Summary: Despite all that is broken, the Church is called to be God's holy people in whom and through whom God is at work.
Title: What a Survey May Not Show
Text: I Corinthians 1:1-9
Thesis: Despite all that is broken, the Church is called to be God’s holy people in whom and through whom God is at work.
An airline pilot brought his plane down onto the runway out at DIA… actually he hammered it down really hard. Airline policy dictates that the first officer stand at the door and smile as the passengers exit the plane and give them a, “Thank you for flying United Airlines today.”
He was a bit embarrassed and had a hard time looking each passenger in the eyes knowing someone would likely comment on the landing… Finally everyone was off except for an elderly lady, with a cane, making her way slowly down the aisle. As she passed by she asked, “Sonny, do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“Why no Ma’m,” the pilot said. The little old lady then asked, “Did we land or were we shot down?”
This past summer the Chicago Tribune ran an article on customer satisfaction in their Business Section. The Tribune cited a newly released report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index that targeted airlines. The report ranked airlines 43rd in customer satisfaction. The only two industries ranking lower than airlines were cable TV companies and Internet providers.
The clinkers for airline customers included crowded seating, rising ticket prices, extra fees, customer service, flight schedules and customer loyalty programs. Given that list I don’t know what’s left with which to be dissatisfied. My main criterion for customer satisfaction is a soft-landing. I figure if I get out of it alive it’s been a dandy flight!
Satisfaction Surveys may more appropriately be named Dissatisfaction Surveys… the more familiar we are with someone or something or a product or a service the more likely we are to be exposed to and aware of flaws.
If frequent fliers have come to be dissatisfied with airlines maybe the same is true of people who frequent church. The Church is without question flawed… If you thumb through the book of I Corinthians in your bible and note the chapter headings you will see that the Church at Corinth was about as dysfunctional as dysfunctional gets. So it was, in that context, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to them addressing those dysfunctions and sinful practices.
Yet the opening verses of I Corinthians point out what is right with the Church and foundational for dealing with all that is broken… a pertinent reminder for us today as we consider our own brokenness here at Heritage.
The big idea is that God has set the Church apart for himself.
I. God has set the Church apart for himself
I am writing this to God’s Church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people… just as he did for people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 1:1-3
Origins are important. When Paul began this letter to the Church at Corinth he did upfront, what we generally do at the end.
Most letters commonly include the following parts:
• A date line – January 19, 20014
• A salutation –Dear Jack,
• A body – “I’m sorry it has taken me so long to respond… blah, blah, blah.”
• A complimentary close – Sincerely yours,
• A signature – We sign our name indicating who has written the letter.
The Apostle Paul did not do it that way. He began with who he was and why it was important that they read and respond appropriately to his letter. “This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Jesus Christ… and before he began the body of the letter, in verse 3 he gave them a complimentary opening, “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.”
So this letter was no willy-nilly catching up letter… it was a big deal and the fact that is was from someone who had been chosen by God to be an apostle was intended to give it weight.
But before I move on I do not want to skip over Paul’s salutation in verse 2. “I am writing to God’s Church in Corinth…”
The way we name churches is interesting. We may name churches in ways that reflect our mission: Restoration Covenant Church or New Life Church or Abundant Life or (here in Denver) The Scum of the Earth Church. Sometimes we name a church with words like Grace or Faith. Sometimes we name a church in reference to its location: Cape Church or Canyon Vineyard Church or Willow Creek or Saddleback Church. Here in our area we refer to Red Rocks and Flatirons Churches. Sometimes we include in naming a church the denomination of that congregation like Methodist or Lutheran or Covenant or Baptist. There is a church down on University Avenue named First Korean United Methodist Church. A sister church of ours in the inner city of Chicago is named: Jesus People USA or JPUSA. Our Church was once called 1st German Congregational Church and is now called Heritage Community Bible Church of the Evangelical Covenant Church of America. A Church name is a reflection of its perceived identity.