Summary: This is an alliterated, textual sermon on "being the church", using Phoebe as an example. PowerPoint is avaible too, just e-mail me.
BE THE CHURCH!
Scott R. Bayles, pastor
First Christian Church, Rosiclare, IL
A mega-church in Vista, California made headlines last October when they canceled all of their worship services over the weekend. Rather then meeting together in an air-conditioned sanctuary, North Coast Church closed its doors for what they called a “Weekend of Service,” providing churchgoers the opportunity to actually show the love of Jesus in their community.
Of the 7,000 believers who attend North Coast Church, over 5,500 of them showed up Sunday morning to live out their commitment as they tackled 139 community service projects at 70 different sites all throughout North San Diego County.
Pastor Larry Osborne, who is the senior pastor of the church, said, “Our weekly service projects and our Weekend of Service is simply one more way to help our members understand that church is what we are, not just something we go to… What we tell people is—this week, we’re going to be the church instead of just going to church.”
Now, there is a congregation that understands what church is all about.
There are simply far too many Christians out there who have this mistaken belief that church is just something that you go to for sixty minutes on Sunday morning (assuming the preacher doesn’t go over-time). The truth is—you don’t go to church; you are the church! The church isn’t a place; it’s people! Jesus said…
“You are the salt of the earth.” (Matthew 5:13)
“You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14)
“You are…a city set on a hill.” (Matthew 5:14)
You are the church! It’s up to us (you and me) to be the mouth, the hands, and the feet of Jesus—to be the church! Of course, getting involved in the community and doing service projects—like the folks at North Coast Church—is only part of what it means to be the church. Being the church also means being like Jesus, being a part of God’s family and giving of ourselves and our means.
I don’t believe there is anybody in all of Scripture that exemplifies what it means to be the church more clearly or concisely than an often-over-looked woman named Phoebe. While there are no examples in the Bible of the perfect Christian—because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23)—there is this one woman, mentioned briefly in Romans 16:1-2, that I believe gives us some insight into what God wants from us and what it means to be the church. Let’s read these two short verses together:
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.” (Romans 16:1-2 NIV)
We know very little about this godly woman who carried Paul’s letter to the Romans. We just have the brief mention of her name and service. She was named after the Moon-Goddess of the Greeks. The goddess Artemis, known commonly as Phoebe, was supposedly identified with the light of the moon. But the Phoebe whom Paul so highly commended shone as a light for Jesus, the “Light of the World”! In a fifty-three-word parade of praise, Paul gives a beautiful cameo to this saintly servant of Jesus. But what can we learn from someone mentioned only so briefly? We can learn a lot—especially about what it means to “be the church.” Paul, in these two verses, uses three powerful words to describe Phoebe. The first description he bestows on her is “sister.”
Paul began by saying, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe.” First and foremost, being the church means being a part of God’s family. We may not all be sisters, but we are all spiritual siblings. The Bible says, “Jesus, who makes people holy, and those who are made holy are from the same family. So he is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:11 NCV). Take a moment to let the amazing truth sink in. You are part of God’s family. When you place your faith in Jesus, God becomes your Father, you become his child, other believers become your brothers and sisters, and the church becomes your spiritual family. The red-letter words of Jesus are unmistakable: “Pointing with his hand at his disciples, he said, ‘Look, here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:49-50 GWT).
I’ve said it so many times before—church is about family. It’s about having brothers and sisters who love you, who can come along next to you and see you through life’s trying times. Being included in God’s family is the highest honor and the greatest privilege you will ever receive. Whenever you feel unimportant, unloved, or insecure, remember to whom you belong.