Summary: This message is the intorduction to looking at how God’s Church should operate very similar to a God-centered family.

A Church or A Family Part 1

Scripture: I Corinthians 12:12-27


1 Corinthians 12:12 says “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.”

This morning I want to talk to you about Church and family. We use the term very loosely that we are all part of the same Church family; but is that really the truth? In a perfect world the Church should operate like a family. There are things that happen within a family that should also happen with a Church. For example, unfaltering love; forgiveness; assistance; and the recognition and acceptance that someone is not perfect. All of these traits exist within most families, but they do not necessarily carry over into the Church. For us to accomplish what God has called us to be, we must become a family, a real family. So let me ask you this morning, are we a Church or a family? (For everyone reading this sermon and are members of another Church, just read it as if this was coming from your Pastor or Church leader.)

How many of you know the age and favorite food of the person sitting near you who is not part of your immediate family? Now, how many of you know the age and favorite food of your brother or sister whom you grew up with? How many of you sit in the same area of the Church every Sunday, without being told to do so because you have “staked” out that area as your own? How many of you have family members who have a certain place in the family room or at the dinner table where they sit and everyone recognizes it as their place to sit? Both of these are examples of the similarities and differences that exist between a Church and a family. There are things that we know about family members that we do not know about our Church members because we do not wish to be that close to someone else and we do not want others in our business. In order to make this Church a family, we must begin to get to know one another, sincerely care about one another and not participate in any backbiting and divisive behaviors that is very common in some Churches.

It has been several weeks since I have stood up before you and I must tell you that I have missed being here. During the last few weeks of dealing with my father, I had many opportunities to think about the real meaning of a Church family. A Church family should be very similar to our natural family but I have learned that in many situations this is not the case. I have wondered what Christian Churches would be like if they operated like a family versus a Church. Several weeks ago I was talking with a young man who told me that he saw no reason to go to Church in order to be a Christian. I shared with that young man that he probably felt that way because he had not been a part of a Church where he felt like a member of a family. I asked him had he ever attended a Church where he believed that he actually had something to offer the Church besides his finances. I also asked him if ever attended a Church where he was also receiving something from being there. His answer to both questions was “No”. When I asked him if he ever “felt like a family member” at any of the Churches he’d attended and he said “No”, I told him that was why he thought it was not necessary to go to Church. He never felt connected to a place. You see, when people go to church as a function of being religious and they never feel connected, it does not matter to them if they miss Church and they tend to go whenever they feel like it. There is no commitment because there is no sense of shared experience that happens within a family. However, when you feel like you are a part of something and that the role you play is important to the family, you do not mind making the sacrifices for your Church and getting to know the people you worship with weekly. Now understand that when I am speaking of family, I am talking “best case scenario” because there are some messed up families out there. I am talking about a family that stands together, supports one another and is looking out for the good of each member. I am not talking about that family that is made up of members who are looking out for themselves and do not care who they hurt as long as they get what they want. There are many families like that in the world and every family has one or two members like that. We must recognize the best of what family stands for and strive to meet that within this Church despite what we might have experienced in our own families.

I want to share a personal story with you that drove this home to me. Some of you will be able to relate to this. My father’s health had been deteriorating for the last three years. There were many Sundays when he was not able to go to Church. There were several first Sundays when he did not receive communion because the deacon assigned to him was out of town and no one else took up the slack to make sure he had communion. His pastor never visited him at home until the Saturday before he died. However, the entire time that my father was sick, he made sure he paid his tithes and gave whenever they took up “special offering” offerings to cover their bills. But here is my point. There was an opportunity that his Church had to assist him while he was sick and many of them missed the opportunity because they were members of a Church and not a family. I know that there are families out there who have members who are sick and they do not go and visit them, but that is not the family I am talking about this morning. I want this Church to be a family, a place where the love of God reigns and we as a family take care of one another. I want this Church to be a place where people can be weak and receive strength from others in their time of need, without the fear that someone will put their business out in the street. The time has come for all of us to put up or shut up. It is time to stop the whining and complaining about what needs to be done and get up and start doing. It does not matter what needs to be done, we should all be about God’s business. Family members pick up the slack for those family members who will not do – and we all know some family members like that.

New Light, I want to put you on notice this morning. We have a job to do and we will get that job done with or without some of you. One monkey, no matter how much it complains and whines, does not stop the show – we will accomplish what God wants this place to be. So this morning you need to check yourselves and be sure. You need to know if God sent you here or if you are here for other reasons. You need to know if you are supporting this ministry with your whole heart or are you here taking up space. You need to know if you are supporting this ministry moving forward or if you are here to identify everything that may need some improvement. If you decide that you are for this ministry moving forward, then it is time to go to work. If you are unsure if this is where you are supposed to be; then do not spend your time talking down the ministry and what we are trying to accomplish, pray and ask God where you are supposed to be. If God leads you away from here, I will not be angry – you belong to Him and should be where He wants you. If you know you do not wish to be here, then you should leave for your spiritual welfare is at stake. Understand that you will not grow spiritually here no matter what we teach if you do not want to be here or believe that you are in the wrong place. And if you go the route of being one who sits back and complains about what God is doing here, then you are putting yourself at risk with God, not Rodney. (For everyone reading this message and you are members of another Church, this applies to you too. You need to be a member of a place where you are growing spiritually and your heart is in line with the goals of that ministry. If you are not there, take time, pray and if necessary, go searching for a place where you can commit to and grow spiritually.) We are moving forward in what God wants us to do and if you do not want to be on this train, you need to get off now and jump on a train that is going where you want to be going. If you choose to stay on this train, it is going to be a fun ride.

1st Corinthians 12:12 says that we are all part of one body and that means that we are a family – whether we like it or not. As a family, we should function as one, even though we have different responsibilities. It is all of us doing our jobs together that allows the body to operate and allows the family to exist. Consider the examples that Paul gave in the remaining verses of chapter twelve. Let’s read verses 12 through 27. In verse 14 he states that the body is one member, but has many members. When people think of New Light Christian Center, it is one Church with many members. However, all of us have different gifts, talents, desires and abilities. It is when we put all of ours together that we are able to ensure that needs to be done is actually done. But for this to happen, it requires all of us committing as one.

Now look at what is recorded in verses 15-17. In these verses Paul speaks to the heart of the matter. Let’s think of our natural body first. What would happen if the foot became jealous of the hand and decided that it would no longer function as part of the body because it wanted to be the hand. Unless the foot removed itself from the body, it would still be part of the body even though it would not be functioning the way it was supposed to. The person with the foot that refuses to function like a foot would be required to walk with crutches because they would not be able to use that foot. The same thing happens within the Church. The Church cannot have everyone as the Pastor, or trustee, or deacon, or choir member. Everyone do not have the same gifts or talents so therefore all of us must do our specific jobs well because you may be the only one that can do it the way God wants. But problems arise when we want to do what someone else is doing versus what we are supposed to be doing. That is when the jealousy creeps in and divisions start. That is when some decide to take their little gift and sit on it and refuse to be a part of the body any longer – although they remain a member, they just refuse to function as one. I was born a Johnson, the son of John and Dorothy Johnson. It does not matter how far I go and how many times I change my name, I will always be a Johnson. Why? Because it is John and Dorothy Johnson’s blood running in my veins. It is the same with any part of our body. My foot is a part of my body, even if it stops acting like a foot. As long as it is attached to my body, it is a part of my body and has expectations about what it is supposed to do.

Now consider closely what verses 18 through 20 and verse 27 says. “But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body……Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”

You need to understand what these verses are saying. All of you who have accepted Christ are part of His body. You are a part of the body of Christ. Through Christ, God has placed you. Now just because you are a member of Christ’s body, it does not mean that you must be a member of the body of Christ that operates within New Light Christian Fellowship Church. That is a separate step. Some people join a Church because God sent them there and they know it. Some people join a Church because they “think” it is a nice place to worship. God may not have sent them there and could actually desire for them to be somewhere else, but they chose to be at that particular place. Now here me closely because it is time for you to make a decision: if God sent you here, then he has something for you to do as a member of this body. If God did not send you here, then you need to ask Him if this is where He now wants you to be since you joined here. If the answer is yes, then He has something for you to do. If the answer is no, then you need to leave and find the place where God wants you to be. Again, my feelings will not be hurt because this is not about me and my feeling. I have learned in my Christian walk that the main thing in this life is to be where God wants you at all times. This is especially true for your Church membership because wherever God places you, He does so with a very specific reason in mind, He has something you are to do at that place.

There are too many people in too many Churches doing absolutely nothing but taking up space and draining the life out of the Church through their complaints and sowing discord among the members. This will not be that type of Church. Today it stops before it really begins. We all need each other, but if we are not within the will of God, the needs we have will go unmet. God has established His Church and although there are many Churches to choose from, I personally believe that God has a specific Church that he wants you to be a member of. God has called me to be here and there is no doubt about that. Those on my leadership team, they have confessed that God has called them to be here, so they are not in doubt. But for some of you, there is some uncertainty as to whether or not you are in the right place, and you need to start taking actions immediately to find out. Do not go into 2009 not knowing if you are where God wants you to be.

For those of you who believe that God has sent you here, it is time for you to start acting like it. Here are the top 10 things you need to be doing if you believe that God sent you to this place. (For everyone else, you need to review this list in reference to the Church you are attending.)

1. If God sent you to this Church and you know it, don’t participate in negative talk about our people or our ministries. If some comes to you, whether they are a member or not, shut it down. When you see something that needs to be improved upon, volunteer to help get it done.

2. If God sent you to this Church and you know it and all you do is come to Church and go home, Stop! Start taking time to get involved with the ministry and the people – offer your services.

3. If God sent you to this Church and you know it, start supporting it with your finances. What we provide to you and others through this ministry costs money. Give like you want this ministry to have an impact in this community, state and nation. Quit complaining about what the Church does not have when you do not support it regularly with your finances.

4. If God sent you to this Church and you know it, start supporting it with your time. Not just volunteering on a committee, but being here. Come on time for Sunday services and come to Bible Study. Give God and this Church the same respect and consideration you give your jobs. Be on time and come regularly.

5. If God sent you to this Church and you know it, show up. What I mean is, when you come here, come expecting. Don’t just come because it is the thing to do. Come because you know this is where you are supposed to be and you are expecting God to do something whenever we come together.

6. If God sent you to this Church and you know it, find out was part of the body you are – what you should be doing within the Church. Are you a hand, eye, foot, whatever. Find out what He wants you to do and start doing it. And PLEASE stop telling me God has told you to do something and you’re excited for one month and then you never bring it up again. If God told you to do something then remember you are in rebellion against Him if you are not doing it – so get busy!

7. If God sent you to this Church and you know it, encourage somebody. Let them know that you truly believe you are here to stand with them.

8. If God sent you to this Church and you know it, help someone. If you see someone doing something – like Bro. Johnny setting up and tearing down the sound equipment, offer to help. Every Sunday we have people standing around talking while others are packing stuff up. Offer to help somebody because we are all family.

9. If God sent you to this place, and you know it, care for it. Don’t take it for granted and think just because it has not been expressed to you, that there are no needs within the Church. We need you and I believe you need us also.

10. If God sent you to this Church and you know it, go out and bring others so they too can find in here what they are seeking. Not all will stay, but at least they will know we are here and they are welcome.

My heart is heavy as I think about the state of a lot of Churches. We do not have a lot of time left and we must be about God’s business. We have something special here, but if we are not careful, we can allow Satan to enter and make us very disgruntled. When that happens it is hard to see what God is doing here in this Church. I want us to see it, feel it, and be blessed by it thus becoming so excited that we cannot wait to bring others here to share it with us.

If you are here today and you are not sure if God has sent you here, I ask you to sincerely pray and seek His guidance. If you will tell me, I will also join in prayer with you. You see, although I am your Pastor while you are here, you belong to God. God is the one who decides where we should be and I want you within God’s will. I want you to prosper and be in health which comes through being in harmony with God. I love you and will continue this message o