God deserves our best.
We focus on church health instead of church growth.
We do church best when we do it in small groups.
Worship is about what we do for God, not what the church does for us.
The local church should have a positive impact on its community.
Do Your Best, Give Your Best, Be Your Best
Colossians 3:17 - Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father …
Do everything in His name
Colossians 3:23-24 - Slaves, obey your masters in everything; do it, not only when their eye is on you annd to curry favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Principles apply in all you do, whether you are being watched or working on your own.
The parent talks with Ashley about school, and reminds her that she should not only try to produce a great transcript, but to get the most out of life. The parent didn’t want great report cards, but wanted her to be a great person and knew that could only happen if she learned earthly ways to do her best, give her best and be her best.
Cathy Rigby, a world-class gymnast, says that one shouldn’t compare yourself to others, rather compare yourself to the best you can be.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25 - Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
Good Enough is not Enough
It is too tempting for us to settle for mediocrity around here. Chuck Swindoll says ...
We’re just a small church in a small town. We depend on volunteers. Everyone is forgiving and understanding. So we can do just enough to get by - this is not enough.
2 King 13:14-19 tells the story of Elisha helping Jehoash, king of Israel, to have confidence in himself and his people to defeat the enemy.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 - Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all you might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
As we move forward into 2018 and beyond, we just cannot settle for second best, half effort, good enough or just getting by.
God Deserves Our Best
God deserves an invitation for dinner that is better than “we have leftovers in the microwave. You deserve better.
Malachi 1:14 - “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.”
God deserves better than leftovers and we need to remember who we are and Who we serve.
1 Corinthians 10:31 - So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Are you just here to receive, or are you here to glorify God and to serve Him? If you are here to serve HIm, get involved, really participate and do your best. “Serve the Lord with gladness, enter His courts with praise.”
When you volunteer for a committee or another area of service, show up, work hard, give your best and don’t stop working until you have reached the best possible results.
Revelations 3:15-16 - I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other. So because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Be all-in, don’t hold back anything, but it all on the table.
Matthew 22:37 - Jesus replied “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” - Jesus stressed that we do anything “with all your heart” which tells us we should be all-in in whatever we do.
Committed to Being a Healthy Church
The key to understanding church health is recognizing the church is an organism. The church is the Body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:14-27 - 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[a] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Verse 27 - That is not just poetic imagery, that you are the body of Christ. The church is literally the physical presence of Christ in today’s world. Christ indwells believers through His Spirit, so believers make up His Body and function as His hands, His feet, His voice.
Scripture provides some characteristics of healthy churches that we can use when performing spiritual check-ups on the Body of Christ.
Organs and Appendages
The healthy person has a heart that beats, lungs that breathe, arms and legs that move. Likewise, the healthy church has organs and appendages that do what they are intended to do.
Verse 18 says the Creator put the human body together in wonderful ways so that each part has been put in exactly the right place to fulfill its purpose. In the same way, He has placed each believer in the church and gave him spiritual gifts that enable him to fulfill his assigned function in the Body. The church is healthy when all the believers are in their correct places and doing the tasks for which they have been equipped by the Holy Spirit.
Muscles and Joints
The pastor tore his ACL, didn’t get a diagnosis and kept his leg immobile, which was a mistake. The problem was not with the upper portion of the leg or the lower portion, but with the joint that links the two. Similarly, the church can become unhealthy if care is not given to the relationships that link the members.
Ephesians 4:16 NIV - 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Ephesians 4;16 NLT - He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Our relationships are the muscles and joints that keep us working and growing in healthy ways.
Vital signs evaluate functions that cannot be seen on the outside but can cause very clear and obvious problems if they are not as they should be.
There are at least three signs that are vital for any church:
- A healthy church will experience the presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31)
- Worship that is relevant and sincere is vital to the health of any church (John 4:23)
- Real prayer is an absolute necessity for church health (Isaiah 56:7)
Healthy organisms reproduce in one way or another. Healthy churches reproduce through evangelism. They make disciples who make new disciples.
Matthew 28:19 - Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Healthy organisms grow.
As a parent, the pastor never told his daughter to grow. As parent, they did everything they could to keep her health and the growing happened on its own.
Healthy churches grow.
Acts 2;47b - Praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Growth by itself is not enough, because some growth is unhealthy.
Growth is not our goal, but it can be one of many signs that we use to determine our church’s health. Numbers make good guides, but they are not good goals. Our goal is not just growth, but health.
Fortunately, the Body of Christ is not on its own when it comes to being healthy. The One Who Created the Body gave us a book full of instructions for staying healthy. He gave us His Spirit to embody the Body. He even gave us His Son to be the Head of the Body.
Colossians 1:18 - And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.
Jesus leads His own Body! Let us keep it as healthy as we can, for His glory!
We Do Church Best in Small Groups
We have three different kinds of small groups. We use the term “small groups” like an umbrella term and there are three kinds of group under that umbrella. We have 1) Sunday morning Bible study, 2) short-term Bible studies and 3) Life groups.
Jesus led a small group.
Mark 3:13-14 - 13Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.
Jesus went from the many, to twelve, to three.
The early church practiced small groups.
Acts 2:42-47 - 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the LORD added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Paul taught small groups
Scriptures such as Acts 1:15, 2:41 and 47, 4:4, 5:14 and 28, 6:1 and 7, 21:20 record the amazing growth of the first church. It is believed that during its first 25 years the Jerusalem church grew from 120 people ot over 50,000 people! Where did they put all those people? The answer is small groups. Acts 5:42 tells us that ‘they met day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house … Rick Warren says “In the first church, the small group were the base for all ministry and fellowship.”
Church is not somewhere we go. It is who we are.
Matthew 18:20 - 20For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them."
We are the church and when we meet in His name, church can happen. The church is not a building or a pastor. It’s a small group.
Church is based on relationships.
These are some of the verses that tell us what we are supposed to be doing in church.
John 13:34 - A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love on another.
Romans 15:14 - I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.
Ephesians 4:25 - Therefore, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor.
Colossians 3:16 - … teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 - Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.
John 15:12 - This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Romans 15:7 - Therefore, welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Romans 16:16 - Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
2 Corinthians 13:11 - Aim for restoration, comfort on another agree with on another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Galatian 5:13 - For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Ephesians 4:32 - Be kind to one another … tenderhearted, forgiving one another.
Colossians 3:16 - Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to go.
1 Thessalonians 5:15 - Always seek to good to one another and to everyone.
Hebrews 3:13 - Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
James 5:16 - Confess your sins to one another and pray for on another, that you may be healed.
1 Peter 4:9 - Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
1 Peter 4:10 - As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another.
54 times in the New Testament we are told things that we should do for one another. Doing those things can be difficult when we’re all together in a corporate setting but it’s much easier to do them in a small group.
All those verses are about relationships - personal connections.
As much as I want to see you here on Sunday mornings, I know that you can’t really experience the relationships that make church real when you’re sitting in a pew listening to me. We can’t really relate to each other when we sit in rows looking at the back of people’s heads.
That’s what we mean when we say “church is better in circles than in rows.”
Andy Stanley (1995, 32,000) - Let’s say that something happens to me, all the staff, and all the buildings simultaneously explode. Let’s make it a worst-case scenario. There’s no staff. There’s no buildings. And there’s no me. Here’s what would happen. On Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday of the following week, thousands and thousands of adults would gather in homes all over the city and pray together, and do Bible study together and take care of whatever family members are left over and the church is going to go on. Because at the end of the day, circles are better than rows. And from day one, we’ve been committed to creating a culture that’s all about circles and not rows. We are famous for our rows, but the strength of our churches is what happens in rows.
For these reasons and plenty of others, we do church best in small groups.
Remember our three types of small groups?
The first two are curriculum driven - their purpose is discipleship.
The third one is relationship driven - its primary purpose is sharing life together.
We don’t want our life groups to get too hung up on what study they should do or what curriculum they should use. In the life group, the curriculum is just a tool to get people talking and sharing. That’s why we are going to make questions available after each sermon.
If your small group wants to use curriculum, just clear it through Todd, but most of the time, i would encourage you to just use questions to get people talking. Talk about what’s going on in your life. Celebrate the good things together and share the burdens together. Pray together Be sure to break bread together. That might be a full meal, or a bowl of popcorn. Stay in touch with each other, take care of each other, be ministers to one another, be the church.
Worship is about what we do for God, not what the church does for us.
Let’s look at what worship is not and then we can look at what worship is.
Malachi 1:6-14 - 6"A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?" says the LORD Almighty. "It is you priests who show contempt for my name. But you ask, 'How have we shown contempt for your name?' 7"By offering defiled food on my altar. "But you ask, 'How have we defiled you?' "By saying that the LORD's table is contemptible. 8When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?" says the LORD Almighty. 9"Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?" says the LORD Almighty. 10"Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you," says the LORD Almighty, "and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations," says the LORD Almighty. 12"But you profane it by saying, 'The LORD's table is defiled,' and, 'Its food is contemptible.' 13And you say, 'What a burden!' and you sniff at it contemptuously," says the LORD Almighty. "When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?" says the LORD. 14"Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the LORD. For I am a great king," says the LORD Almighty, "and my name is to be feared among the nations.
In Malachi, we learn that worship is NOT:
1. Lip service
Just saying the right things at the right time is not really worshiping. God hears our hearts, not our mouths.
2. A secondary consideration
For worship to actually take place, it has to be a priority. If we are thinking about someone or something else, and giving God what’s left over, we are not really worshiping Him. God demands our best, He desires our best, and He deserves our best.
3. Meaningless ritual
God doesn’t want us to just obediently go through the motions and fail to connect to Him. Don’t mistake the songs and the prayers, the readings and preaching for worship! Those are the vehicles, not the destination; those are the means we use to worship Him.
Isaiah 6:1-9 NIV: 1In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the LORD, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." 4At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." 6Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." 8Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" 9He said, "Go and tell this people: "'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.'
In Isaiah, we learn that worship IS:
1. Seeing God for who He really is
Isaiah saw that He was the living King who is holy, powerful, and very present.
2. Seeing yourself as you really are
When we recognize God’s holiness, we can’t help but see our own lack of holiness and need for forgiveness.
3. Receiving forgiveness
God cleansed Isaiah’s lips because that was the point of his sin. God then used Isaiah’s lips to speak great prophecies.
4. Hearing God’s voice
Once we have confessed our sin and been forgiven, we can hear God more clearly. We come to church not to hear the preacher, but to hear from the Lord.
5. Responding with commitment
When we truly worship, we always make a decision. Once we have heard God speak, we continue to worship Him by committing to follow through and act upon what we heard Him say
The local church should have a positive impact on its community.
Matthew 5:13-16 - 13"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
“You are” - not you should be, you will become, or even try to be
In scripture, the church is never described as a group of people who sit comfortably in a beautiful sanctuary. Instead, the church was established to storm the gates of hell, to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need, to boldly proclaim the truth of the gospel to be a world who rejects truth, and to glorify the Lord by making disciples who are willing to take up their crosses and follow Him.
“Salt” and “light” - elements of change
Salt used to be scarce, so it was very valuable. Have you ever heard the phase “He is worth his salt?” Roman soldiers got some of their pay in salt. Sometimes they got an allowance that they could use to buy salt. Not only was it valuable, it served many different purposes. They used it for all kinds of things. Jesus says His disciples are valuable to the Kingdom and can accomplish a great deal, but if they aren’t going to be who they were intended to be, they are useless to the Kingdom.
Light reveals the path we should take and the obstacles in our way.
Light does no good if it is covered or hidden.
The power of light is that darkness cannot exist where the light shines. Every time we let our lights shine, a little more darkness disappears from our community.
“Earth and world” - a place of impact
Salt - may preserve, may causes thirst, may enhance life
Regardless of which one he had in mind, I call tell you this - the salt won’t do its thing if it never touches the meat!
It’s important to understand our role in the community.
It is not the world’s job to understand us, help us, defend us, provide for us in any way. Our nation, our state, our community, our city - they owe us nothing. We are not here to receive from them, but to give to them. We cannot expect the community to support the church. Instead we are here to invest in the community.
Matthew 28:19-20a - 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."
We cannot be the church and send out a call for the world to “come,” but we must fully accept our responsibility to “go.”
“See” and “glorify” - the purpose of our impact
For 160 years we have been a light on this hill and our light has shone brightly. We were the first church to be established in this area. Decade after decade, we continued to let our light shine throughout northern McLennan and southern Hill counties. We ministered to, shared with, and cared for our neighbors in a way that let our light shine brightly for all the world to see.
If the Lord lingers another 160 years, we will honor our heritage and continue to sacrificially serve this community with all available resources, so that people can see who we are and what we do to glorify our Father who is in heaven.