Evangelism – A Pillar of the Church 10/5/15

Text: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

From www.untilallarereached.com

Introduction:

Evangelism is clearly outwards focused function of the church. However we need to get back to the clear gospel proclamation in our churches. The tragedy is that people attend churches all around the world and think they are Christians because they y listen to a good speech every week. We need to proclaim the gospel from our pulpits and in our Sunday school classes and our small groups.

Paul was writing to the Corinthian church and confronting those in Corinth who were saying that there is no resurrection from the dead and that Jesus himself did not rise from the dead. If this were the case then there is no hope, and without the resurrection of Jesus, we have no reason to be meeting together today.

He presents in the verses we read today, Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes one of the clearest presentations of the simple gospel message that we find anywhere in the bible.

Paul declares that Jesus died for our sins, he was buried, and he was raised to life on the third day. Paul produces proof of this in the way of the Old Testament prophecies and the fact that there were many witnesses of these events.

The gospel message is a historical fact, it is not a distant story that changed history, and is still changing lives today for the glory of God. This is the wonderful message on which our faith is built. Jesus won the victory over death that day. When Jesus died, he said, “it is finished” not “I am finished”. Jesus was not a martyr, dying for his faith, but he was a savior dying to save you and me from the penalty of our sins.

There is probably not a finer example in the bible for us of what it is to be a witness of the Gospel message than the story of the four lepers found in 2 Kings 7. We are not people with a superior knowledge reaching down to others who are not as smart as us, we are not theological practitioners. We are sinners saved by Grace, and we are able to say to people, Come with us! See what we have seen, Salvation is here!

Years ago a missional church or a Great Commission church was defined by how much money they gave to missions, and the focus was on the mission field over there…. But now the world is a very different place. We have so many cultures and nationalities right here in Kansas City, in our neighborhoods the mission field has come to us. We need to ask God the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to the lost all around us.

Are we truly a missional church if when people come into our churches, they see a church that is not relevant and meaningful to their world or even their generation. A missional church is a church that sacrifices their non biblical traditions that may or may not be very good, in order to present a relevant Gospel message to the lost in their community. Are we a missional church?

There is a difference between evangelism and the gift of the evangelist. The spiritual gift of being an evangelist is rare, probably 5 or 10% of the Body of Christ. However evangelism is an assignment, the commission, and Command of Jesus Christ for every Christian. Witnessing is the role of every Christian. We have a story to tell.

The evangelist has the role of equipping the body of Christ to do the work of evangelism.

We must remember that we do not save anyone, we don’t have the power to convince someone to die to their old life and make Jesus Lord of their lives. That is the role of the Holy Spirit. Our role is to pray for the lost and to present the message of Jesus to them.

Without prayer, our evangelism is weak and ineffective. Matthew 9:37 &38

By the death and resurrection of Jesus, he has made it possible for those who believe in him and make him Lord of their lives to be able to come into a relationship with God the Father. Those who make Jesus Lord of their lives are saved from an eternity in Hell and will spend eternity in the presence of God in heaven.

This is true salvation, not a temporary salvation it is the eternal message of the good news of the cross. And it is available to any and all who call on the name of Jesus.

 

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen—not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” C.S. Lewis

Discipleship – A Pillar of the Church 9/28/14

Equipping the Saints – A Pillar of the Church

Text: 2 Timothy 3:10-17 

From www.untilallarereached.com

 Introduction:

As we enter our third week in focusing on the church, this week we focus on the second pillar of the church, namely edification. Edification or equipping is a major function of the church, although Jesus focused more on evangelism, it is logical that equipping or edification took place before the disciples were sent out on evangelism missions.

It is important to note that edification is not simply training, it goes much deeper than that, and the fact that it is not only the pastors or teachers being edified, it is the building up of the entire body of Christ.

In the text for today Paul was encouraging his young disciple. Timothy knew Paul’s doctrine (teaching); his manner of life (conduct); the purpose that motivated his life; the faith that sustained him in trial; the long-suffering, love, and endurance that he showed, even when persecuted; and the wonderful way God took care of him through it all. Paul had been a divine object lesson to young Timothy,

Today I want to look at 3 ways in which the members of a church are equipped or edified.

One of them is fellowship; the early church in the New Testament shared all things in common and cared for each other as we see in Acts 5. However we sometimes lose the intention of true fellowship. We meet together for meals, share a cup of coffee and don’t really fellowship as Christians, unfortunately sometimes it is little more than a get together that turns into gossip meetings. However I like to call true fellowship, fellowship with Purpose – when we get together, let us intentionally speak about things that build one another up, encourage one another, speak about the word of God, what is God saying to you in your life right now? What are you learning? This is true fellowship that leads to edification.

Another method of edification is preaching and teaching- Today we have access to literally hundreds of thousands of training and teaching tools, from the internet and printed material. Timothy knew the scriptures, and Paul commended him on that (v15). The Bible transforms the child of GOD into a mature person in Christ; it equips the saints to be servants. “Equipped for service.” In other words, the Word of God furnishes and equips a believer so that he can live a life that pleases God and do the work God wants him to do. The better we know the Word, the better we are able to live and work for God.

The purpose of Bible study is not just to understand doctrines or to be able to defend the faith, as important as these things are. The ultimate purpose is the equipping of the believers who read it. It is the Word of God that equips God’s people to do the work of God.

As church members are edified, the church grows healthier, as the church grows healthier, the church grows in number. But the foundation must be set with equipping or edification or training.,

The final method of edification is Discipleship; this is one of the most overused words and misunderstood terms in the modern day church. Some people question whether or not Paul truly discipled Timothy, however as we look at our text this morning it gives us a clue into his methodology of discipleship (see verse 10). How did Timothy know all these things about Paul? Obviously he observed Paul, they spent time together and lived life together. We confuse discipleship with teaching, we have this picture of an overweight guru sitting on a rock “discipling” his students. We can easily allow our students to believe that we are wonderful people who never get flustered or angry if we limit discipleship to a teacher/student paradigm. However Jesus modeled for us the perfect form of discipleship, his disciples knew him well, he taught them when he was teaching formally and he taught them when they observed his life. Jesus knew that he had to model for his disciples how to live this new life he was presenting to them. They had to see it in action.

You may say, how does this have anything to do with me? The discipling of new (and sometimes old) Christians in the fundamentals of living the Christian life has largely been neglected in churches. Here is a great place where you can make a difference. When you lead someone to Christ, take him/her under your wing (so to speak) and show them how to be a Christian disciple. Don’t worry about being a master teacher just share your life with them.

But the primary reason for discipleship is to equip people to lead others into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. If we are not discipling intentionally towards training people to lead others to Christ, we probably need to take the name “disciple” out of it.

So why is equipping or edification so important in our churches today? What we all need to understand is that when we are saved, we all become God’s ministering people. We need to see the church as a place where we become equipped and trained to go out into the world to serve the Lord in our particular area of ministry. Wherever Christians go, they are the church, reaching and touching people for the Lord Jesus.

A church that is equipped and engaging in ministry becomes a powerful church and makes a difference in the lives of those around them.

How about we change our perspective and seek to find a job for every member rather than trying to find a few members to do all the jobs. As we train new members, high on the list of priorities will be a challenge to them to be plugged in to some area of ministry. This is discipleship, this is equipping!

Worship – A Pillar of the Church 9/21/14

Worship – A Pillar of the Church  From www.untilallarereached.com

The first function of the church is Worship. The early church set an example of regular worship. Even though worship is directed towards God, it serves to benefit the worshippers as they are drawn closer to God in their worship. As believers focus on God, they begin to learn more about him, this also includes teaching and instruction, and then the believers being thus equipped go out and share the Gospel message with the lost.

What is Worship? The Greek verb here (latreuein) may also be translated ‘to serve’. Christian worship cannot be restricted to prayer and praise in a congregational context. As the Apostle Paul states in Romans 12:1

Worship is an expression of reverence and adoration of God. – Worship is the activity of glorifying God in his presence with our voices, hearts and very lives.

The Gospel is a call to worship, to turn from sin and call on the name of the Lord. Worship is a direct expression of our ultimate purpose for living. (Ephesians 1:12)

Everything in our worship services, should be to draw attention to God and to cause people to think about him.

Throughout the Old Testament period listening to God’s Word, prayer, and sacrifice constituted the essence of worship. But in every case the worshiper killed the animal from his own flock with his own hands. These sacrifices expressed in a vivid and tangible way the cost of sin and the worshiper’s responsibility. Under the Old Covenant, believers could only draw near to god in a limited way. Most could not enter the temple.

               When Jesus came, he proclaimed that he himself was the temple of God; in resurrection, he would provide the spiritual dwelling where God the Spirit and people, in spirit, could have spiritual communion. In other words, worship would no longer be in a place but in a person—through Jesus Christ and his Spirit the worshipers could come directly to God.

This shift in worship—from physical to spiritual—is the theme of John 4 when Jesus was speaking to the Samaritan Woman (John 4:23-24) God the Father would no longer be worshiped in a place. A new age had come in which the true worshipers (Jew, Samaritan, or Gentile) must worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Remember from a few weeks ago, we discussed how the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth.

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church, Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t.

Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate and not man. John Piper

 

As we so frequently mention, Grace Point is a missional church, but missions must never supersede worship. Missions is a temporary necessity, worship will continue forever. Worship is the fuel and goal of missions, In order for us to direct others to Jesus, we need to come from a place of intimacy and worship.

How sad it is that today, many people walk into churches today and experience passionless worship and see the lives of so called Christians who are just going through the routine of Sunday morning. Are we not claiming to be worshipping the creator and sustainer of the entire universe? How can our worship services be anything but a powerful expression of our love and reverence for God.

But today Sunday morning “services” become a practical list of how-to’s and psychological soothing and relational therapy – but this is all so out of touch with the true reality – the overwhelming greatness of God.

The term ‘worship’ is misunderstood if it gives the impression that the major element is what human beings do or offer to God. Worship is human response to a gracious God, and it needs to be placed in this context if it is to be properly understood.

True worship also flows out of seeing and realizing God for Who he is. When we get a glimpse of the awesome throne room of God, it will be impossible for us not to respond in true worship. (Isaiah 6:3)

Sadly many evangelical churches do not worship, they gather, sing, give, read the Word, and pray, but in their hearts it is nothing more than a mechanical process. So many churches lack the fire and passion of true worship, because we have lost sight of who we gather to worship! I pray that here at Grace Point, we will have an ever increasing passion and realization of the Almighty God.

So how can we make our worship more effective? We need to remember that worship is primarily spiritual, thus we need to look for spiritual solutions to the desire for more effective worship. We need to spend much time in prayer before we come together to worship. The worship team and pastoral staff pray, but do we as a congregation prepare our hearts in prayer? How much time did you pray for the service, before coming to church today?

Before we enter into a worship service we need to prepare our own hearts and see if we are holding any ill feelings towards anyone in the congregation. This will hinder worship. We need to be reconciled to each other before we focus on worshiping God. Also, as we need to approach the throne of grace in worship, we need to be seeking personal holiness in our lives. As we see in Hebrews 12:14;” 14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” What a challenge – are we walking in holiness and purity?

What is the Church? 9/10/14

 

The Church – Athol Barnes

Text: Ephesians 4:1-16

From www.untilallarereached.com

Today there is much confusion regarding the church. What is the church, is it a building, is it a community, how many people constitute a church. Part of the misunderstanding is the multiple uses of the word church. On September 13 1911, the members attending a Wednesday meeting voted to constitute Swope Park Baptist Church, which became Grace Point. Was that when the church started? Do we need to have a 501c3 corporation to be called a church?

The church is known as a large group of people in a building set aside for the purpose of worship, or the church is a small group of people meeting in the home, and then you have the entire collection of believers around the globe also being called the church. So what is the church?

Much of the emphasis today is on what the church does in relation to social change and mission rather than on focusing on God and the essence of worship. Thus more emphasis is on the mission than on the identity of the church. In fact, today the church is viewed by many as being dynamic and flexible, changing with the culture and times. The church is seen as an event rather than a complete entity.

However if we frequently change the church identity to adapt to the world, rather than the church being a change agent in the world, how can we call ourselves a church that is based on the Bible and the unchanging Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul was writing this letter to the Ephesian church while imprisoned and awaiting trial in Rome.

Let us look briefly at 3 images that Pau uses for the Church, namely the People of God, the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The people of God; the church is the people of God, because God chose them (Romans 9:24-26).

               There are several implications to being called the People of God; – God takes care of them, – takes pride in them and protects them. He also expects that his people will be devoted to him without divided loyalty. The people of God must be holy and pure.

It goes without saying that the church is not a building. Although we designate the building as a church building, it is not the church. We do not “go to church” we go to a building where the church meets. Praise God for this beautiful building, but it is not the church. We are the people of God, those who have made the personal decision to make Jesus Chris the Lord of their lives.

The Body of Christ; this is the most common image of the church. This image emphasizes that the church is the center and focal point of Christ’s activity now, just as was his physical body during his time on earth (1 Corinthians 12:27). Christ is the head of this body; (Colossians 1:18.) The image of the body of Christ also talks about the interconnectedness of the persons who make up the church. Each member needs the other. Members of the body are meant to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

The body is also characterized by fellowship. The body represents unity. All ethnic and social barriers have been removed.

Paul spells out one implication of the body analogy. It is love that holds the body together. It is each person doing his or her part—exercising his or her gift within the body—that produces spiritual growth. Every person has an important role to play in the church.

The Temple of the Holy Spirit. The church was started by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Now the Holy Spirit indwells the church , both individually and collectively (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).Dwelling inside the church the Holy Spirit gives life to the church. The Holy Spirit conveys power to the Church. Acts 1:8. The results of the early church and any church are attributed to the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to experience unity in the Church ( Acts 4:32).

In the twentieth century and in our current century, there has been a shift away from the theoretical view of the church towards a more realistic approach to the doctrine of the church. We have the theory of what the ideal church should look like, but in reality we also understand that it is dynamic and changing, based on the culture and location of the church. Problems or dynamics in certain locations affect the makeup of the specific church, as it seeks to be relevant. Many theologians see this flux as normative and even desirable. The world is in a constant state of transition, this applies to language, cultures and the church. The church is viewed as an ongoing work or an incomplete project.

However this is a very real danger, if the church is seen as a developing project without a fixed foundation, it can easily lose its definition and become nothing more than a social institution. But as we know the church is way more than a social institution. There are areas that need to change with generations and culture, but we need to ensure that the core message is not compromised. If the core message is compromised and the church becomes another social institution, then why call it a church at all.

A healthy church will be focused on reaching the lost for Christ, and church growth will result from that. Church growth is not a goal, it is a natural byproduct of evangelism. True church growth is the result of the members of the church being obedient to Christ.

Rick Warren has stated the following; “I believe the key issue for churches in the 21st century will be church health not church growth.”

So what are the evidences of Spiritual Growth?

The first evidence of spiritual growth is Christlikeness.Pastors are supposed to equip the saints unto the work of the ministry that leads to the building up of the body of Christ. I sincerely hope that you did not call me to be your pastor so that I personally will be able to evangelize all of South Kansas City. Rather you called me follow my leadership as I, through the Word, equips you to do the job (2 Tim. 3:16–17).The members of the church grow by feeding on the Word and ministering to each other. The pastor-teacher is to nourish the saints with the Word of God and equip them for service; the members of the church, in turn, perform the work of the ministry. As each Christian grows and wins others, the entire body grows in Christ. Everyone shares in the growth of the church. Churches are not built up and strengthened through man-made programs, entertainment, recreation, or “drives.” The church is a body and must have spiritual food; this food is the Word of God.

The second evidence is stability. The maturing Christian is not tossed about by every religious novelty that comes along. There are religious quacks waiting to kidnap God’s children and get them into their false cults, but the maturing believer recognizes false doctrine and stays clear of it. Are you stable? Are your feet secure on the firm foundation of the Word of God?

The third evidence of maturity is truth joined with love: (Eph. 4:15). It has well been said that truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy.

The body – this church – grows as the individual members grow, and they grow as they feed on the Word and minister to each other. Note once again the emphasis on love: showing tolerance for one another in love” (Eph. 4:2); “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15); building up of itself in love” (4:16). Love is the circulatory system of the body. An isolated Christian cannot minister to others, nor can others minister to him, and it is impossible for the gifts to be ministered either way.

So know as we close, in order to see the church grow, remember this is a by-product of the mission of God, we need to lift Jesus up. John 12:32 ; “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Let us lift up our savior, let us make much of Jesus. Jesus is the head of the Church, 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”