What does the foundation look like?
but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
16 Now the eleven disciples [f] went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they [g] worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, [h] “All authority [i] in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 [j] Go therefore and [k] make disciples of [l] all nations, [j] baptizing them [m] in [n] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them [o] to observe all that [p] I have commanded you. And behold, [q] I am with you always, to [r] the end of the age.”
A key part of the purchase of any house is a foundation inspection. Cracks, leaks and termites can be deal breakers. Many of us do not pay any more attention to the foundation again until its time to sell the house. Churches can be guilty of the same, not looking at foundational issues that affect their ability to reach their community with the Gospel, until it’s time to call a new staff member. Even then, we can be guilty of minimizing major issues with phrases like “we’ve always done it that way” or “no one around here had ever done it that way before”…
We are going to examine some tough questions. Why did Jesus command us to build the church? It boils down to three words on the most basic of levels. Purpose, Passion, and People. If we are out of line with Christ and the Bible on any of these three, we are in some serious trouble.
What is the purpose of the church? Someone share your thoughts…
Purpose is a big deal. Saddleback Church in California has a whole series of resources about being purpose driven in your life, your church, your youth ministry, your marriage, your workplace, etc, etc.. There’s a lot of good in the resources there, which is why I shared the first line of Purpose Driven Life last week: “It’s not about ___you___ “. It’s important to look at the purpose that Christ has called us to.
As believers, we are given incredible power. In fact, in Acts 1:8, when it says “you will receive power” the Greek word used there is Dunimas, which shares the root word in our word “dynamite”. Yes Dynamite. That kind of explosive power.
The word is used in the New Testament about 120 times according to Strongs Concordance. In many other places the word is used to describe miracles and the power of God. That kind of power is what we are talking about. But how are we going to use it? Are we going to hide it within the walls of this oversized closet, or get it out and use it, like God told us to do?
You can put an engine with a lot of horsepower in a racecar or a tractor. Both serve purposes. Which do you need? Which are you called to do? If God has called you to go fast and far with the Gospel, you will be equipped differently than if you are called to go deep in training new believers in the word. One is not less important than the other, they are just different. Both are vital in the Kingdom. Both are useless if they are left in the shed and never used.
Everything we do as believers should trace back to one scripture. It is the foundation of the Christian life. How do we know? Its simple. When Jesus was asked what was most important, He answered. We find it in Matthew 22:35-40:
35 [d]And one of them, [e] a lawyer, asked him a question [f] to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, [g] “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And [h] a second is like it: [i] You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 [j] On these two commandments depend [k]all the Law and the Prophets.”
Love God. Love People.
If we love God, we are going to want to follow his commandments. John 15:14 says this. We will want to know Him more. Also, we cannot truly love God and not love those created in His image, whether they are believers, or not. Whether they look like us, act like us or talk like us. Whether they live near us. Or agree with us. Anything less isn’t really loving, is it? In our current environment that is stiff medicine from the great physician.
Now, there is one other thing we need to factor into this. Loving God and Loving people is going to naturally result in Making Disciples. If we love God, and love people, we are going to want to tell them about the hope and joy that we have in our lives because of our personal relationship with Christ. That’s where Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8 come in. Making disciples is our “one job” given by Christ, the “what” is Matthew 28:18-20 and we are given the “where” to that one job in Acts 1:8.
One of the favorite picture series I see in Social Media, is the one called “you had one job”. Some would call these memes. They are mostly under 30. But I digress. One of the more memorable ones is a painting crew that was to stencil “Stop” on the pavement in front of a stop sign. It was painted SOTP.
Or the guy who discovered that Subway “footlong” sandwich bread was actually 11 inches.
That’s us. One job. Make disciples. Sometimes I wonder if many of our churches today are like that paint crew or the bread folks. We can put on a feed. We can sing in tempo and on key. We can make a great looking church building that will last many years. But did we make disciples that follow Christ and look like Christ? They might bear resemblance to a Christian, but maybe not all the pieces are there and in the right order. If we have made a bunch of people who act like Christians, but don’t actually know Christ, what have we really accomplished?
You can go to a sporting goods store and get running shoes, shorts and jackets, a fitbit, and nice headphones, but if you never actually run? That’s what we are talking about here.
This is a foundational-level issue. If we are not Loving God, Loving People, and Making Disciples, Things are seriously wrong in our church on the foundational level and needs to be addressed immediately.
God will instill in us passions for serving Him that align with where He is calling us to serve. Does that always mean that God will call us to exactly where WE want to serve? No. He is going to lead us to serve Him through experiences that will equip for where He will call us to serve.
Don’t be scared here, because God is going to use that passion in different ways or temper it for a time to do something else. For example, my calling is rural ministry. For 15 years that was youth ministry in rural communities. The last three, it has been equipping youth workers in rural churches, and working to build heathy churches that produce equipped rural youth workers. Does that mean I’m done with youth ministry in the local church? That is up to God. For this season, I’m pouring into youth workers and rural churches until God tells me to do something different.
For example, If God wanted me to serve in an urban environment, He would have to equip me for that calling. It is not within me or my background by any means. Maybe through short term missions service in urban areas, living and working in an urban center for some time before being called to serve one would be helpful. Does this mean this is how God always works? No, but we see it often.
Before serving your church as Transitional Pastor, I have helped several through various parts of their transition process. Each of them taught me different things and perspectives about the transition processes of small and rural churches. Will I learn things during this process? Absolutely. No two churches are the same, even if you were exclusively working within one denomination, there would be vast differences between churches.
What is the Passion of your congregation in serving the Kingdom? What kinds of ministry “turn the gears” of the people here? That is something that we will look at over the next several weeks. What ministries are the ones that get you going as a church AND fit God’s purpose as a church? It may even be a ministry that you are not yet doing. It may even be one that this church cannot pull off on its own, and needs to partner with other churches to accomplish. That’s OK, that is Kingdom work. John 17:20-23 speaks to this kind of unity among believers:
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
There is one more piece to this foundation puzzle.
Who has God called you to reach? This is a question that needs to be answered in the next several weeks. One thing that almost 20 years of ministry has taught me is that God equips specific churches to uniquely reach certain demographics and populations.
I have done ministry with a Cowboy Church plant that was called specifically to reach the “rodeo crowd” in the area east of Kansas City. I didn’t know squat about rodeos. The pastor and I were both from a farming background, and the rodeo guys needed help on with ministry, but they knew rodeo people, horses, and cattle. God put us all in the same place and people met Christ.
I served in another church that could connect well with hunters. It was out in the country near where a lot of farmers and hunters lived. Guess what. Wild Game suppers were a big deal there, done well, and reached people that may never darken the doors on a Sunday morning.
What is the group of people that God has uniquely equipped you to reach as a congregation? We will be examining that over the next several weeks, because my desire for this congregation is to have a ministry foundation that:
Fulfills God’s purpose for the church AND matches the passions God has instilled in the congregation AND is designed to reach the people God has uniquely equipped you to reach.
In order to do this, it’s simple, but not easy. Digging footings for a house and laying foundation is not easy, like we talked about last week. Over the next several weeks, we are going to be looking at the what and the why that this church does on a week to week basis and setting them on this foundation that we are putting together.
That may mean examining things your church has done for years and maybe making a tough decision that it isn’t the best method currently to share the unchanging message of the love and salvation that Christ brings. That takes nothing away from the history of that ministry. Maybe it was wildly successful in days gone by, but maybe not sustainable or effective today. And we can be ok with that.
As you “examine the foundation, ask yourself the following about your church”:
Are we serving God’s purpose for this church?
Are we using our God-instilled Passions to serve the Kingdom?
Who are the People that God has uniquely equipped us to reach?