Sermon for Sunday, March 25, 2007
Title: The Kingdom Focused Church
Text: John 4:1-38
John 14:12 (HCSB) “ I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
I want to live in the world that if the church is not the revolution that Jesus died to establish two thousand years ago, it ceases to exist. I want to live in a world where the church has no more crutches or buffers to guard her from injury. I want a church where a culture no longer protects her. Whenever the gospel enters an environment, it prevails.
(Read the above quote) That’s a compelling vision, isn’t it. It’s a vision of a risk taker. It’s a vision that has such a passion for Jesus’ church that he would rather see if cease to exist than to have it something less than what Jesus designed the church to become. It speaks volumes of faith in the Gospel Message and belief in the work of the Trinity - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I read this quote because I want to see people with the same passion as this for the church of Jesus Christ. I want to see people in this church have that same passion for the Berkeley Chinese Baptist Church – that all of you would have a passionate desire to see our church become all that it was meant to be. And because of that desire, we would see God at work in everything that we do, wherever we go, and we would see God’s kingdom every where.
That’s what happens when you’re in a kingdom focused church and you’re a kingdom person. You get a passion for growing God’s kingdom and you have a sense of the immediacy of what God wants to do.
When Jesus came, in Mark 1, He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” And then He said, “ ‘Follow Me . . . and I’ll make you fish for people’ ” (v. 17), and immediately He began to do things. In fact, the Gospel of Mark uses the word immediately a lot. Over and over again Mark rushes through the events of Jesus Christ’s life so he can get to the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord.
When you read Mark, you’ll find out that it’s not only God saying, “I love you, and I’ll sacrifice my Son”; it’s God getting in the middle of humanity where we are and doing wondrous things that point us to Him and save us from our sins. Jesus did miracles. He walked on water. He raised people from the dead. He did all sorts of things when He was on earth as a display of His authority vested in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the will of the Father. Jesus Christ was not only inaugurating the kingdom of God; He was unleashing the authority and the power of God.
If we are going to have a kingdom-focused church, then we as a part of our church must be entirely in tune with the work of God. We must be doing the works of God, and God must be doing His works through you. Never are we called upon to do work for God. He doesn’t need you to do any work for Him. The work of God is the characteristic of the kingdom of God. It’s God unleashing Himself to His people, through His people, and all around His people.
So, what is a kingdom focused church? Let me read you a definition taken from the book, The Kingdom Focused Church by Gene Mims:
A kingdom focused church is a church that exists to transform unbelievers into Christlike believers and to mature these believers into kingdom multipliers of the message of Christ.
That’s what we’re going to be talking about today, the kingdom focused church.
Father, I pray that through the next few months that our church which you have placed us in, the Berkeley Chinese Baptist Church would become a kingdom focused church. I pray that you would train faithful witnesses who would get out there and become salt and light. And that we would be ready to share the wonderful gospel that You have given us. May we become a church that focuses on Your kingdom, that grows in Jesus Christ, and that become effective as Your ministers in this world. In Jesus’ Name I pray, amen.
I. RECOGNIZING A KINGDOM FOCUSED CHURCH
I’m going to begin with a story. Many of you have probably heard it before. It’s the story of the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus. Peter read it for you earlier, so I’m not going to read it again, but I want to look at some of the things that are happening in this story.
Jesus has just finished His encounter with the woman at the well. She said, “I think you must be a prophet or something because you are telling me stuff that I didn’t know anybody knew about.” She was a woman with a passion for life, and her passion hadn’t drowned or ended, even though she had been through multiple broken, failed relationships. Jesus just met her needs and she went on to be evangelist to the little town where she lived.
But then we find an interesting encounter. The disciples come back because Jesus said, I want you to go and get something to eat. Then they come back and they said, “OK, we’ve got something to eat,” and then He surprises them by saying, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.” And of course, they were confused and said, “Could someone have brought Him something to eat.” Now notice what He says. It’s really a key to understanding who we are as leaders and what our churches are as congregations. He begins to give insight as to what the nature of the kingdom of God really is. It’s not some unearthly concept. It’s not some theological stronghold of truth. No, the kingdom of God is as real as you and I are real, and it’s all centered in what God is doing.
John 4:34-38 (HCSB) 34 “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work,” Jesus told them. 35 “Don’t you say, ‘There are still four more months, then comes the harvest’? Listen [to what] I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ready for harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life, so the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap what you didn’t labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor.”
The kingdom of God is dynamic. It’s what God is doing in this world today to take back the territory, and He’s doing it one person at a time. We might define the kingdom of God simply as the reign of God in our lives in the heart of a believer in Jesus Christ. When He establishes not only salvation but lordship in our lives, He begins to reign over all of us. He rules over us. And because He rules over us, He begins to work and manifest Himself in that rule, in that relationship, in that righteousness that we have. He begins to do something in our lives. Every believer can say, “What a wonderful change in my life has been created since Jesus came into my heart.”
Gene Mims once again says: The kingdom focused church is a church that works. It works the same way for city churches, country churches, big churches, small churches, traditional churches, contemporary churches, and every other kind because the kingdom focused church has a shape that God alone will decide.
As we become more of a kingdom focused church, we will begin to realize that the pressure’s off. We can allow ourselves and our ministries to be used as an instrument of God’s will. We will be able to come alongside Him where He is at work and then all of a sudden we will discover that the solution that we’ve been trying to find to grow our church isn’t programmatic or mechanical; it’s spiritual. You see, programs depend on people and resources, while a kingdom focus does not. A kingdom focus is utterly dependent on God. When conditions change or people come and go in the church, programs will eventually become obsolete or ineffective. But with a kingdom focus we don’t have to abandon everything. We might have to change our tactics, but our objective would be timeless.
II. A LOOK AT THE KINGDOM FOCUSED CHURCH
Let’s start with THE – An Article of Faith
The is a particular congregation, which for us is the Berkeley Chinese Baptist Church. Our church has its own unique challenges and opportunities. Our church is THE church that God has put us in right now. He has given each of you a stewardship position in BCBC. He hasn’t put you somewhere else, and He hasn’t given another church your unique gifts, potential, and vision. God thinks that the best person in the world for our church is you.
That means that we all belong together, and I mean everyone. Everyone in the English congregation and everyone in the Chinese congregation. It’s up to us and our church to do the will and the work of God in BCBC where we are right now. It’s a high calling to a high life of labor for the Lord.
When you become a kingdom person, God wants you to pour your heart into the church that He has given you. I want you to stop right now and ask God to give you the courage to seek Him, to know His will, and to do it. Ask Him for strength to love people as He loves them. Ask Him to show you our church and our community around us as he sees them. And humbly ask Him to show you what He desires our church to be in the future. (pause for quiet prayer)
The next word is KINGDOM – Reality Check
From Gene Mims book again: The kingdom of God, in its simplest form, is the reign of Jesus Christ as Lord and King in our lives. It is His Holy Spirit working in us, through us, and around us in such a way that we actually live and do the will of God. Through the kingdom we can live the lives God created us to live – life at the maximum.
Look at this statement. What does it say to me? It says that I know that God has a perfect plan for us and our church, even if we can’t always see it. And to live in this perfect plan, we need to get in touch with His kingdom agenda and not lose sight of where we are going. Do you want that? Let’s ask God right now to help us get in touch with His kingdom agenda and to know where we are going. (Pause for prayer)
The next word is FOCUSED – the 20/20 Vision
Our church needs a kingdom focus. Here’s what Gene Mims says about this: a kingdom focused church is clear on two point: stewardship and ministry. Stewardship is vertical in the sense that a local church is under the authority and commission of the Father. It is His will, His truth, and His work that we do. We focus on Him; we serve Him and not ourselves. Ministry is horizontal in the sense that a church focuses on people… A true focus begins with God and moves to people whom God loves and desires to be in relation with Him. Methods, programs, worship services, events, activities, and the like all come after a kingdom focus in a church. Only with this order of focus will other priorities and programs be successful.
I was talking to my friend Roy, who lives in Seattle, the other day. He was talking about a discussion they were having in one of his seminary classes. One of the pastors in the class said this, “Most people in American churches tithe to themselves, not to God. They don’t tithe to give to God, they tithe because they like the programs of the church, or the church gives them something. It’s all about them, that’s why they give the money.” Look at our church and see the things that we approve readily, it’s the things that benefit us. But when we vote on the things that will be for outreach or kingdom growth, we have long discussions about it and they barely pass. Do you have a kingdom focus when you tithe?
What about our ministries. We come to church, we attend our worship service, we go to Sunday school, then a lot of us go out to lunch together. Is that inward focused or outward focused. Do you know that Sunday school in a Southern Baptist church is supposed to be an evangelistic effort? Is that how we view our Sunday school? What if we changed all of that around and made Sundays a day when we would do ministry to the community around us. We would come to our worship service to learn to love God more by worshipping Him, we would attend our Sunday school to learn to love each other in community and it would be a place to invite people to learn about Jesus Christ, then we would go out into our community in the afternoon and serve the people around us to make an impact. That’s what church is all about, making disciples that: love God, love people and serve to make an impact.
Do you know any of the people around our neighborhood? There’s Pat who lives right next door to us. He lives alone and when I visit him, he loves to talk. What would happen if we brought him lunch one day and all went over to listen to him.
What about Don who lives across the street in the newly painted duplex. He’s a really helpful guy. He actually does service for our church. He cleans up the sidewalk on Berkeley Way and he’s been helping me get information about the mural that the Satellite Housing is going to have. He lives alone too, in his house. Do you think that he would like some company? What if we all went over to his place and thanked him personally?
What about Asa, who lives on the corner. He’s Chinese, speaks Mandarin, but he speaks English too. Anybody here know any of these people?
What if we went out every Sunday and went around the neighborhood just to get to know the people. Now, I’m not saying to do this with the hidden agenda to get more people into our church. People will pick up on that right away. What I’m saying is that we’ve been in this neighborhood for over 35 years, and what have we done for the people around us? We must care about the community that we are trying to reach, if we are going to reach it. We must step out and find out what the needs of this community is and see if we can meet some of these needs. That’s kingdom work. That’s doing things because God loves them and we want to love them in the same way. If you read the Gospels, you will find that Jesus many times met the needs of people first before He taught them about the kingdom.
This is only a few ideas, but do you see how these activities are kingdom focused? It’s doing the same things that Jesus did in His community when He was on the earth – taking care of people’s needs.
Gene Mims says, “Listen to this incredible statement and never forget it. It’s the first step in being the kingdom focused leader in order to have a kingdom focused church. This isn’t about us. This is about God at work. Notice what he says in John 5:19 (HCSB) ‘I assure you: The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way.’”
We will never see God at work until He works in us and through us; and then you’ll see Him everywhere. God doesn’t sleep. He’s not silent. He’s not taking a break. He’s working, and a lot of times we just don’t see it. I want to see God at work everywhere because it’s the most exciting thing that you can see and it’s also the most important work that can be done. Let’s ask God right now to give all of us a focus on loving our community and neighborhood. (Pause)
CHURCH – the local church
What is the local church? It’s a unique body of believers in a specific location somewhere in the world. For us, it’s the corner of Sacramento St. and Berkeley Way. And why are we here? Why do we exist? We exist as a church to reach people for Christ in a given location, once again right here around Sacramento and Berkeley Way.
To be a kingdom focused church, we need to see what the Father is doing and then do these things in the same way. Our first relationship as a church, then is with God in Christ as part of the kingdom. Our second relationship is with other believers in our church. The third relationship we have is with unbelievers. To ignore building relationships with the lost around us is to ignore the Great Commission. And the Great Commission is the key to understanding what God is doing in our world at this moment. The strength of our local church is that we have the opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission in a local setting.
You and I are here to make disciples, period. Our church is here to make disciples, period. The Great Commission is to go and make disciples. It’s not easy, it goes against our culture, but we as Christians have the responsibility to obey God’s commands. Let’s ask God to put in each of our hearts a passion for the Great Commission. (Pause)
III. HOW A KINGDOM FOCUSED CHURCH WORKS
What do we do? I threw out a few ideas, but I don’t want to think of these ideas in a vacuum and then tell them to you. I think that the first step is to just talk about it, and talk about it, and develop a passion for the kingdom of God and its growth.
I’d like to get some interested people together that would be willing to sit down and talk about how we can reach our neighborhood for Christ. We can start there and then actually do the things we talk about. Then we can move on to a wider radius, and then move on from there. That’s what I want to do later today. Get together with some interested people to talk about this and come up with ideas as to how we can find out what the needs of our neighborhood is and how we can meet them. Now, I know what you’re thinking, we don’t need another meeting. I don’t want another meeting. We’ve had too many of them this last month and the last one did me in. So what I would like to do is whoever wants to come with me and talk about the kingdom, that we go to lunch somewhere and talk about this. My vote is to go to Bobby G’s and get some pizza. Pizza and talking always goes good, and we can have fun too.
If you want to become a kingdom person, and you want our church to become a kingdom focused church, then I invite you to pray this prayer with me:
Dear Heavenly Father, your Son Jesus told us that He couldn’t do anything on His own and it is only what He sees You doing that is what He does. So, Father, would you change my life? Manifest Your reign in my life first. Let’s just get that all done right, Lord. Every area of my life, You take over. If I am cynical, make me sweet. If I am naïve, give me judgment. Lord, Jesus, with these gifts and this calling that You have given me, set up in my life and present Your character to me and then through me, so that through me You might accomplish Your work and represent You. Make me a kingdom person and make the Berkeley Chinese Baptist Church a kingdom focused church. Teach us to love You, to love people like how You love them, and then give us a desire to serve them so that we can make an impact in Your kingdom. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.