He started talking about the impact this passage had on his life, and how it planted a seed in him to build a church that didn’t just meet on Sundays, but was the church everyday of of the week.
As he described this passage, I realized that I had never been to a church like that...and I wanted to. That’s when this thought started growing in me...maybe I could start that church.
Acts 2:42-47 says...
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Out of these we have drawn our 5 Marks:
- Seek Truth-Follow Jesus, we are committed to Scripture and right doctrine.
- Worship God-We respond to God’s grace by humbly bowing ourselves to Christ and sacrificially serving God with our lives.
- Live in Community-We love, forgive, and serve each other in order to develop deep friendships with each other.
- Growth-We grow up and we grow out.
My journey back to God began with the question, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” I was 18 years old, getting ready to graduate from high school, searching for direction as I entered college, and that’s when I heard something very similar to the opening lines of Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life. He opens the book with this:
It’s not about you.
The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.
I was just looking for a way to earn a living...something to do for the rest of my life...a job. But God was giving me a way to make a difference...a way to find real life in my living...a calling to His mission.
In our search for meaning and purpose...we often start in the wrong place. We ask questions about who we are and what we are good at doing. While asking those question are part of our search they are not the beginning. They come later.
If we are ever to come up with the right answer, we have to start with God...when we start by asking, “What is God doing?” and “How does He want me to fit into it?” we discover a meaning and purpose in life we never expected.
Asking the question, “What is God doing?” is really asking a very big question. We are searching for the Mission of God. Some like to use the fancy Latin phrase Missio Dei. But it all means the same thing...we are looking for where God is working in the world around us.
And when we start looking to fit into that mission using our gifts, talents, abilities and involvement to make a difference...we will find a meaning and purpose for our lives that is deeply satisfying.
Because churches are made up of people who make the mistake of asking the wrong question...churches make a similar mistake. They ask, “What are the needs in our community?” Or, “What will draw people to accept Jesus?” Or, maybe even “How can we serve our community?”
These are good questions that must be asked, but only after we have asked, “What is God doing?” and “How can we be part of it?” We have to follow His lead...seek first His Kingdom.
This morning we are going to look at three ways of understanding ourselves as God’s people that will help clarify this idea of mission for us.
Being about the Mission of God means...
We are a Kingdom people.
Jesus’ audience knew what it meant to live in a kingdom. They knew what it was like to have a king, to be subject to that King, and they knew who the respected members of that kingdom were.
The Jews were waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. It had been part of their prophecy for thousands of years. But Jesus’ understanding of Kingdom conflicted with theirs. They expected the Messiah to be a ruler that would overthrow the Roman oppressors and establish the Kingdom of God on earth as a visible Kingdom. A kingdom that would punish the evild-doers and elevate the righteous.
They didn’t expect the Kingdom Jesus brought. Jesus’ kingdom is a subversive kingdom. It’s not one of power and over-throw, but one of love, compassion, healing, and forgiveness. It is a kingdom that rejects the idolization of power, wealth, and success, and instead values those who are rejected, powerless, weak, forgotten, and lost.
In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus is declaring what it means for Him to be the Messiah and who His Kingdom values...and people don’t like it.
“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:In many way our world isn’t too different from Jesus’. Power, wealth, status, popularity, these are the things people look up to, crave, respect and seek after. And it has crept into the Church much like it had in Jesus’ day. Pharisees could not be around “those kind of people” because they had a holiness to protect...they couldn’t be tainted.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
As followers of Jesus we value what Jesus values, and this passage from Luke is a call to love the unlovable, to pray to see the sick healed, and to reach out to the oppressed. It is a call to serve the poor. As one Vineyard pastor said...it is a call to serve the least, the lost, the lonely, and the lesbian.
We value what the rest of our world does not.
Now there is a danger here...we value those in this condition...we do not value the condition. There is a big difference. When we value those in poverty, those who are oppressed, those who are hurting, we value a person loved by God. But some have made pursuing the condition a badge of honor...when that is done, we are no better than the rest of the world. Instead of wealth and power being the marks of success, we can turn poverty and oppression into the marks of successful religious practice.
God isn’t asking us to seek after poverty and oppression...but He is saying the Kingdom of God values people the rest of the world does not.
As a church we value the poor, the broken, the hurting, and the helpless. We will seek justice in the world around us. We are joining up with God to bring the Kingdom of God on earth because we also understand that one day...Jesus will return to restore this world to its original purpose...to the way He intended it to function when He created it.
God’s Kingdom has come on earth. We can see people healed, rescued, and redeemed, but God’s Kingdom has not come completely. The Kingdom is what we call the already and the not yet. God’s Kingdom has come on earth, but not in its fullness. The fullness of God’s activity and reign of our world will not be completed until He establishes His Kingdom on Earth.
And we look forward and work toward that day.
As Kingdom people, ...
We are a compassionate people.
When I was in college, we were required to take a course that exposed us to different ministries. From wealthy, suburban churches to inner-city homeless shelters.
Part of this course was a trip to Washington DC where we traveled around to experiencing various ministries. One of the most talked about aspects of the trip was the day we were to pose as homeless people on the streets.
For safety reason we weren’t going to spend the night out. But on Friday night, we all got dressed up in our “homeless gear” and, slept in our clothes. We woke, didn’t take a shower, and were dropped off at various locations around the city. We were to wander the city doing whatever level of homeless activity we could. I tried begging for money only to be cussed out several times. I also attempted a nap on a steam grate.
That night the van picked us up and we returned to the hotel. We were all ready to change our clothes and take a shower, but our professors called us into the meeting room and announced that 6 of us would be going to church just as we were at that moment...which meant no shower or clean clothes. I wasn’t chosen, but Dwayne, one of my roommates, was.
Several of us decided to help Dwayne look more homeless...we donated clothes or whatever we could to the cause. The result was that Dwayne stunk so bad the next morning that no one wanted to ride in the same van with him. So in the middle of January, in the coldest weather spell DC had seen in 10 years, we were driving the 15 miles to a church in the suburbs with the windows down.
I don’t know what I expected. The church was HUGE!!!! The parking lot was full of Jaquars, BMW’s, Mercedes, and other very expensive cars. The pastor’s message was essentially that if God loves you and you are obedient to God and you give as much money as you can to God then God will give you more money! People cheered when the offering was announced.
I thought Dwayne was in for a very rude experience. Dwayne was in rags. He smelled horrible. We were his friends and we didn’t want him around...how was this church going to respond?
They responded with love. Dwayne was hugged by more people than you can imagine. They told him about different ministries that could help him. He said later that he felt completely loved by that church.
Whatever I thought of their theology and preaching, I certainly couldn’t fault their love for the outsider and the broken.
Love is not the first word most people use to describe the church...and the reason is that despite all our talk of grace...we really don’t understand it. Grace means we receive something we don’t deserve from someone who doesn’t have to give it to us. We can’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. We may not even know we need it.
When we can’t love and forgive others, it is a sure sign that we have forgotten what grace is about. God loves and values us beyond our wildest understanding. He offers us forgiveness and hope when he doesn’t have to, and out of that we are asked to love and forgive others unconditionally.
Talk about a radical call. Jesus is making the claim that the hurts and pains we experience are nothing in comparison to what we have been forgiven. That takes some time to wrap our heads around because people in our world have suffered some horrible things.
God isn’t trying to belittle our hurts and wounds. He isn’t saying our pains and the atrocities of this world don’t matter. He is definitely not asking us to let people off the hook for the evil they have done...He is just asking us to allow Him to be their judge. To free ourselves from that responsibility and allow the one who fully knows right and wrong to make the call. He is asking us to grace-filled toward others because we have been given grace.
No one deserves grace or love, and yet God gives it anyway. And as His followers we learn to love and forgive as Jesus loves and forgives.
Because we don’t have to be the judge and because we too are recipients of God’s grace...we can love others with God’s love.
So we are give the responsibility of a Kingdom and called to be compassionate. The last aspect of being about God’s mission is that...
We are a sent people.
Psalm 72:19 says, “Let the whole earth be filled with His glory!” Because God’s Kingdom is not a kingdom as we would understand...His territory is not controlled by space. As we go out into our world...we become the presence of the Kingdom of God in that space.
When you walk into your job...the Kingdom of God is present because you are there...whether the job is good or bad, the boss is cool or a jerk, the company is supportive or using you...you are the Kingdom of God present in that space.
When you live in a neighborhood...the Kingdom of God is present because you are there.
When you enter a store, a restaurant, a business...the Kingdom of God is present because you are there.
The Apostle Paul calls us ambassadors. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us...”
The American government has Ambassadors that represent us and speak for us in foreign countries around the world. We are God’s ambassadors representing Christ and speaking for Him in this foreign country in which we live.
We learn to speak His words. We learn to do His actions. We proclaim His message...that God’s power and rule is breaking in to our world and people can find love, forgiveness, and wholeness through Jesus Christ. That is our message. And WE are the ones sent out to proclaim it.
When people look at a situation in our world and say, “Why doesn’t God do something about that?” The real question is “Why hasn’t the church done something about that?” We are the ambassadors. We are the spokespeople. We are the sent one...sent into a foreign and sometimes hostile culture to make an impact for Jesus.
Most everyone has seen the movie Field of Dreams. That is one of those guy and baseball movies. While the ghostly voice commanding him to “build it and they will come” was a good thing for Ray...it is not one the church should heed. We should not build it and expect people to come. The church is not meant to be a come-and-see church. The church is only the church when it is a go-and-do community. When it enters the world, experiences the pains and struggles people are facing and brings God’s love and grace with them.
We are the church not just when we gather on Sundays, but when we go into the world and pray for the sick, care for the poor, heal the hurting, speak out for the broken and oppressed, and love the unlovable. That is when we are most being the church.
Crossroads Vineyard must be the church in our community, outside its walls, caring, loving, accepting, and praying for people.
So what does it mean for us to be people of mission as we look to the future?
- We will offer people love, forgiveness, wholeness...when no one else in the world will offer it to them. We will love them when they are most unlovable.
- We will pray for and see people healed from their hurts and sicknesses.
- We believe that small things done with great love will change the world. Compassionate outward-focused service to our community is our m.o.
- 50,000 touches a year in the Huber Heights community with acts of service, compassion, and love.
- By year 5 we can be impacting 100,000 people a year in our region for Jesus Christ.
- We will work toward a ministry and healing center for the north side of Dayton where
- People can receive food help
- People can find help for their addictions and hurts
- People can receive prayer for emotional, spiritual, physical, and psychological needs.
- with a medical clinic to help fray medical costs for minor things
- Job training facilities
- Tutoring for underprivileged children
- We will be active in spreading God’s Kingdom around the world
- We will begin involving ourselves in world relief efforts...wells, farms, building churches, caring for people in disasters.
- We will begin praying for God to show us where in the world He would like us to serve...and when those opportunities arise, we will become involved in helping spread the Kingdom in other world areas.
- We will develop 2 short-term mission teams over the next 5 years.
I started off this message series by explaining my journey to find a vision for this new church that would answer these two questions, “What vision of church would be so compelling, so exciting, that I would give sacrificially of my time, my energy, my money, and my abilities to see it accomplished?” and the second question “How could I describe that in such a way that others got that excited with me?” I made that my prayer to God because I know that no matter what I dream up...it isn’t near what God wants to accomplish here.
And over the past few weeks we have broken that down and looked at it peace by peace...now I’m asking you...Is this a vision of church you would be willing to sacrifice to see happen here in Huber Heights? Is this something that you could invest your life in to see accomplished? If so, let’s work to see it done in God’s name and power.