people to see the best parts of this building, we want others to see the best parts of our lives – individually and as a church collectively as well. The truth is that we all have parts of our lives that we are ok with people seeing and parts of our lives that we would rather keep hidden from others. The same is true of our houses, our church, and our lives.

So...over the next couple of months, we are going to get personal – in a corporate kind of way. We cannot clean up the church (and by church I mean people) without cleaning up ourselves individually, but as we address these issues, we will be looking at them primarily from a corporate perspective – that is, how can we do better as a church. But for us to make significant improvements as a church, we will have to make incremental improvements as individuals. Therefore, the plan is to expose some deficiencies of the modern-day Church (including this church) by comparing what the Bible says about God’s design for His people, and specifically Jesus design for His Church. Specifically, we will be reviewing the first several chapters from the book of Acts to see how the early church functioned and determine how we can best approach the biblical model while living in the 21st Century. Please be aware, the early church was not perfect (e.g. Paul sent letters to churches because they were dealing with problems), but if we cannot learn how the church should function from the written Word of God, then we have no business in allowing the living Word of God to include us in the Church He is building.

To begin our study, let us consider how the six basic questions – who, what, when, where, why, and how – relate to the Church in general.
  • Who? The Church consists of God’s people.
  • What? The Church is exists to make disciples – going, teaching, and baptizing others who will then do the same.
  • When? The Church began at Jesus word, and persists because Jesus said it would.
  • Where? The Church exists anywhere God’s children are gathered.
  • Why? The Church was created as a tool to do the work of ministry and expand God’s kingdom.
  • How? This is the question we must ask and attempt to answer for ourselves over the next several weeks!

Our goal in answering the How question is not to find the perfect answer (because one rarely exists); rather our goal is to use the Bible to explore options on answering the How question as best we can as Fairfax Baptist Church. To do that, we may have to look in some hard to reach places and see things that we might otherwise not see. I honestly have not looked ahead on this, so I am interested to see what God will expose to us as we shed His light on this church. For today, let us consider three areas which must be true for us to be properly aligned with God.

1. To be aligned with God, we must use His building design, not ours.

In Matthew 16, Jesus said, “I will build my church.” As I mentioned a moment ago, that means a focus on people, not blueprints that include bricks, doorways, and rooms, let alone carpet and  pews.

Consider the passage from Genesis 11.1-9. The story is often simply referred to as The Tower of Babel. We focus on the tower and the eventual dispersion of the people after they begin to speak different languages. The problem was that their purpose in building this mighty tower into the heavens was that they were seeking to make a name for themselves, not for God. But we cannot overlook one important verse. Take a moment to read verse 6. God said the people were united – just as we should be. And because the people were united, God said that they could succeed – nothing will be impossible for them – that is, they will be able to accomplish anything!

Imagine this, the people had a unified vision and thus they were destined to succeed. The only problem was that the vision they had was not the vision that God had. Imagine if their vision had been aligned with God’s vision. Imagine if their work had been aligned with God’s work. Imagine if their lives had been aligned with God’s desires for their lives.

To keep this in perspective, we must ask are we, that is, those who say we are God’s people (i.e. the Church), aligned with what God wants to do? I will not limit God to one particular vision idea, but if we look at our vision statement, it is certainly aligned with God. It must be because our vision statement is not something made up by man, it is straight from the Bible. Our vision statement is firmly based upon Matthew 5.13-16 which speaks of our need to be salt and light and to do our good works to that others might see our good works and give glory to the Father who is in heaven. So, our vision statement as a church is shiny and new and worth showing off to others. But, if we look in the cracks and in the hard to reach places what will we find? Are we aligned with God in our attempts to fulfill that directive from Jesus or are we too busy trying to promote our own agenda (i.e. seeking to make a name for ourselves rather than allowing God to get the glory)? Again, we will seek to better answer that question for this church in the coming weeks, but hopefully that question gives each one of us a reason to pause and answer the question for ourselves.

2. To be aligned with God, we must focus on His work, not ours.

Again, in Matthew 16, Jesus said, “I will build my church.” Earlier, in Matthew 4, Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” But after Jesus died, and even briefly after He had returned from the dead, His closest followers were back doing their own business. For instance, we find in John 21 that several disciples followed Peter back out to sea to fish. At daybreak, Jesus was on the shore, but despite having already appeared to them (notice the “again” in verse 1), they do not expect Jesus – and do not even consider the possibility it is Jesus when they see Him OR hear Him (v. 4, v. 7)! Now, before I go on, this passage does not mean that we cannot, or should not, be engaged in work apart from the church. But it does mean that we should consider all of our work as a part of our ministry to God.

The key for us here is that Jesus said He would build His Church, but His people went about their business without considering it was them who would help to build it. But Jesus pulled Peter aside and said, “Feed my sheep” which also meant, “It is time to quit fishing for food from the water and start giving others the food that I have given you.” And that is exactly what they began to do beginning in Acts 2 after receiving the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised in Acts 1.

In Acts 1, Jesus was leaving, but having promised to build His church, He gave the command for the apostles to do the work so it could be built (i.e. Matthew 28, Acts 1.8). But with that command came a promise that Holy Spirit would empower the work. In Acts 2, we see the Holy Spirit empowering the apostles, and the work beginning to take shape. The essence of that work will be better defined next week , but a large part of the work the Church is to help people with their spiritual formation, and that is what we find throughout the book of Acts and the letters which were written to the various people and churches in the New Testament.

3. To be aligned with God, we must be His Church, not ours.

Again, Matthew 16 says Jesus will build HIS church. Thus, point number three should be obvious, but it is much harder to make it true. A few months ago, a particular blog article captured the idea by sharing three common types of church models – all of which are deadly. Ultimately, the problem with each of these types is that the church quit being the church and started acting like a church. Scripture is clear that we must be before we can truly do. When we try to do things with the wrong motive, we often convince ourselves we are better than we are. For instance, if we try to be a Christian, we might think we are one, but if we do not believe, we can act all we want all the way to hell. Let me briefly share the three ideas the author conveyed about these deadly church models.(1)
  • Business Model: Budget and Bylaws are the most important items. The Bible is important, but wherever the Bible interferes with money, finances win.
    • Truth – Being good stewards and having strong church documents is important, but these are not solid foundations on which to build a church.
  • Political Model: Identification is with a political party, not Jesus. If the other party is in power, sermons and lessons talk about persecution. If the favored party is in power, “God is in control.”
    • Truth – Moral and social Issues must be confronted, but not because they are political issues, but because they are biblical issues.
  • Family Reunion Model: Focus is on trying to get back to the “good old days.”  The good old days ended when Adam was booted from the Garden.
    • Truth – Jesus said He would build His Church. If He has not returned, He is still building which means what it was or is still has room for improvement and growth if aligned with Him.

Again, all of these models are unhealthy. The only model that counts is a model based upon the Bible. Jesus will identify with a healthy church because a healthy church identifies with Jesus. Therefore, to align with God, we must focus on being the Church He wants us to be, not just acting like another type of model that pretends to be a church.

I am thankful that Fairfax Baptist Church is a church built on a biblical foundation. But just because we are built on the Bible, does not mean we are perfect. This understanding means we need to seek ways to improve who we are and what we do for the reasons why Jesus gave us whenever and wherever He wants us to. As for the How, we are given many options. The Bible gives us a lot of the what and the why, but is mostly silent on the how. So, as we seek to align ourselves to God’s design, God’s work, and His purpose for His Church, let us explore how we can best do it given the gifts, abilities, and skills He has given to each of us individually and all of us collectively.

CONCLUSION

The goal in this series is to expose whatever needs to be exposed in this church to ensure we are aligned with God. A church can be moving in the right direction, following Jesus, and then with one major issue or a series of small ones that are not dealt with in a timely manner, we can begin to go adrift. Consider a car. We can get our wheels aligned, but after driving through Fairfax for awhile, the alignment begins to shift just a little. It isn’t too bad so we live with it. But eventually it puts more wear on the tires and we either have to get new tires, get the car realigned, or both.

We may not be mechanics who know how to realign the car, but we do have a manual that can help guide us to find any areas where we, as Fairfax Baptist Church, may need to be adjusted. To fix a car, a mechanic needs to do more than look at the outside of the nicely washed car; s/he must get a little dirty or greasy. Church, over these next two months, we may find ourselves in some unpleasant thoughts as we get a little dirty and greasy allowing God to expose any shortcomings we have. But if we want to honor God, if we are truly followers of Jesus, then we will allow Him to work in us individually and collectively to become what He desires for us to be.

JOURNEY: The JOURNEY letter for this week is: JJESUS.

PRINCIPLE: Jesus promised to build His Church. We must choose to work or against Him.
QUESTION: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?

NEXT STEP(S):

  • LEARN: Study more about the Church during this series. I have flagged two studies in Right Now Media to help you dig further into God’s plan for the church. We are also going to study this concept on the next 5 Sunday nights in place of our usual E.Q.U.I.P.
  • LIVE: Commit to serve God through God’s Church. Answer the question: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?
  • LOVE: Love God, love others, and love one another. See Mark 12.30-31 and John 13.34-35). These are not options, they are what Jesus expects from His Church.
  • LEAD: Assist in developing new documentation for this church. Updates will be made to team descriptions and goals, to ministries and positions of service, as well as the policies and procedures that will guide FfxBC into the future.
(1) Three Deadly Church Models – LifeWay Pastors blog on April 2, 2018, now at Facts and Trends, https://factsandtrends.net/2018/04/02/three-deadly-church-models/