Summary: God wants us to plant the seed of His Word, to water it, and then rejoice in whatever growth God will provide.
I like what I’m seeing here at Central Park. I’m seeing some growth. I hope you see it as well.
One of the catalysts behind this growth is in our youth. We have a very dynamic and outgoing youth minister, who along with his wife, have breathed some life into our ministry with young people.
While I do get excited about what is taking place here at Central Park, it also makes me ask some questions: How committed are the new people? How receptive are our members to the changes that are taking place? Do our people really know what we believe? How do we get everyone involved in ministry? How do we make sure everyone receives the shepherding that they need?
These questions are important to anyone who takes the church seriously. These are questions that need to be addressed whenever church begins to grow. That’s why we’re starting a new message series through Paul’s letter to Titus.
A church had been planted on Crete – an island in the Mediterranean Sea. Most likely this congregation was started by some who had been converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ years before when Peter had proclaimed the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost just 7 weeks after Jesus had ascended back to heaven.
The church on Crete was growing and so the Apostle Paul sent a young man named Titus to Crete so he could oversee the church and set it in order. The book of Titus is a letter from Paul giving Titus encouragement and instruction on how people are to conduct themselves in God's church. Titus is a letter that plainly speaks of what God desires in HIS church.
Titus 1:1-4 – Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior, 4 To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
From the very beginning of his letter, Paul emphasized to Titus the importance of the truth. Paul recognized in his own life that he was a servant of God in part because of “the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness”: that we serve a God, who does not lie; that Paul had been entrusted to deliver God's Word through His preaching that he had been entrusted with. This is a foundational value for every church to understand.
I believe the task of the church is simple. God wants us to plant the seed of His Word, to water it, and then rejoice in whatever growth God will provide. The church’s primary mission is to spread the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
But there is a temptation with this task. We have to overcome the temptation of watering down the message to accommodate the culture.
This temptation can come from outside of the church. A growing church tends to be a bigger target to those who disagree with its message.
America has rapidly spiraled downward from a Christian culture to a post-Christian culture., and now we are becoming an anti-Christian culture. Today, if you dare say that Jesus is the only way to heaven, that homosexuality is a sin, that God created the world, that abortion is the taking of a human life, or that fathers are to lead their homes, then you will be radically opposed by the world. Nobody likes to face a lot of criticism, so we’re tempted to avoid the issues or change the message altogether.
But this temptation can come from within the church as well. Growth means that some things will change. We should never change our message but we should always seek to change our methods to reach as many with the gospel as possible. Paul said, “I became all things to all me so that I might win some.”
We can expect to reach our community with the ancient gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot expect to reach our community with methodologies from the 1970’s. As we heard earlier, our culture has changed. Our methodologies should change as well.
But once changes begin to happen, some people get upset. They feel threatened by the changes. The truth that we cannot continue to operate by old methodologies offends their comfortability with the old ways so they threaten to leave or threaten to withhold their financial support for the church. The temptation then is to stay away from the truths that might stir up hard feelings by these folks.