Summary: Church growth is a health issue. Anything with life will grow if it is healthy. This sermon was compiled from principles outlined in Rick Warren’s "Purpose Driven Life" and Dan Southerland’s "Transitioning"
I. Introduction: Parachute Story from the National Training Center, Ft Irwin, CA 1989. In April of ’89 I served as a Detachment Commander during the Army’s first Special Operations Rotation to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, CA. Our mission was to parachute in and take down a radar site so the Rangers could take down an airfield. Simple but difficult, and as it is with many first time efforts we had many "do not repeat experiences". The first of those happened the night we jumped in. The high desert air is thinner than normal, and knowing this we requested to use a new parachute designed to trap more air in thinner atmospeheres and slow descent in normal conditions. Our request was denied because two chutes had malfunctioned in LA two weeks earlier. We made a poor decision that night, we opted to use the standard chute even though we were jumping in thin air and heavily armed. No one’s parachute fully opened that night. When a chute fully opens it gets really tight and full above you. That is one of the greatest feelings you can experience. That night that wasn’t what we experienced, as I looked up to see why I wasn’t being slowly lowered to the ground I saw what the other jumpers saw ... our chutes weren’t catching much air and were flapping around above us. We called that sniveling, when the chutes didn’t fully open. It creates one of the worst scenarios in jumping because you risk further malfunction if you deploy your reserve as you would if you had a complete malfunction of your main chute. As I looked around that night everyone was making the same decision, ride in hard without using your reserve. I made the same choice, boy was that a hard landing. About 100 feet above the ground I lowered my rucksack so I wouldn’t land with it strapped to my legs. When it hit the ground it sounded like someone dropped a load of bricks. I thought oh man, I’m next. We all landed pretty hard that night. It’s funny what you remember at times like that. One thing that sticks out in my mind is a knife I had attached to my side. It came out of its sheath when I landed and it shot up about three feet and landed beside me. The whole event took about 1.5 seconds. But my memory of that knife floating in the air is about 15 seconds. Your mind tends to slow things down in times of great stress and often focuses on one particular thing, whether it is important or not.
Today, I’m asking you to open your minds, because like parachutes minds don’t work unless they are open.
II. Today you will experience a paradigm shift in thinking:
A. from growing a church with programs
B. to growing people with a process
III. Story of W.A. Criswell and Rick Warren
A. Criswell’s innovative model of church organization
B. Warren’s purpose driven model for the unchurched
IV. Review of Key Scriptures and Concepts we’ve embraced of late:
1. 5 Biblical Purposes for the Church
A. Worship - Matt 4:10
B. Equipping the saints - Eph 4:12
C. Evangelism - 5 Great Commissions
3. John 20:21
4. Acts 1:8
D. Fellowship - Matt 28’s “baptizing”
E. Discipleship - Col 1:28
Summary of 5 purposes - Jesus sends us everywhere to everybody with the power of the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel including repentance of the remissions of sins through a faith relationship with Jesus.
2. Last Sunday we looked at the Biblical purpose of evangelism when we encountered Andrew’s model of witnessing.
1. Find your brother
2. Proclaim the Messiah
3. Lead him to accept Jesus
V. Knowing our purposes isn’t enough, knowing and doing aren’t the same. To be a New Testament Church we must advance our effort.
1. We can no longer grow a church with programs. Our purpose is to grow people with a process.
2. Asking what does it take to make the church grow is the question. We need to ask why aren’t we growing.
3. That is a health question not a programs question. That shift in thinking arrives right here. The health of the church. Anything alive will grow, naturally. If it isn’t growing it is either sick or dead.
VI. Acts 2:42-47 and Col 2:19 describe 5 aspects of a church that has a healthy connection to Jesus:
1. Warmer through fellowship
As bodies enter these doors the temperature in the room should rise. In a church whose fellowship is dismantled people will exit the back door faster than they entered. A hurting, searching world will not likely understanding the depth of teaching available through Steve’s doctrine class when it first embraces this fellowship. A hurting world has a very sensitive thermometer when it comes to the warmth of the church.