“Effectiveness as a Church”
Intro: It is exciting that in this month we will have three babies born in the church. I can remember when my kids were born. I was so careful and cautious. We left the hospital in Bay City, placed them in the car seat. Propped them up with towels and little blankets. I’m driving up M53 at 35 miles per hour with the emergency flashers on. There was such a sense of caution and protectiveness. It’s a decade and a half later and now we are approaching driver’s training. How things change! I was in control of the wheel and now I’ll be turning the wheel over. It reminds you that growth is a process of letting go and surrendering control to changing realities. Target: The heart of effectiveness and growth as a church is that we surrender control to the deeper reality of God’s love and life-changing power. I want to look at the underlying
reality that has made Christianity expand through the centuries.
Matthew 16: 21-28 (p.694)
What do you need to know?
1. Last week we saw Jesus ask Peter: Who do you say I am? Then Jesus makes a startling announcement, the church. This would be God’s new community,
different from Israel to expand his kingdom in the world.
21 From that time on…(there comes a new emphasis in Jesus’ teaching…)
2. After announcing the church Jesus goes on to reveal what is most essential to the effectiveness of the church.
Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
3. When God is commanding us or telling us something, those are two words that shouldn’t go together. “Never” and “Lord.”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me (you are making it harder to do what I need to do. You are making this harder than it needs to be.); you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
3. Here is the key problem in effectiveness as the church. When God moves, Satan is there for a counterstrike.
(Illus.) Dan Hansen’s comments…I’ve got to learn to handle that better!
4. Here is how we handle it better…
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Effectiveness is a journey.
1. It is not an event, it is a destination. We spoke last week that as a church we gather. We worship, fellowship, teach from the Bible. We are the filling station. Then we scatter to be the church to spread God’s influence in the world. We are not the church one day of the week, Sunday. We carry over being the church on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…(“follow” is present tense: daily)--24/7 as we scatter.
Effectiveness means continuing to surrender control.
1. Jesus says in this journey we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross. Before looking at what this means let’s look at what it doesn’t mean.
a. It doesn’t mean we give up something like some people do to observe Lent, like
some bad habits or television or trans fats. This is not about an external
behavior but an internal transformation. b. It doesn’t mean we become a fatalistic doormat where we lose self-
assertiveness and let life and people walk over us. In fact, if you fully surrender your life, if you become a holy, devoted follower of Jesus, often it will require courage in fighting the status quo.
c. It is not a person or a situation, like “my boss or my sickness is my cross to bear.” It is not your ex spouse or difficult boss or a bully at school. The cross is not a place of suffering, it is a place of death!
(Illus.) When Jesus spoke of the cross everyone in his audience knew what he was referring to. John MacArthur writes: “…the cross was a very concrete and vivid reality. It was the instrument of execution reserved for Rome’s worst enemies. It was a symbol of the torture and death that awaited those who dared raise a hand against Roman authority. Not many years before Jesus and the disciples came to Caesarea Philippi, 100 men had been crucified in the area.
d. It is a death to selfishness that brings an increase of God’s love and life-
changing power to others. It means that when Satan prompts us to selfishness with things like bitterness, hate, revenge, fear, jealousy we surrender those feelings to Christ by responding in the power lo love.
e. The cross is God’s free love to us…we express that to others.
(Illus.) When my daughter was younger…can I have some of them. No dad they are mine! I
gave her the money. I can take them from her if I wanted. I can take my credit card and
get 300 bags. As Go has poured kindness on us we don’t just hold it to ourselves. When God has poured our patience toward us, we don’t selfishly hold it to ourselves. When God has poured our forgiveness we don’t selfishly hold it to ourselves.
What do I need to do?
Follow Christ’s example.
a. As a community of Christ-followers, the way we connect with each other reflects something quite different than what is experienced other places. As a community we model the priorities of Christ. We are not primarily concerned about the human institution, but that Christ is seen in the quality of our relationships.
(Illus.) In Outlive Your Life, Max Lucado writes: Long before the church had pulpits and baptisteries, she had kitchens and dinner tables. Even a casual reading of the New Testament unveils the house as the primary tool of the church. The primary gathering place of the church was the home. Consider the genius of God's plan. The first generation of Christians was a tinderbox of contrasting cultures and backgrounds. At least fifteen different nationalities heard Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Jews stood next to Gentiles. Men worshiped with women. Slaves and masters alike sought after Christ. Can people of such varied backgrounds and cultures get along with each other? We wonder the same thing today. Can Hispanics live in peace with Anglos? Can Democrats find common ground with Republicans? Can a Christian family carry on a civil friendship? Can divergent people get along? The early church did—without the aid of sanctuaries, church buildings, or seminaries. They did so through the clearest of messages (the Cross) and the simplest of spiritual tools. b. As a gathered community and a scattered one we reflect the graciousness of the cross.
Follow Christ moment by moment.
a. Surrender is not an event but an ongoing journey. It will involve thousands upon
thousands of personal deaths to selfishness to express God’s love and life- changing power.
(Illus.) Fred Craddock said we may think of surrendering to God is like laying a $l,000 bill and laying it on the table—‘Here’s my life, Lord. I’m giving it all.’ That’s somewhat true. But using the analogy what God calls us to do is take it bank and cash it in for $l0,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents at a time over the long haul.
--We listen to the neighbor kid’s troubles instead of saying, ‘Get lost.’
--We express patience at home after a tough day at work rather than blowing up,
--We get to the nursing home ministry and hold the feeble hands of the elderly even though your favorite team is playing on t.v.,
--We give the $75 special offering even though it was to go for the steak dinner after church,
--At work we become known as people who fix the problem rather than fix the blame.
-- Our spouse asks us to fix the leak, we get it done without having to be asked for the 13th time. --Instead of nagging and manipulating we patiently pray and lead change by example.
--When we don’t know what to do we wait patiently
--When we are treated unfairly and there is nothing we can do about it, we look at the big picture
of how God will ultimately make things right.
--When we blow it we go to God again and seek His forgiveness and reconcile with those we’ve
(Appl.) And we seek to grow better in doing these kind of things every day!
(Video) To Be a Disciple