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Annual State of the Church Address

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Why do I need a church family?

Annual State of the Church Message

1 Peter 1:3, 1 Timothy 3:15, Ephesians 2:9

Rick Warren

January 10-11, 1998 – #SOC78

 

 

“God has given us the privilege of  being born again so that we are now members of God’s own family.”  1 Peter 1:3  (LB)

“That family is the church of the living God, the support and foundation of the truth.” 

1 Tim. 3:15 (NCV)

“You belong in God’s household with every other Christian.”  Eph. 2:19  (LB)

 

 

5 BENEFITS OF A CHURCH FAMILY

 

 

1.  IT HELPS ME ________________________________________

 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart … and soul and mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.”  Matt. 22:37-38 (NIV)

“MAGNIFY the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!”  Ps. 34:3

2.  IT HELPS ME ________________________________________

 

       “Jesus died for us so that we can live together with Him … So encourage each other and give each other strength …”  1 Thess. 5:10-11 (NCV)

       “You should be like one big happy family,  full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts…”  1 Peter 3:8 (LB)

       “In Christ, we who are many form one Body and each MEMBER belongs to all the others.”  Rom. 12:5

3.  IT HELPS ME ________________________________________

“Let us go on . . . and become MATURE in our understanding, as strong Christians ought to be.”  Heb. 6:1 (LB)

“God’s intent was that through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known . . . “  Eph. 3:10 (NIV)

4.  IT HELPS ME ________________________________________

       “. . . to prepare God’s people for the work of MINISTRY.”  Eph. 4:12a

       “We are God’s masterpiece.  He created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things  He planned for us long ago.”  Eph. 2:10 (NLT)

“There are different kinds of service … together you form the Body of Christ and each one of you is a necessary part of it.”  1 Cor. 12:5, 27 (LB)

 

 

5.  IT HELPS ME ________________________________________

       “The most important thing is that I complete my MISSION, the work that the Lord Jesus gave me – to tell people the Good News about God’s grace.”  Acts 20:24 (NCV)

       “Anyone who calls on  the name of the Lord will be saved . . .  (but) how can they believe if they’ve never heard?  And how can they hear unless someone tells them?” 

Rom. 10:13-14 (LB)

       “. . . this is your responsibility and privilege as members of His body.”  Col. 3:15 (LB)

 

How do I become a member of a Church Family?

 

“(They) were baptized . . . and joined the other believers . . . they worshipped together regularly at the Temple . . . and met in small groups in the homes for communion . . . ” 

Acts 2:41-42, 46 (LB)


! BELONGING TO A SPIRITUAL FAMILY

Annual State of the Church Message

1 Peter 1:3, 1 Timothy 3:15, Ephesians 2:9

Rick Warren

January 10-11, 1998 – #SOC78

This morning, all over America, more than 100 million Americans will go to church.  But most of those people have never clarified, Why?  They’ve never figured out, Why do I do this?  Some people go to church out of guilt.  Some people go out of pressure.  Some people go to church out of habit.  Some people go because they think it’s the thing to do. 

If somebody asked you, “Why are you a part of the church family?  Why do you participate in church services?” what would you say?  What would you tell them?            

Once a year the United States’ constitution requires the President of the United States deliver an annual State of the Union message to the joint houses of Congress.  It’s required by our constitution.  We have a tradition here at Saddleback where once a year, the pastors deliver a State of the Church message.  We go back and  look at it again and say, “Why do we do this?  Why do we have services?  Why do we build buildings, Why do we give money?  Why do we plan ministries.”  Never do anything in life without understanding the reason.  Your life            is too precious to waste on things that don’t matter.  Never get involved in anything, never waste any time on something that you haven’t figured out what’s the purpose of this. 

We do this every year.  We review.  We remember.  We reinforce why we do what we do. 

If you’ve been coming to Saddleback for any length of time you’ve been in on a State of the Church message maybe 6, 7, 8 times.  Some of you are brand new.  Some of you are visitors.  This is not a typical service today.  You are going to get an inside look of why is it that thousands of people wait in line every week to get in here and wait in line to get out and why is it that every day of the week we have things going on and ministries occurring.  Why do we do what we do?

This year we’re going to do something a little different.  We have a video presentation for a large portion of the State of the Church message.  But before we do that, I want to look at a couple of verses.

1 Peter 1:3 “God has given us the privilege of being born again so that we are now members of God’s own family.”  The Bible says that when you become a believer in Christ, you become a member of a family.  The moment you were born into this world physically, you became a part of the human race.  When you were reborn spiritually, born again (that means getting a new start) you were born into God’s family.  You became a part of His family.  The Bible says that the family is called the church.  “That family is the church of the living God the support and foundation of the truth.”  It’s interesting to me that the church is not an institution.  The church is not a business.  The church is not an organization, a social club.  The church, the Bible says, is a family.  We’re a family.  It says it’s the “…the support and foundation of the truth.”  Those of us who live in California know the importance of a good foundation.  In earthquake country, if you don’t have good foundation and good support, when the earthquake comes, your structure is going to crumble. 

In your life, you’re going to have some personal earthquakes, some financial earthquakes, some relational earthquakes, some physical-health problem earthquakes, maybe some moral earthquakes.  There’s going to be some things that come into your life that shake you to the core.  If you don’t have a good foundation, if you don’t have good support built up, you’re going to crumble.  In the future, there’s going to be a whole lot of shaking going on.  You will have some tough times.  The Bible says that God put the church on earth to be the support and the foundation of your life.

He’s saying here that the Christian life is not just believing, it’s belonging.  It’s belonging to a family.  More than just believing.

A lot of people say, "I want to be a Christian but I don’t need a church.”  That’s like saying, “I want to play football in the NFL but not be a part of any particular team…. I want to be a soldier but not have a platoon. … I want to be an explorer but not have a base camp. …. I want to play a tuba but not be in an orchestra…. I want to be a sailor without a ship … a bee without a hive.”  A Christian without a church family is an orphan.  You don’t have the support and you don’t have the foundation that you’re going to need to make it in the future.      

How do I show that I’m really a believer?  By joining a church family.  “You belong in God’s household with every other Christian.” 

There’s a big difference between attending a church service and belonging to a church family.  You can attend a church week after week and never really belong to the family.  You need to understand that the church is not the place you go to.  It’s the family you belong to.  It’s not a place you go to.  Church is a family you belong to. 

Why did God design the church?  He tells us in the Bible that He designed it for His glory and for our benefit.  Specifically, God made the church to benefit you in five specific ways. Somebody asks you, “Why are you part of a church family.”  You didn’t have to be here today.  You could be home preparing to watch the game, getting everything all set up.  You’re here.  What does a church offer me?  Five things.  And at Saddleback,  specifically in our church family, every program, every event that we offer is designed to fulfill one of these five purposes. 

1.  IT HELPS ME FOCUS ON GOD

Do you find it easy to get distracted?  I do.  It’s easy to lose your focus.  I find it easy to go all day and not even think about God even though I’ve been a Christian for many years.  I could either be having so much fun that I forget God or I could have so much work I could forget God.  God knows that we have a tendency to lose our focus.  When He gave the Big Ten (The Ten Commandments) one of them was “Every seventh day, refocus.” That’s called worship.  Whenever you refocus on God and express your love to God, you’re worshipping.  It helps me focus on God. 

Matthew 20:2 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.”  Why is this the most important command?  To love God?  It’s because it’s what you’re made to do.  You’re made to love God.  God knows you.  God loves you.  He made you and He wants you to know and love Him back. 

One of the benefits of worship is that it gives you better perspective – better perspective on your problems, better perspective on life because it helps you focus on how great God is. 

Isn’t it possible to worship God without being in a church?  Sure.  But there is power in group worship.  Would you rather sing by yourself or with 3000 people?  (I’d rather hear you with 3000 people!)  It’s a whole lot better with other people.  There’s power in group worship.  Have you ever come to a worship service when you didn’t feel like it?  Sure. Have you ever come when you didn’t feel like it and then afterwards you were glad you came?  I have told you, many times when I least feel like worshiping, least feel like singing, praying, looking in God’s word, that’s when I need it the most.  So the first purpose of the church is to help me focus on God.  But it’s more than that.

2.  IT HELPS ME FACE LIFE’S PROBLEMS

Everybody’s going to agree that life is tough.  You’re either in a problem right now, or you just came out of a major problem, or you’re getting ready to go into a major problem.  Because life is simply a series of problems.  As a result we all get discouraged, tired, fatigued, drained. 

God never meant for you to go through life all by yourself, all alone.  He wants  you to have a church family for support.  “Jesus died for us so that we can live together with Him.  So encourage each other and give each other strength.”  The Christian life is not a solo act.  We draw strength from each other.  This is called fellowship, the second purpose of the church.  Worship and fellowship.  That’s where we support each other.  It’s like the really old illustration every pastor uses of a campfire.  If you’ve got a campfire with a whole bunch of hot coals in it, they’re all keeping each other hot.  If you take one coal out of the campfire, set it by itself, it grows cold.  It loses its heat and it eventually goes out.  If you take the coal and put it back in the campfire, it gets warm again. 

If you don’t have contact with other Christians, other believers, on a consistent basis, your heart’s going to grow cold.  You’re going to burn out inside.  You’re going to go dead spiritually.  You need the contact with other people to give you the lift, to give you the encouragement, to help you keep going.  The Bible says the church is an extended family.  “You should be like one big happy family full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts.”  As I said earlier, the Christian without a family is an orphan.

Romans 12 “In Christ, we who are many, form one body each member belongs to all the others.”  If you are a Christian, if you are a follower of Christ, you don’t just belong to God.  You belong to every other Christian.  The other people setting on your row who are believers, you belong to them.  They belong to you and I belong to you and you belong to me.  We’re in this family.  We need each other.  God says, I want you to help each other, support each other, encourage each other.  At Saddleback church, our primary program for helping people feel connected is not the services.  You could come to services for five years and never really meet anybody.  The program that helps you feel connected and feel a part of the family is our network of small groups.  We have them meeting every day of the week – mornings, afternoons, evenings, in offices, homes, restaurants.  We have women only groups, men only groups, couples only groups. We have groups for every age, interest, shape, size, color, background,, whatever you can think of.  There are groups for every type of person. 

In 1998, we are going to make this a major priority of getting every person in our church family connected to a group so that when the heat is on, you’ve got somebody to give you support. Some of you are thinking, “I don’t have time to be in a group!”  Then you’re too busy.  A group is for your own good.  It’s to help you.  You need the encouragement.  You need close Christian friends who will be there when you are in the crisis, when you’re out of work, when you are in the hospital, when you need help when you’re just going through a discouraging time.  If you are not in a small group and you’re here in our family, you are a marked person and I’m coming after you in ‘98. For your own good!  You need it. 

In a couple of weeks we’re going to do a thing called Leadership ’98, a half day training.  I’ll unveil our strategy of getting every person in a group.  If you are a leader of a small group or if you’re a leader of any ministry, a leader in any way here at Saddleback or you’d like to be a leader, don’t miss Leadership ’98.  We have a desperate need for more leaders in our church. 

3.  IT HELPS ME FORTIFY MY FAITH

“Fortify” means “to strengthen, to  develop, to  reinforce.”  We have breakfast cereals that are fortified with vitamins. Twinkies that are fortified so we can eat them without guilt!  Pop Tarts that are fortified with Vitamin A so we can say they’re health food.  It means something has been reinforced.

That’s what a church family does. It helps you clarify your values.  It helps you set your priorities.  It  helps you figure out, “What do I really believe?”  A church family helps me develop character, conviction, integrity.  If you don’t have a church family where do you think you’re going to get those kind of things?  Figuring out what you believe… developing conviction and character.  God says a church family is designed to help you fortify your faith.          

Hebrews 6:1 “Let us go on and become mature in our understanding as strong Christians ought to be.”  Probably as a pastor, the question I’m asked more often than any other question is the one, “How do I know God’s will for my life?  How do I know what God wants me to do?”  God wants you to grow up.  He wants you to mature.  He doesn’t want you to be a 98 pound spiritual weakling, a spiritual wimp.  He wants you to be a spiritual Schwarzenegger, with spiritual muscles.  He wants you to grow up and have spiritual muscles. 

Can you be physically old and spiritual mature?  Of course you can.  How do we grow spiritually?  By getting into the Bible, apply the Bible.  First, we have to get it in our mind, then our heart, then all our actions and attitudes and all our lives.  We live it.  We become a  living Bible.  If you're really serious about growing in 1998, “This is year I want to get it on for God.  This is the year I want to be spiritually growing, spiritually mature,” let me give you some suggestions:

       1.  Read this book on a regular basis.  A quiet time.  Read a little of it every day.  Get a modern translation without all the “thee’s” and “thou's” and 400 year old English.  There’s plenty of them out there.  Just start getting this book into your mind, feeding yourself some soul food every day. 

       2.  Join us at mid-week at Saddleback.  Mid-week’s purpose is to help you grow deeper in the Lord.  This year I’m excited about mid-week.  Pastor Tom and I are going to take you verse by verse through the book of Romans.  This is the most important book of the Bible.  If you get the book of Romans down, so many of your doubts will vanish, so many of your questions will be answered, so many hang-ups and things that frustrate you will go by the wayside, if you understand the message of the book of Romans.  We’re going to go through it verse by verse in ’98.  I’d encourage you to join us.  Make that decision to join us on Wednesday nights.

       3.  Take advantage of CLASS – the Life Development Institute we have here at Saddleback.  We have all kinds of classes.  In ’98 we’re going to offer all kinds of Bible studies, some money management courses, some parenting courses, some relationship classes, some “How to Share Your Faith” classes, on and on.  Don’t just see them – take advantage of them so you can fortify your faith.

 

4.  IT HELPS ME FIND MY MINISTRY

 

You weren’t put on earth just to take up space.  God expects you to give something back.  He expects you to make a contribution with your life.  He gave you certain abilities, talents, gifts,  background that He expects you to use to help other people.  Any time you use your talents or what you know to help somebody else we call that ministry.  A non ministering Christian is a contradiction.  You were made for ministry.  One day you are going to stand before God and He’s going to say, “What was your ministry?  What did you do on earth to give back, to make a contribution?”  It’s our job to help you discover and develop your ministry.

Ephesians 2:10 “We are God’s masterpiece.  He created us anew in Christ Jesus so that we can do the things do the things He planned for us long ago.” Before you were even born, God planned your ministry.  He planned why He was putting you on this earth for contribution.  You’re not a mistake.  The Bible says here we are God’s masterpiece.  Circle that word.  The new Testament was originally written in Greek.  The Greek word for masterpiece is the word poiema.  It’s the word we get “poem” from.  You’re a word of art.  You’re one of a kind.  There’s nobody else like you.  If you don’t be you, nobody’s going to take your place.  You would be missed.  You’re the part of the jig saw puzzle that would be missing.  You are a masterpiece. There’s nobody else like you.

God planned you before you were born.  Your parents may have not planned you but God did.  They may think that you were an accident.  But you weren’t any accident.  I’m not saying your parents are good parents.  They may have been crudy parents.  But God knew the exact two people it would take to make the DNA gene mixture to make you and He allowed those people to get together so you could be made.  It could have been a rape.  But God made you.  The Bible says He designed you.  Regardless of the circumstances of your birth, He knew the two people who would have just the right gene mixture that would make you.  He wanted you on this earth for a purpose, for a ministry.  Then He says, “I want you to make your life count.”

“There are different kinds of service but together you form the body of Christ and each one of you is a necessary part.”  I talk to so many people today who feel unnecessary.  They feel insignificant.  They feel, “My life just doesn’t matter.”  They spend thousands of dollars on therapy, tapes, books, seminars to build up their self esteem by some kind of self-help psychology.  Those books all say the same thing:  If you don’t feel good about yourself, start telling yourself you’re good.  “I’m great!  People like me!”  But that stuff doesn’t work because inside you’re saying, “I’m not so great.”  You’re just kidding yourself.

Th secret of self esteem is not running around all the time trying to tell yourself that you’re great.  The secret to self esteem is this:  figure out what God made you to be and be it.  Find your ministry and do it.  Then you’ll be saying, “This is what I’m here for.”  You see your value.  As a Christian you were made for ministry.  If you’re a believer, ministry is not optional.

5.  IT HELPS ME FULFILL MY LIFE MISSION

This is different that your ministry.  God says, “I built the church to help you focus on God and face life’s problems and fortify your faith, find your ministry and fulfill your mission.  There is a grand purpose for your life.  You were put on the earth for a reason God chose when you were born.  He chose exactly where you were born.  He chose exactly how you would be born.  All of these things you had no control over because He was making you for a mission.  He created you for a purpose.  God says, “I want you to fulfill it.”  The moment you trust Jesus Christ, God activates your life mission.

“The most important thing is that I complete my mission the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to tell people the good news about God’s grace.”  Part of your life mission is called the Great Commission – telling other people the good news.  Someone told you and you’re supposed to pass it on.

“Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved but how can they believe if they’ve never heard?  And how can they hear unless someone tells them?”  That makes sense.  There is no greater accomplishment than leading somebody to Christ, leading them to Jesus.  You are a believer because somebody cared enough to tell you.  Who have you cared enough to tell?  Who have you cared enough to tell the Good News about Christ that all your sins can be forgiven.  You can have a home in heaven, you can have powerful living right now.  These are available if you accept Christ into your life.  He came to earth for you. 

The Bible says we are ambassadors for Christ.  Part of your mission is that.  But your life is more than just telling other people.  I’m very excited to announce today something that many of you have been holding your breath for a long time.  Next month we’re going to offer CLASS 401 which is Defining  My Life Mission.  But first you need to go through CLASS 101 – Discovering Membership and the Family of God, CLASS 201 – Discovering Steps to Maturity, CLASS 301 – Discovering My Ministry.  Then you’re ready for CLASS 401 – Discovering and Defining My Life Mission. 

These five purposes of the church, what we do here at Saddleback, we don’t just do them with adults.  We have staff in Adventure Land who do these same five things with our junior high  and senior high pastors.  We do these with preschoolers.  We do these five purposes with grade school kids, junior high, high school, college.

These are God’s goals for your life.  Circle a word under each purpose.  

One, circle the word “magnify”.  God wants you to magnify His name in worship.  That means brag on God, magnify His name in worship.

       Two, circle the word “member”.  He wants you to be a member of His family.

       Three, circle the word “mature”.  He wants you to be a model of maturity and character.

       Four, circle the word “ministry”.  He wants you to be a minister of His grace.

       Five, circle the word “mission”.  He wants you to be a messenger of His love.

This is God’s five purposes for your life.  This is God’s five purposes for the church.  At Saddleback, we picture these as a baseball diamond.  We have designed classes to help you get started in each of these purposes.  First you need to take CLASS 101, which helps you come to know Christ, get to know the purpose of the family, find your place in the body of Christ.  It’s how you join Saddleback.  Last year in 1997 there were 2000 people that went through CLASS 101.  Today we have over 500 people signed up for the class this afternoon.  If you haven’t taken CLASS 101 and joined Saddleback, what are you waiting on?  Give you life to Christ, be baptized, take CLASS 101 and become a part of our family.

Then many of you have taken 101, but we want you to become a grand slam disciple.  We want you to hit a home run.  We want you to go all around the bases.  You need to go on to second base.  CLASS 201 – the Habits for Spiritual Growth.  Then you go on to third base – Discover your Ministry, CLASS 301.  You learn your ministry and have your SHAPE interview. Some of you need to have that interview and go ahead and get in ministry.  Then you come on around to home plate and take Discovering My Life Mission.  We’re going to be offering that next month.  Some of you need to sign up.

You don’t get credit for runners left on base.  We want you to go all the way around.

God designed the church to meet your five deepest needs.  What do you need?  You need a purpose to live for.  You need people to live with.  You need principles to live by.  You need a profession to live out.  You need a power to live on.  All five of those are the benefits of the church family.  If you don’t get involved and join a church family, where do you intend to have those five needs met?  Name me one other place in the world you can have those five things met in one place.  God designed the family for you.

There are many good churches in the Saddleback Valley.  There are a lot of good churches here.  You just need to join one and stop hopping around.  If you can’t bring yourself to love Saddleback, it is your duty to find a church that you can love and be committed to.  Find a family and say, That’s going to be my place!

No church is perfect.  If you ever find a perfect church, don’t join it.  Because the moment you join it, it won’t be perfect anymore.  There’s no perfect church.  But Saddleback is a healthy church.  We welcome you to be a part of this family.

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I want you to know I and the pastors of Saddleback really consider it a privilege to be a part of this church family and how much I really do love you.  1997 was a year to remember.  It was an incredible year.  Over 1000 people giving their lives to Christ, friends you brought on Easter Sunday alone – 1000 people on that one day giving their lives to Christ, the 11-week Value series, Building for Life where you sacrificed with commitments totaling over 30 million dollars.  No church had ever done a capital giving campaign without a fundraiser or somebody coming in special to do that.  Christmas eve services, over 1,400 people were baptized this last year, 

But I am more excited about the year 1998 than any year in the history of our church even over the first year.  I really believe that we are standing on the banks of tomorrow, that we are on the edge of greatness, that God wants to do things in this church family that none of us or anyone else has ever even dreamed of. 

I don’t know a more significant thing to do with your life because every minute you invest, every dollar you give, every ministry you serve in is making a difference for eternity.  You cannot say that about anything else.  The kingdom of God is going to outlast your career, it’s going to outlast your hobbies, it’s going to outlast your family, and it’s going to outlast the government, political involvement or anything else.  We’re talking about moving people into eternity.  Building them up, bring them into Christ, building them up to maturity, training them for ministry, sending them out to fulfill their life mission in order to bring glory to God.  If you know something better than that to invest your live in, tell us.  If you know something that will have more impact 1000 years from today, tell us.  I decided a long time ago that I’m not going to waste my life.  You ought to consider it a privilege to be a part of this history making church.  I know people who dreamed all their lives of being a part of a church like this.  And God let you and me be a part of it.  It’s a privilege but it’s also a responsibility. 

How do I join a church family?  This is what they did in the book of Acts:  “They were baptized and they joined the other believers, they worshiped together regularly at the Temple and met in small groups in homes for communion.”  There are four keys to feeling a part of a church family:

       First, be baptized.  Become a part of the family.  Join the church.  Join the other believers.  Then worship together regularly.  Then meeting small groups in homes.  How many of these steps have you taken?  My challenge to you in ’98 is take the next step.  Whatever that is for you – take the next step.  Some of you need to give your life to Christ.  You need to take CLASS 101.  Some of you have already done that.  You need to be baptized.  Take the next step.  Some of you need to go on to second base, take CLASS 201 to develop the habits for the Christian life.  Then go on to CLASS 301.  Some of you need to sign up for CLASS 401 – Discovering My Life Mission.  Because you’ve done the other steps.  Do it today.

Prayer:

       Thank You, Jesus, for giving us the privilege of being a part of Your great work in this world.  Thank You for allowing us to be a part of this church and this strategic point in history.  May we never take it for granted.  We know that You died for the church; that’s how important it is.  Help us to love each other in this family as much as You do.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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