What We Need in Church

What does our church need to achieve fundamental change? Three things: Greatness, Openness, Direction.

We need Greatness in worship and personal spiritual experience. We need to rise above mediocrity and “just enough to get us by.” We need great worship. We need worship where we come face to face with Jesus Christ, with Almighty God. We need sacrificial worship. We need to bring something to the service and to God’s presence, rather than expect to take something away from it. We need to expect to bring a gift to God, our broken and bleeding hearts, the kind of sacrifice He desires. We need uplifting worship. We need worship and personal spiritual experience that is literally “out of this world.” This is what gives us the glimpse of the “other side,” the realm of the eternal and the spiritual. Without it, our religion becomes dull, lifeless, monochrome, and carnal.

Next, we need Openness. We need to be open and transparent to our brothers and sisters in faith, to open our hearts to them. We also need openness to God, so that we do not approach Him with hypocrisy, but with complete and sincere honesty about who we are and we wish to become. This is called in John 4 worshiping in “Spirit and in truth.” “In Spirit,” for God is spirit. We can only approach Him as translucent spirit, not as opaque flesh. This is true intimacy, not the kind of “lets-make-love” philosophy passed around by fornication, but true and lasting intimacy of heart, shared between Christians, other Christians, and Christ, the true intimacy of the “Body.”

Lastly, we need direction. We need to know where we are going. What is the point of all this? Is it to make more money, to hire more staff, to break 200, or something else completely pointless? Are we trying to achieve a certain level of spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:13) together, something that we can measure and touch? Are we trying to bring new lives into the Kingdom? What is the direction that all of our services and groups and ministries are aiming for? Firmness of direction gives us a sense of purpose. Without it, we will fail, because we will fail to set goals. Failing to even set goals is a mark of a dying church. There would be no life here without direction. As children, out intention is to grow up. As older children, we set goals for our future, what will I be? As adults, we set goals in our career, how high will I go, or, how well a job can I do? As as Church, what is our direction? To get bigger? How big? How soon? Who will cater to? How will we grow? Are we willing to sacrifice our building to build newer and bigger? Are there sacred cows along the way we will have to butcher in order to make more room (i.e., music, wall color, more preaching, more services, more home Bible study)

Without these three, Greatness, Openness and Direction, Church is pointless, monotonous, and will eventually die. Do you want to be a hanger-on, one of the last to go down with the ship, or do you want to live?! Do you want to live the life that Jesus calls for in Scripture, to be filled overflowing with the water of life, to live life more abundantly? (John 10:10)

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Forget Not His Benefits

When the Affordable Care Act engaged in full force, small businesses were already making hard choices, hiring employees for part-time rather than full-time. Many people who were promised not to lose their healthcare were faced with losing their jobs. Now with labor day on the horizon, we begin to see the condition of jobs and benefits deteriorate unlike we’ve ever seen before.

Now, these same folks love Jesus, go to church, and are good Christian folks. But while the preacher goes on and on about the sweet by and by, they are hurting in the here and now. Does the eternal, holy, and good God see my needs where I am? Are God’s good gifts only eternity? Or are they for the here and now? What are God’s promises for his children while they tread upon this earth?

When we start a new job, we have come to expect certain kinds of benefits, including health insurance, dental insurance, vision and a retirement plan. Some jobs even include a life insurance policy in effect while we work for that job to help take care of our families. And these will be the subjects of our messages this month, for God supplies richly and abundantly the benefits of His kingdom upon those whom He has called.

But all those benefits assume that you are doing you job. Even these heavenly benefits are contingent upon the practice and growth of your faith. Are you expanding your toolbox by reading and studying God’s Word? Are you strengthening your relationship with Jesus by spending time in prayer? Does the practice of your faith include both going to church weekly and sharing your faith daily, with family, friends and people you meet?

Our job description is clear: As you go, make disciples, baptize believers, and teach them to be like Jesus. This is our great commission as the church, which applies to each of us if it applies to any of us. Each of us has been called, however we are equipped by the Spirit, to make disciples, to show others even if only by our example, what it means to be a Christian. Whether in tough times or easy, how do you labor for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ? Does everyone you know know you are a Christian? If not, repent of this sin, and seek to show others your faith. It’s ok to make others uncomfortable. We weren’t called to make them comfortable, but to bring their souls to Jesus. This is our job, and we have this job to do.

We find that the benefits to this job far outweighs the headaches and frustrations.

Health Insurance

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
(Jas 5:14-15)

Dental Insurance?

“I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD.
(Amo 4:6)

Vision Insurance

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
(Mat 7:3-5)

Retirement

even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.
(Isa 46:4)

Life Insurance

And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.
(1Jn 2:25)

Penciling In

Another year has come and gone, and we are faced with a new year, complete with new challenges and new opportunities. There is something about opening a new calendar, and putting away an old one. The scent of fresh paper, the sound of crinkled plastic, and the bright and playful colors of the approaching year’s pictures. But, just as soon as the new calendar is opened and hung, it becomes filled. Without fail, it becomes a battlefield, with armies of meetings and programs threatening the placid surface of the page. The old calendar bears silent witness to the war between your time, and the time claimed by everyone else, your job, your children, and your spouse.

I can’t speak to all of your other commitments, but I can guarantee at least one hour a week well worth the investment of your time. That hour is the hour you spend with God and His people. Many of you may not have been to church in recent months. I want to formally invite you to revisit God’s house, where His name is worshipped and His word is read and examined. That hour, and you can put this in your calendar, is the hour you spend with Jesus. Jesus won’t monopolize your time; it must be freely given. But for the cost, it is the most profitable 60 minutes of your week. For what you give, you get peace of mind, and of heart. There is joy here, and love. There is also hope. For here is a Savior, and a forgiver of sin. If you want the rest of your 167 hours to be meaningful, I ask you to spend 1 with Jesus.

Why should Sunday occupy an important part of our time? Examine the following:

It is the day on which God created light. (Genesis 1:3)

It is the day on which our Lord was resurrected and on which He appeared to His Disciples. (John 20:19, 26)

It is the day on which the 120 believers received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. (Leviticus 23:15-16; Acts 2:1-4)

It is the day when the Apostle John was given his revelation of the glorified Christ. (Revelation 1:10)

It is the day on which the early Christians gathered to worship (Acts 20:7); to hear the Word (Acts 20:6-7): and to make their contributions for God’s work. (1 Corinthians 16:2)

The first day of the week, Sunday, is the foundation for the remaining six days. If the foundation is holy, so will the rest be holy. But if the foundation is full of holes, the rest of the week cannot stand.

Please pencil Him in.

So, Are You Coming?

If you are one of those 33% that don’t go to church anywhere, then this article is for you. So those of you who are already members AND regular attenders at a church, either this one, or elsewhere, I ask you to give this article to someone you know.

Now, it’s just us. You the rare-if-ever church-goer, and me, the minister of a local church. The question that plagues me is what can I do, or what can I say that might encourage you to darken the doors of our church building? You may have some objection to coming to church, and this I fully understand. There are times when 9:30am is really too early to be in a church building on a Sunday morning. Sometimes I am tired from my busy weekend and would really just rather stay in bed. I can’t. And its not just the fact that I have to preach on Sunday morning, but that I want to be in this church. This is where all my friends are. The people I love come to church. This is my family.

Some people just don’t like church. It’s filled with too much politics. If you agree with this statement, I am your newest best friend. You are the kind of person that truly loves the Lord. Amen, brother. Because you have a place reserved for you in Heaven. I hate church politics. It only gets in the way of real worship and expression. What we need here at Jesus’ Church are more people that think like this. They are willing to worship Jesus no matter what. If you are willing to trust in Jesus alone, then you have a home here with us.

Some people have been to this church before and have either been burned or felt that they weren’t welcome here. I want to tell you that this church isn’t your father’s church or the preacher’s church. This is Jesus’ church and it belongs to Him. We have the great privilege of being invited to belong.

Listen, I don’t want to beat you up over this, but it’s very important that you find out the answer to this question: If you were to die tonight, and God asked you at His throne, “why should I let you into my Heaven?”, I want you to be prepared to answer. Only Christians can say with confidence, “Because Christ has died for me.”

Christ isn’t just an odd concept. He is a living, real person. He has done a marvelous thing for us. He lived just like we do. He was working-class, and never made any bones about it. He lived his life, the best life that was ever lived, and died for you. He died so that you, and I mean you on a personal level, could stand before His Father, and answer. Your eternity depends on it. Don’t wait any longer. You need to decide today.