Summary: This is the first in a series of 4 messages designed to help create a new focus on Purpose/Vision/Mission. Thanks to the writings of Dr. Gene Mimms, Dr. Rick Warren, & Dr. Thom Rainer for the 'extra' readings to complete this series.
The Starting Point
PURPOSE FOR A NEW YEAR - #1 of 4
Matt. 22:34-40 / Matt 28:18-20
• As last year has now ended and a new year presents itself, we have met twice to pray and dream about God’s desire for us, both individually and collectively. God has placed us here for a purpose, a goal, and a task. My last message was “Introducing Jesus.” Someone came up and said, “If I were asked to introduce Him to the world, I wouldn’t say anything, just fall on my face. I’m the flip side of the coin.” If that approach were taken by all, would people really know who Jesus is? Peter tells us to always be ready to give a “defense” for the hope that is in us. This means that to fulfill the purpose of Jesus in our lives requires us to be pro-active in our witness. The purpose/vision/mission (PVM) of this church can only be accomplished when that same PVM is lived out in the lives of those who claim to know Christ & are members of this body.
• Over the past 20 years there has been much talk, much written, and many emphasis on “Purpose.” Rick Warren is recognized as the “Father of the Purpose-Driven Life” & has now written Purpose-Driven Church, Purpose Driven Life, & has authored a study call “40 Days of Purpose.” However, as I read the scripture I think Rick only packaged what Jesus demonstrated & has brought it to light.
• There are some “deep-seated” reasons for the need of this type of emphasis in the life of the average church member and church. Allow me to set the stage, consider these truths:
o Churches & Believers have had an easy ride in USA. In fact 50 years ago if you had said that Christmas decorations such as the nativity scene would be ban from public property, we would have probably laughed. Because this nation was founded on Bible principles & religious freedom. We bought into that it was our ‘right’ & the nation’s desire to do these things. A result of this is that the concept of church membership has taken on a cultural, social meaning as opposed to a spiritual meaning identified by a changed life & following Christ to the cross.
o This concept was compounded by the acquired belief that the “Pastor and the Staff” were paid to do ‘the ministry.’ So instead of becoming people of mission & ministry, the average church member became ‘observers’ who ‘allowed’ their staff to do ministry which the Bible teaches is for every believer. (Never forget, in God’s eyes – every member is a minister!)
o In years past, people accepted Bible as truth & church as moral compass & conscious. The church had a ‘home-field advantage.’ People knew Sundays was ‘church time’, whether they attended or not. By the way, I just read a report that ‘if people are going to attend worship, Sunday morning is still the time they most likely will attend.
o The mid-20th Century brought a change in thinking. For the first time in this Christian Nation history “moral & theological rebellion” came and found traction. Call it what you will (I.E. social, sexual revolution, societal rebellion, etc) but it came none-the-less changing the landscape.
• In the midst of the societal uproar several things were happening which offered help & hope to the church which was, for the first time, beginning to lose its influence in society. The ministry of Billy Graham (& other evangelists) were calling many to Christ. There was also a movement of God in the lives of young people (1970’s) called “The Jesus Movement” where the ‘young hippie like people’ came to Christ. Personally, I remember that movement well and some of the changes which they promoted. All of a sudden kids didn’t come in their suits & ties & they didn’t sit on the back row & pass notes. They came to worship in sandals and blue jeans, they sat on the floor, & they had their Bibles & notebooks open ready to learn about a God who loved them supremely. (As an aside, Michael Catt & I are about the same age & both lived in the same general area & he talks openly about being a result of the Jesus movement). Bro. Mike states it well, “The church didn’t know what to do with these new followers who came to follow Christ without the trapping of the traditional church.” One of the hold-overs from this group is the music. They used guitars instead of organs.
• As a results, churches moves from a “ministry” to “maintenance” mentality. Church ministers became managers while pastors became chaplains. Honestly, the church seemed to lose it way. It would seem that 3 emotions infected the church;