Summary: A call to trust God for the future
This morning, I want to do something quite different for the sermon portion of the morning. Often in our country presidents will take a special time to share varioius thoughts with the people of the country. This morning, I want to do a “fireside chat” type presentation, about many subjects, that in some ways all tie in together.
Now, if you’re visiting here today, know that I haven’t done anything in the year and a half since I’ve been here, so please come back next week. We’ll have a message on “Not wasting your life” [slide - “Don’t Waste Your Life” - w/ 40 days backdrop]. In two weeks, we’ll have our missions conference, and Ernie and Donna Manges are going to be with us. In three weeks we begin going through the “Purpose Driven Life” together and we will be discovering just what is it that God has designed for our lives. So, we have a lot of good things in store.
But today, we have a few “housekeeping” type things that I’d like to share with you. If your home is anything like ours, whenever you have company coming, expecially company that might be staying for two or three days, you clean and straighten everything. Now, as we have talked in weeks past, hospitality means that whenever anyone shows up, you keep your attention on them, not on “things.” But if we have time to clean, it’s far easier to have hospitality when you feel good about the appearance of your home.
So, let me share a few things with you as a church “family”. The first thing I’d like to look at today is a question, “What is the church?” Now, the textbook answer is easy, “The church is the body of Christ, all Christians everywhere who are saved.” But on an individual congregational level, what makes a “church” a “church”? Is it the building? If so, what type of building does it need to be. We have white walls and a peaked ceiling. Some churches have ornate stained glass. Some meet in warehouses or elementary and high schools. I just received an email from Al McElheran yesterday that showed a new church they’re building. [Al Mc Pic] When we consider what some Christians meet in to worship, it makes us rethink what is truly important to us.
So, if not a building, what makes a “church”? Is it having good music, or prayers, or giving, or pews, or a sermon? When it comes right down to it, we have to admit that all these things are good, but none of them make up the church. So then what does?
I have been hearing lately about some individuals who have left established churches and ministries, and have started meeting with just a few individuals in “house churches”. They leave the comfortable and secure so they may gain the intimacy and closeness of small group relationships. And there is something very appealing and desirable about a close fellowship of a few Christians who are deeply and intimately connected to one another.
As Bethel seeks to go forward as a congregation, we must grow both bigger and smaller at the same time. I believe Bethel needs to grow bigger and bigger all the time. Not so that we may become proud or conceited in any way, but because there are many people to be reached for Christ. We live in a community where 70-80 % of the people are unchurched. We need to constantly be asking the question, “how can we reach our community for Christ?” The question is not just how can we get them to church. In fact, if we impact them but they choose to go to another good Christian church, Praise the Lord. This is more about building the kingdom that it is about building Bethel. But as we reach others, we will grow. And growth means change. But we can’t avoid growth. It would be easy to hold a tight reign on things so we never grew, and in fact we’ll get smaller and smaller until we are just a handful of people. And we won’t have to worry then about being able to know everyone.
As we go on and as we grow, you can be sure there will be changes. Not because we want change -- in fact, most people do NOT do well with change -- but we will see change because change always accompanies health and growth.
Speaking of growing, our Awana program is off to a great start. We had 68 kids here last Wednesday for Awana, in addition to however many teens were here for youth group. That’s almost double what we had last year. But to me the most exciting thing about that is that most of these kids are from unchurched families. We’re not just drawing in kids whose church doesn’t have a Wed. nite program. We’re reaching kids who don’t go anywhere to church.