A Church with a Mission

Ephesians 4:12-13

Illust – A century at a time

Leith Anderson tells the story of a church who is interviewing a young man to come as their minister.  Over the three days of the interview they asked him questions about himself and his family and his ministry, and then at the end of their time together, one of the committee members asked him, “Now that you’ve gotten a feel for this church, what would you have as an agenda if you were to come here as our minister?”  So, he talked for a few minutes about his commitment to making this a Christ-centered, Christ-focused church where the Bible is preached and needs could be met and people would be welcome and lives would be healed, and then he closed by saying, “Gentlemen, if I were to come as your minister I would do everything in my power to bring this church boldly into the 20th century.”  And the chairman seated near him whispered loudly, “You mean the 21st century.” And he said, “No brother, I’d try it a century at a time.”

I’m not sure what your picture of “church” is – really, I have no idea.  I can guess by the way you attend and give and serve (or not) – by how you engage and connect and function within the body.  How you act and the things you say give some indication of what you think church is.  But the bottom line is, I can’t read your mind.  I can open up the Bible and teach and encourage and urge and hope that I’m helping you grow in your understanding of what it means to be Christ’s church – his body here on earth.

It would be easy to come to the end of a sermon series and just drop it in your laps – there, go do it.  And you’d think, “go do what?”  And in my mind, I’ve lived with this series week in, and week out over the past couple of  months – Sunday after Sunday plugging away at what all this means.  I’ve thought through the reasons for and the implications of being a church where everyone can come and experience God’s love, grow in God’s family and serve in God’s kingdom. 

For me, this is powerful – just the process of thinking through what it means to have a consistent mission through which we filter what we do and where we are going at the Glenwood church.

But, at the same time, this hasn’t been just for me – and it hasn’t just been an intellectual exercise.  And if this is just a nice saying that is printed in our bulletin and shows up on Powerpoint, then it has been a waste of time.  If these ideas don’t impact how we do church and, more personally, how each of us sees our place as members of this church, then we haven’t accomplished much.

A purpose statement is not just a reflection of who you are, but an ideal toward which you intend to grow. 

The Ephesian church had a purpose statement – Paul described it in the 4th ch of Ephesians – “to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12-13).  Serving, unity, mature faith, intimate relationship with Christ.  It’s the big rock approach to mission – you get the important things done right and the church is going to thrive. If you wander around not having any sense of priorities or direction you’ll never accomplish anything. 

So, we’ve spent six weeks talking about what it means to be a church where everyone can come and experience God’s love, grow in God’s family and serve in God’s kingdom.  Has it grown on you?  Has it helped define what it is we’re trying to do here at Glenwood?

Experience God’s Love

When visitors show up at the Glenwood church, have you taken it upon yourself to be the instrument through which God demonstrates his love? 

And of course, before you can ever be the conduit through which others experience God’s love, you must first have experienced it yourself.  That’s the secret.  Until we have experienced the depth of God’s limitless grace we won’t really know what it means to forgive others.  We might go through the motions, we might put on a smile and act like there’s something there, but deep inside there will be doubt and resentment. Until we have let others love us, and let them into our lives, we’ll hold back and pull up short. 

So, before we can ever get it right with our visitors, we need to get it right with each other.  Let’s make it our job to pour out the love of God on each other.  How?  How does God show love?  In selfless sacrifice and service – in unconditional acceptance – in encouragement – in lovingly telling each other the truth when we need to hear it – in forbearance and forgiveness.

Paul tells us that the most vivid description of God’s love was in the cross – “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8).

And how does that change how we live and treat others? Listen to Paul in 2 Cor. 5:14 – “For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

So, Glenwood is a place where we want everyone, not only to experience God’s love, but to become conduits of God’s love to others.  And it will happen when each of us takes seriously the cross of Jesus Christ in our own lives.

Grow in God’s Family

Secondly, we’ve said that Glenwood is a church where everyone can come and grow in God’s family.  We talk a lot about being God’s family.  And that’s good, but it creates certain expectations.  When you say you’re a family, you expect a certain depth of relationships, a certain willingness to accept and love unconditionally.  When we’re family we are going to be connected to each other with bonds that are deeper than showing up once a week to worship together.  We will be in each other’s homes, getting involved in each other’s lives, caring for each other’s needs.

When you’re family you accept, not only the benefits and privileges that go with family, you also accept the responsibilities.  We have a vested interest in each other.  We share the work, we take our turns doing the things that need to be done, we sacrifice equally in our giving to the Lord so that the kingdom will grow and the gospel will be spread.

And part of being family means that we look out for each other.  We expect and give each other room to grow and mature in the Lord.  We don’t assume that everybody is in the same place spiritually.  Some are babies in Christ, others are mature.  We don’t expect babies to be fully grown – they can ask questions and make mistakes and not be belittled or condemned, but nurtured and discipled. 

We take seriously the promise that the Spirit is at work in the church and in individual Christians – “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:17-18).

Serve in God’s Kingdom

And finally, this church is about providing a place for everyone to be involved in serving in God’s kingdom.  God didn’t create us to be spectators, but fully involved and committed participants in what he is doing.  Paul calls us “co-workers with God” – it’s an awesome thought – being involved in what God is doing in this world – changing lives, saving souls, washing feet. 

And if our goal is to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, there is nothing closer to the heart of Christ than serving.  In Mk. 10, he says, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve….”  In John 13, we see him washing the feet of his disciples and then saying, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” 

In serving, we become like our master.  And the more selfless the service, the lowlier the job, the more helpless the recipient, the less appreciation you get – the closer to Jesus you have become. 

And let me say one more thing about serving God.  It’s easy to compartmentalize our lives and think of what we do here inside the four walls of this building, serving God, and what we do out there the rest of the week, our secular work.  The Bible doesn’t recognize that distinction. 

Everything you do is in service to God – whether in here or out there – everything you do should be endued with the grace and glory of God.  Listen to a couple of passages that drive this home:

Col. 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

1 Cor 15:58 “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Illustration – Roads to nowhere

Novelist George Moore tells how the government put the peasants to work building roads during the great depression in Ireland.  Delighted to have jobs again, they worked energetically, singing songs with zest, until one day they realized what was happening – the roads they were building didn’t go anywhere.  They just rambled out into the countryside and stopped in the middle of nowhere.  The roads were useless.  The government had put them to work just to give them something to do.  The songs stopped, and the workers became listless.  Moore observed, “The roads to nowhere are difficult to make.  For a man to work and sing, there must be an end in view.”

If we do church just to do church, we’re building roads to nowhere.  No lives changed, no souls won.  A waste of time. 

But if we get a glimpse of what the church can be – the very presence of Jesus in this world – we will never be the same again.  It’s an awesome picture of the church.  A church that is about the things of God.  A church with a great sense of purpose – who we are and where we are going.  Everyone of us invested in the life of the church – living life on the cutting edge of God’s kingdom – knowing that our lives are making a difference for all eternity.