A Question of Connection

Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. 2 Cor 5:11 NLT

We have a fearful responsibility to the Lord, but what is it?  Is it to be a good person?  That is what many of us think.  In fear of the Lord I must be good.  Though there is truth to that, this verse casts a different vision.  We have a fearful responsibility to work hard to persuade others to turn to Christ for salvation.  If you and I are not good, we will have a hard time convincing anyone that God is good.  If we are not loving and compassionate, we will not convince anyone that God loves them.  So being good matters because it not only betters our lives but it lets us make the character of God visible to others and it lets us touch others as the Body of Christ.

At Galloway, our mission is to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples.  Connect-Grow-Serve highlight the process we follow to accomplish our mission.  Our motto, which characterizes this process, is that we transform people through Christ, one relationship at a time.  Connect-Grow-Serve are not programs.  CGS drive the questions that shape our programs.  A key question that Connect drives home is simply this, What are we connecting people to in this program?

For example, if we are program driven we may begin to believe that if we can attract people to a program that we have accomplished our mission.  Thus we will concentrate on making the program attractive, even spectacular.  I shared the story of the experience Janice and I had in working to start a youth group in a church many years ago.  We thought that the youth would be impressed if we promised to take them to Hershey Park for something really BIG and EXCITING!  They just yawned, been there, done that.  It forced us to completely change our outlook on what matters most.  We started doing little get togethers and outings that helped them to build relationships with one another and with us.  We realized that they had to care about being with each other if we were ever going to have a group that would show up and listen to what we could share with each other.  The backbone of our Galloway Youth is the breakout time they do at meetings were they get the chance to know one another and grow as their leaders help them search for real life answers from God.

What if we apply this to other ministries?  I love talking about our Free4All ministry through which we give away clothes each week on Wednesday nights.  Obviously we connect people with clothes there.  But is that all we can do for people?  Is that our best gift and our highest goal?  Are we transforming people through Christ, one relationship at a time? Are we connecting people with people, who can connect people with God?  Ok, if we embrace the priority that the mission to make a connection with people should stand above making a connection with clothes (Connecting with clothes is not small thing-it is important!) then we ask, how do we resource the ministry to do that well?

On any given Wednesday we may have as many as 6-10 dedicated volunteers working in the Free4All.  What are they doing?  Most are focused on sorting clothes, hanging clothes, and placing clothes on racks.  Only 1 or 2 people are focused entirely on connecting with people by greeting them, helping them shop, and otherwise engaging them in conversation. IHere’s how I would like to see our staffing breakdown.  6-8 people working on clothes.  6-8 people working with people – 1+ greeter (who also keeps count of how many people we serve), 1+ hospitality (serving cold water and hot water for coffee, tea or hot chocolate), 4-5 who help people shop and get to know them.  Where do you see yourself in that lineup?  By the way, we need women and men.

Let’s look at our children’s ministry for a moment.  For the past year I have been emphasizing our need to build a stronger team ministry.  If we consider our mission you will recognize why.  Just like youth ministry we can get caught up in building a program and not actually pursue a mission.  We have a mission to lead our kids to:

  1. Connect through faith with Jesus as their Savior and to build up relationships with their parents, teachers, mentors and other kids.
  2. These are the relationships that will help them Grow as young Christians in knowledge and understanding of the Bible, in the ability to pray, to worship, to be led by the Holy Spirit and to put God first in their life.
  3. As they grow we want them to learn to Serve God using the gifts God has given them and to share their faith in meaningful ways with others.

If we are going to build relationships the way we want to, how does that define what we do?  To begin with, it tells us that we need people and why we need them.  If we have a group of kids gathered for Galloway Kids Ministry how many people do we need?  A minimum of two are required to create a safe environment for the kids and the leaders.  Now multiply that by the number of different age groups of kids and different time slots.  What if the groups is made up of 20 kids, how many adults do we need.  There are guidelines frequently used to set adult to child ratios depending on the age group that we can use as a guide, but why do they matter?  Well, it helps maintain discipline, it provides more hands to do the work with kids in a large group.  But more importantly, it helps us to build Connections with kids.  Think of the impact of a room staffed with plenty of excited and invested adults who are there to build bonds with kids as teachers and mentors instead of just one teacher and one helper on duty.  Think of the lifelong impact on kids who see that level of commitment and dedication from their adult leaders!  Obviously this takes a team committed to making connections with kids and a passion to help them connect with Jesus.  A director and a few helpers cannot accomplish these goals, only a chorus of hard working, dedicated, and passionate people working together can do it.  What about the families?  If our mission includes connecting with the parents, what must we do?  Of course, communication through every media is vital but what can we do to help build more than a drop off program for parents.  Consider this, we use a computer based check in system.  Why?  To ensure a safe and secure environment for our kids.  But, on a Sunday morning, what do we want parents to connect with, a computer?  For years it has broken my heart to see us understaffed for our kid ministry both inside and outside of the classroom.  That under staffing has forced our leaders including our directors to remain always in the class room and gives little opportunity for anyone to connect with parents.  In fact, we have seldom had someone consistently present at the check in stations that are at the entrance to those ministries.  Directors and other leaders don’t get opportunity to get to know and engage parents and family members and parents don’t get to know them.  There are thus missed opportunities to invite families to take a step further involving themselves in the church or even in Galloway Kids Ministry.  So what do we want to connect families to, a computer, a piece of paper communicating policies or a person?

We can, and should, press further these questions in regard to all our programs in all our areas of ministry.  Take some time to explore these questions below and find someone to discuss them with this week.  Pray over these areas of ministry and ask, is this my area of calling?

  1.  Think about ministries you are or have been involved in recently.
  • What was that ministries mission?
  • What was it trying to connect people with?
  • Was it with a service like clothes or a program of some kind?
  • Has it accomplished the higher goal of connecting people with people, who can connect people with God?

2.  I asked in my message, How connected are you?  I asked this at both the beginning and the end of the message.  

  • At the beginning of the message, the question focused on whether you feel like an outsider or do you feel connected?  It also asked if you feel relevant to the church. How do you answer that question, How connected are you?
  • At the end of the message, the question changed to focus on how connected you are to others as a person who has an important role in connecting others to God.  How connected are you to others who need to make a connection with God?  How connected are you to other Christians in helping them grow in Christ?

3.  Did this message inspire you to become a connection builder?  Where and how?  Is it at home or work, kids or youth ministry, Trail Life scouting ministry, Free4All, Sunday morning welcome team, or some other area of ministry?  Are you going to reach out to seek opportunity to make a connection?

 

Seed Time to Harvest

Running late but still working on the Monday morning blog 0n Monday evening!

Last week, Mike Cable shared his story with us on Sunday morning  (see previous blog and listen at http://gallowaychurch.org/sermons ).  The whole time I was listening to him I was thinking, “This is what Church is all about!”  What do you think?  What is Church all about?  More specifically, what are we all about here at Galloway?  That was our big question this week.

I have been seeking God hungry for the vision needed to lead Galloway since I came as pastor nearly four years ago.  Initially, I hoped to find a ready made direction already embedded in the congregation from previous leaders.  Even so I could not discern a clear sense of mission present.  So I considered what the church had been known for at various points in its history to understand that journey – charismatic cutting edge contemporary worship, powerhouse youth ministry, children/family ministry, and great leaders.  Each of these have served to some degree to provide the branding that helped distinguish the ministry at Galloway.  Each has had a season as programs have grown and then changed.  It is normal for programs to have a season and for God to move us on to what comes next.  For their season each of these, I believe, have given some sense of identity to Galloway.  This, however, may prove a problem if we have built our identity on a program that really doesn’t express our vision in a way that the whole church can embrace beyond the program.  Why, because we need a vision that provides continuity to all of our programs, that maintains our sense of purpose and identity no matter what programs come and go.

cgs logo 150Connect-Grow-Serve are words that we have had on materials and banners for a couple of years now.  I have been working to articulate and apply this as a ministry model to unite our efforts.  What is CGS about?  Connect-Grow-Serve is a PROCESS FOR MAKING DISCIPLES.  CGS is not a program or a set of programs.  A process for making disciples describes the way we are given to help someone make a connection with God and grow as a disciple of Christ.

Mark 4:26-29 describes the kingdom of God as a farmer planting seeds and after an amazingly mysterious period of growth that only God fully grasps and enables, the farmer harvests the fruit from the field.  Anyone who has gardened understands that growth is a process that they can’t control but they can contribute to that process with water and care. In I Corinthians 3:1-9 the Apostle Paul applies this very clearly to the process of making disciples.  Disciples grow from worldly people through spiritual infancy to maturity.  Paul described the process at Corinth, where he had planted seeds and another teacher named Apollos watered them and God made them grow.

DISCIPLES MAKE DISCIPLES WHO MAKE DISCIPLES.  In the next three weeks I will unpack each area of focus as a part of the process and share practical next steps for us.  We will continue to characterize this process with the more descriptive expression we have been using:  Transforming people through Christ, one relationship at a time.

I have some questions to leave you with, please give them some thought and discuss them with a friend or small group.  You may even want to send me a reply to offer your responses.

  1. What is Church all about?  In my view, Mike’s story provides a snapshot of what Church is all about-someone becoming a disciple who makes disciples.  Do you have a snapshot in your own life story?
  2. A friend of mine raised an important question.  How do we help a person grow from a starting point of faith to being a growing disciple of Christ?  What are the ways we can help that process along?
  3. How should MAKING DISCIPLES WHO MAKE DISCIPLES shape our ministry?

 

Seeds of Faith

Listen to sermons at http://www.gallowaychurch.org

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?  It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”  Mark 4:30-32 NIV

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it [a demon] out?”  He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:19-21 NIV

Mr Mike Cable was our guest speaker for Sunday morning.  Mike and I had been talking about some recent events in his life through which God was bringing hopes and dreams to fruition.  Initially, I asked him to share a quick testimony but as events continued to unfold Mike realized more and more the ways in which God was bringing together seeds of faith that had been planted in his life many years before.  Mike’s story is a great inspiration and he brought us all a powerful challenge.

Mike moved to this area when he was about 12.  Soon after they moved in, a neighbor, who was an attorney and an active member at Galloway, invited his family to church.  They accepted the invitation and visited Galloway just once.  After that his involvement with church was scant at best.

About five years ago, Mike made some stupid mistakes and landed in prison.  This is a bad place to go, but the story didn’t end badly.  Prison became a catalyst for change in his life.  During his four months and twenty-two days in prison, he was introduced to the Bible and to Jesus Christ in a way like never before. One of the people he encountered while there was his old neighbor who had invited him to church at Galloway.  When Mike was released he immediately went looking for a church to help him grow in his new found faith.  Where did he go?  Even though his old friend no longer attended Galloway, that was the one church Mike remembered visiting.  He has been a faithful attender for the past five years jumping in wherever he could to learn, grow, and give.  Seeds a neighbor planted years before finally bore fruit.

Mike has been actively involved in developing our men’s ministry and getting men involved in hands on work in our church and community.  This has led to an active role with Mustard Seed Missions.  This is a ministry in Venango County that partners with County agencies to meet needs of the poor and disadvantaged in our area.  Part of that effort includes providing furniture and appliances to families in need.  Mike has been recruiting men from Galloway and other churches to help deliver these items.  Last month we completed our ONE THING  project for Jan/Feb collecting sheets and blankets for Mustard Seed (go to our website to learn more about our One Thing monthly projects). Mike shared firsthand reports of delivering beds that those sheets and blankets cover. Mike emphasized that the motivation for delivering these items to families is more than just giving people stuff.  All of those deliveries, all the furniture, appliances and bedding are seeds of hope and faith sown into families in need.

Mike is the product of others who had done so for him.  He uses every opportunity to give that gift to others.  Mike challenged us all to go and sow seeds of hope and faith.

Take a few minutes to read the following questions and reflect on them or discuss them with a friend or a small group.

Mike gave us all a packet of mustard seeds.  He brought to light the significance of the mustard seed in the parables Jesus told about it.  He pointed out how small the seed is and yet how large and powerful it can be when put to use.  This is the way faith works as well.  He drew a meaningful distinction between having “little faith” and “small faith”.  He noted that the disciples were ineffective because they had “little faith” but Jesus said that even “small faith” likened to a mustard seed can move mountains.  Mike helped us to see that, whereas, “little faith” (wavering, uninvested) can’t do much even, a small amount of rock solid faith in Jesus can produce dramatic results.

  1. How would you describe your faith – little and ineffective or small but solid?  Why?
  2. Can you look back on your life and see where others planted seeds in your life?  How did that help you to gain and to grow in faith?
  3. Mike challenged all of us to make the investment in planting seeds of hope and faith. He said no matter whether we are young or old, busy working or retired, we have no excuse.  We can plant seeds in others lives if it is just in persistently praying for another to know the Lord. So, what about you?  How are you doing?  Have you decided you are too young, old, busy, or whatever?

The Big Five (Part III)

Ephesians 4:11-16 NLT

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ….

In our series about the Big Five we have not yet talked about the meaning of each of these gifts Christ gives the Church.  Who are the Big Five – the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers?  What do each of these gifts do for the Church?

First, I want you to understand that these gifts are not necessarily connected to a particular role or job.  In other words, having a pastoral gift doesn’t mean you have the job of pastor of a church and being gifted as a teacher does not mean that you will teach in front of a classroom.  These gifts are about abilities and character that God forms in you to serve in his power.

What do teachers do for the Church?  Teachers are leaders who Instruct others. They develop others to live in the fullness of Christ.  The best teachers in life are those who not only tell us how to live but show us how to live.  They are models who inspire and mentor others.  Jesus called disciples to follow him (Matt 4:19; John 1:43; Mark 2:14).  The Apostle Paul was conscious of this when he called on others to follow his example (Philippians 3:17-21).  When the Moses gave instruction in how to raise up children to know the law of God, he did not tell families to send their kids to a class.  He told them to talk about God’s will in the midst of life where it could be modeled and applied (Deuteronomy 6:1-9).

What will the Church lack without teachers who model and mentor others in the faith?  The Church will lack the knowledge and the desire to apply the Word of God in life.  If we tell people how to live or point out what they are doing wrong but don’t authentically model that life, following God will lose value.  The end result is that we just stop wondering what God would direct and do what we think best.

What do pastors do for the Church?  Pastors build and maintain community.  They shepherd the flock.  Shepherd is probably one of the best translations of pastor.  They are the collies of the church family.  They are forever gathering and caring for the flock.  Key to their heart is to keep everyone together so that no one gets lost or left behind.  The 23rd Psalm raises this beautiful image of the Lord’s care.  Jesus also adopted this image for himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10) who knows, leads and cares for his flock, even laying down his life for them.  Jesus emphasized the work of the shepherd to keep everyone on board with the story of a shepherd with 100 sheep.  When one went astray, he left all the others in the field to find and recover the missing one (Luke 15:4-7).  In any group of friends or family you will recognize the pastor gift in the one who is always caring for the one who is left out, the peacemaker between those who are in conflict and the one who always tries to give everyone a chance to be heard.  Their concern is to bring and keep the group together in a supportive way.  During the church gathering on Sunday morning, they are the one who will seek to connect new persons with the Church, to help them to belong.

Without people with a pastoral heart, we can be a group of people who simply show up at the same time and place each week without any depth of love and compassion for one another.  Also, new people will just be left on the sidelines.  As the Church moves forward on its mission, those who don’t move with it would just be left behind.  People who fall out of touch will just be forgotten and ignored.

What do evangelists do for the Church?  Evangelists are leaders who are constantly seeking to reach new people.  They are the search and rescue arm of the Church.  The word, evangelist, is made up of two parts, the prefix eu (good) and angel (messenger).  Evangelist means a messenger of good news.  Those gifted as evangelist are focused on the good news of our savior, Jesus, which in turn focuses them on those who have not heard or received that message.  Jesus said that he came to seek and save those who are lost from God (Luke 19:10).  These are the hunting dogs of the Church.  They constantly have the nose to the ground seeking for that one who needs Jesus.  They are like a bird dog on point for the Church.  They continually point the church to see the many people in need of Jesus and motivate us to seek after them (Matthew 9:35-38).

Without the influence of evangelists, the Church can become focused on pastoring those already a part of the flock and virtually ignore those not part of the Church.  The result is a church that stops growing.  So much of the Church in America show this condition.  Many congregations that were founded hundreds of years ago, are shrinking out of existence.  The average age in many churches is over the age of retirement.  Without the evangelistic focus the church dies out slowly, but surely.

What do prophets do for the church?  Prophets are leaders who reveal truth underlying action.  Or to put it more simply, they tell it like it is (or will be).  Throughout the Bible, prophets play an important role.  They tell it like it is when they call out God’s people for their misconduct and call them to get right with God (Acts 28:24-28).  They tell it like it will be as they warn about dangers ahead for those straying from God.  They gave advanced announcement of the savior who would come and gave ques to recognize his coming (Isaiah 53; Acts 28:23).  They also offer specific instruction to individuals to direct them in faithfully following God (Acts 15:32, 21:10; I Timothy 1:18-20).

In Ephesians 4:15 speaking the truth in love is recognized as crucial to our growth and development as the body of Christ.  Truth revealed by God is the source of clarity and unity.  Without the prophetic power of God’s word spoken into our lives we fragment in confusion and are prey to deception.  In our present culture in America we are experiencing a huge division that is often violent and hateful.  Issues like sexuality and marriage have become so divisive and pit people in condemning opposition to one another.  This is true both generally and within the church.  Many would now predict that the United Methodist Church will divide in some fashion in the near future just as numerous other denominations have done.  Prophetic truth is not mere opinion, it is revelation of the word of God.  We desperately need to hear, that is adhere to the Word of God.  That must always lead us to biblical faith and lives surrendered to know and do the will of God.  Without this proclamation and without our response embracing it, unity will never come.

Finally, what do apostles do for the church?  Apostles are leaders on a mission.  They keep the Church always moving forward, never standing still.  In the gospels, the twelve are at first, commonly referred to as disciples then later as apostles.  What is the difference?  Disciple means that one is a follower or student.  Apostle describes one who is sent on a mission, to act in the sender’s authority, as their representative, and to accomplish what they are sent to do.  An apostle does not cease to be a disciple.  In fact, being an apostle intensifies one’s discipleship.  If you are sent as an apostle, you are not sent to fulfill your own purpose and mission, no, you are sent to fulfill God’s mission.  That means you are all the more bound to follow God’s lead. (Luke 6:12-13; Mark 6:6-13, 30-31; Matt 10:1-5)

Before Jesus ascended to heaven he asserted a general mission that he passed to the apostles.  The Great Commission, as it is called, is a powerful calling to Go, make disciples.  Mark tells us that we are to preach the gospel throughout the earth.  Jesus put the keys of the kingdom of God into the apostles’ hands and sent them to open the way into it.  The book of Acts starts on the ground of Jesus sending forth the apostles into every part of the world as his witnesses.  The apostolic gift is a gift of mission focus.  It is a gift like the work of a lead dog on a sled team.  What happens to the Church if we lack the missional leadership?  Well, we may just stall out.  We may become a group that simply maintains traditions religiously.  Sadly, this may translate to being a lifeless religion, a form of godliness, without power.  Many organizations that lose sight of their original mission try to maintain their existence by adopting a new mission.  The problem for us as the Church is that we didn’t form ourselves or choose our mission.  The apostolic gift presses us to maintain the mission assigned by our savior, Jesus.

Take a few minutes to read the following questions and reflect on them or discuss them with a friend or a small group.

  1. Look at the Big Five spiritual gifts one by one.  Are there people you could identify with each one?  Who are teachers who have guided you into faith and inspired you?  Are their leaders that you see leading with vision who motivate you and others to keep moving forward to complete the mission Christ gave us?  Has anyone ever said something to you that made you feel like God had just spoken to you?
  2. Think about your pastor. Which of these gifts do you see in him/her?  (hint: When I take the fivefold survey, pastor is not my highest score)  Why would pastors have gifts other than pastor?
  3. Do you see any of these gifts in yourself? Which one(s)?  I encourage you to use the fivefoldsurvey.com to help you identify the strengths God has given you.
  4. In what ways are you using the gift(s) God has given you?

The Big Five (part II)

Our mission: Transforming people through Christ, one relationship at a time.

This week we continued our look at Ephesians 4:11-16.  Here the focus is on the construct of the Church as a team.  The image used is the body of Christ.  Many parts, interdependent, working together to do what the head, Christ, directs.  We are given the Big Five (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) to equip the Church and enable us to grow to act and think like Jesus.  We can sum this up in a simple statement, it we are a team formed to know and to do the will of God.  This pursuit will shape our decision making, our goals, everything.  The process to we such a team is enable by the Big Five and by our efforts as a team to support one another with love, truthfulness and faithfulness.  This week we highlighted three ways team is so important to fulfilling this mission.

First, One person cannot do it all.  A choir made up of all ordinary voices can sound fabulous.  None of them may be stars, but together they can be amazing.  This is teamwork.  In last week’s blog I shared a quote from Patrick Lencioni to where he expressed his main contention that if you can get everyone in an organization rowing in the same direction, then you could dominate in any field of endeavor.  The body of Christ, the Church, is built to follow Christ, that we may together know and do the will of God.

At Galloway we have been utilizing this mission statement:  Our mission is transforming people through Christ, one relationship at a time.  That tells you that we believe that if we build relationships with other people with Christ in the midst of those relationships, that Christ will transform both us and them.  That is a transformation that makes us more like Jesus, to act and think like him.  At Galloway, we are seeking to apply this with a mission model based on three key elements which are: Connect, Grow and Serve.

  • Connect focuses on the basic action of joining with other people to worship God together on a Sunday morning or in other contexts to build relationships where we can share our love for them and for God in words and actions.
  • Grow moves a step deeper in seeking to gather in small groups with other people to seek to know and do the will of God in our lives.  This is a context to learn and grow with a group of people who are routing for each other and supporting each other in an open, honest and vulnerable manner.
  • Serve embraces Jesus’ call to care for one another and the world, even to care for the very least among us.

Our second point,  One person cannot carry the burden.  The burden’s of life are often heavy.  When we engage in ministry we begin to share in other people’s burdens.  The Apostle Paul described this in 2 Corinthians 11:29, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.  Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?  Carrying my personal life struggles and the burdens of others can be completely overwhelming.  I feel so completely inadequate to help others with just a counseling visit or a sermon.  I remember sitting with a couple going through marriage struggles and thinking, I wish they were part of a small group which could be supporting them on a weekly or by-weekly basis.  I thought they need more than just some good instruction, they need people to help carry the weight of the struggles to give them courage and hope in steady doses.  

For too long, for too many church has been a place they went to in order to be with nice people and escape all the bad and messy stuff in the world.  This turned many into plastic Christians, faking their way through life. We’ve pretended we were holy and have it all together lest we be found out and turned away.  In our youth ministry we hear from our students that their small group is the most important part of what they receive.  It makes a real difference to have peer support and mentors to help them.  All of us need a team routing for us.  That’s why this year we will be working hard to develop small group ministry so we can involve an ever increasing number of people in relationship with others that will help them grow.

This makes our third point very important.  God has given grace and gifts to each one of us to be part of the team.  Serving in our church, community and the world is more than and act of duty to God or of charity to those less fortunate.  We live to give.  Serving is is the exhaling of the breath of God that he breathed into us to make us live.  You can’t live without exhaling and you can grow without giving to others.

Here again, many have attended church as a place to partake of its unique services.  Many have never considered that they have a part to play.  Sadly many have no idea of the joy of being a blessing to someone else or the joy of helping another connect and grow in Christ.

Take a few minutes to read the following questions and reflect on them or discuss them with a friend or a small group.

  1. Why do you attend Church on a Sunday morning?  Is it a place where you seek to get with nice people, where you can get away from all the messy, ugly stuff in the world?
  2. Have you ever felt fake?  Do you have a small group of people in the Church with whom you can be open, honest and trusting?
  3. Test your level of service.  Write down specifically how you serve the Church, your community and the world.  See how your life touches others in all three categories.
  4. In prep for next week go to fivefoldsurvey.com and take the survey.  It’s short and easy.  When it scores your results, then follow the links to the definitions and study the meaning and purpose of the five gifts we have noted here in Ephesians 4:11.  Reflect on how you may play a special role in building up the body of Christ.

 

The Big Five (part I)

Ephesians 4:11-16 NLT

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

This week I had fun making a bit of a fool of myself as I proved that I am a Pittsburgh sports fan (Steelers – definitely, Pirates too, and Pens – I’m happy to hear if they win!) but I also proved that I don’t follow sports nearly as close as others.  My lack of detailed knowledge of professional team functions was, at times, quite laughable.  Even so, I could share lessons learned about the value and the function of teams both from observing and from playing sports.  Team is the focus of this week’s message.

Ephesians 4:11-16 describes God’s plan for the church to function as a unified organization like a physical body functions or like a team.  The Big Five that I refer to in the title are the five gifts highlighted here.  They are the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.  Why are these gifts highlighted?  There are more than twenty gifts of the Spirit specifically mentioned in scripture.  These gifts are like the coaching staff for God’s team.  They are the ones who are to equip and facilitate every member of the body to join together in a unified effort.  The outcome for the church is described in this way in verse 16:  As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.  Healthy, growing, and full of love, wow what an awesome outcome.  It is important to note that this is not referring to a benefit gained only by an individual.  This is health, growth, and a fullness of love to be experienced by the whole body as it works together.  God’s plan is to provide the coaching staff needed to enable the team to win and share success together.  So, although individual star players are often sought after by coaches and managers as well as in pick up games in the park, God’s plan is to build his church as a team.  No lone superstar can accomplish what a full team can do working together.

Patrick Lencioni is an author of numerous books about teams and team building.  His main target audience are businesses but his lessons apply to virtually any organization, large or small because they are lessons about basic dynamics of cooperation between people working toward a common goal.  He contends that if any organization can forge a strong healthy team and engage their pursuit based on those healthy dynamics, that organization will be capable of dominating any field of endeavor.  He shares this quote from a successful business leader who offers a tangible illustration, “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.” (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, 2002, p vii)

Take a few minutes to read the following questions and reflect on them or discuss them with a friend or a small group.

  1.  Each member of the team (the Church) has their own gifts and their own special work to do.  What’s yours?  Is God able to stretch you beyond your comfort zone?
  2.  What are the characteristics of a healthy church or of an unhealthy church?
  3. In what ways do churches need to grow and what are the characteristics of a church that is not growing?
  4. What is a church like if it is full of love or if it is lacking in love?
  5. How are we doing as a church?  Are we healthy, growing, and full of love?  What is our best attribute and what do we most need to improve?
  6. In what ways do you help build up others and the church to be healthy, growing, and full of love?  Are you ever a hindrance to this growth of others or the church?

 

What got Jesus so Ticked Off?

Our mission statement at Galloway Church is: Transforming People through Christ, One Relationship at a Time.  

Luke 19:41-46; John 2:13-17; John 5:1-18

So what would get Jesus really ticked off?  Luke 19 and John 2 tell us about a day when Jesus blew up.  It was at the temple in Jerusalem. There were several courts that one passed through in approaching the central place of worship facing the Holy of Holies.  A market place had been set up in the outer court as one would enter the temple grounds that was filled with cattle, sheep and doves for sacrifices, along with money changers to assist with currency for purchases and to pay the temple tax (a fee charged to support the temple).  Jesus became so angry the he took up some rope as a whip and began to drive everyone out.  This had to be a scene of chaos as cattle and sheep are driven out of pens, doves go flying, and money scatters across the pavement as tables are turned over.  Wow!  Why would Jesus act out in such an extreme manner?

Some might think that it is because this desecrates “sacred space” in the temple.  I think this misses the point entirely.  The temple is not intrinsically sacred and holy.  When once the disciples remarked on how awesome the temple was Jesus told them that it would be flattened (Mark 13:1,2).  Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that the place of worship didn’t matter so much as the spiritual disposition of the worshiper (John 4).  Ultimately we are told that we who love and worship God are called the temple of God (Ephesians 2:18-22, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19).  So let’s understand that the space itself is not the focus, but it is what that space is intended for that is the greater concern.

What is Jesus’ focus of concern.  As he drove them out he cried out, “My house will be a house of prayer; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”.  What is prayer?  We can simply say that it is talking with God.  A house of prayer – a place for encounter with God.  It is that encounter with God that is Jesus’ concern.  Instead he has walked into a place focused on the transaction of religion.  No need to bring a lamb from home, just buy one here. Don’t waste time shopping for a spotless dove in the market, get one in our special gift shop in the lobby….it’s minute mart religion.  Pick up your sacrifice and drop it off with the priests, in and out in short order without an appointment.

It reminds me of people who call and ask to get their children “done”.  What they are asking for is baptism – a sacred act of faith, where parents who deeply love Jesus Christ profess their faith and claim their children as part of that faith while dedicating themselves to raise their children with one great goal: that they should know and love Jesus as Savior and Lord.  But they are calling to get their kids “done”, usually because it is a family tradition or to fulfill a grandmothers desire.  Jesus saw people coming to the temple to get their sacrifices “done”.  He exploded because there is so much more.

An encounter with God will transform your life.  How often do we settle for so much less?  How often is our devotion more to a tradition, a habit, or a religious checklist instead of a hungry desire to meet God?  How often do we focus on accomplishing only what we perceive to be the minimum necessary to save us from hell and get us to heaven?  How often do we invite God to be a part of our life instead of giving our life to God and live to love and serve him?  Jesus will wreck religion that is used to gain a false sense of security.  He will overturn our religious pretense and push us to be transformed.

The other story (John 5) is about a paralyzed man who lay beside a pool that periodically was to have healing powers.  He had been disabled for 38 years and had lain their a long time waiting for the waters to stir with healing.  The first thing to note is that he told Jesus that no one had ever helped him to get into the pool so he couldn’t get healed.  So in all the time that he has been there, no one has wanted to see him healed and his life transformed such that they would help him get into the water.  So Jesus stepped in to help.  He told him that if he wanted to be healed that he should get up, pick up his bed and go home, and he did!  However, while he is leaving some “religious police” stop him to complain that he is breaking the rules by carrying his bed on the Sabbath day.  He explained that the man who healed his paralysis had told him to do it.  Then they were angry at Jesus for breaking the rules.  So not only has no one cared enough to help him find healing transformation, when he did, the religious people are so focused on the rules of religion that they completely despise the miracle before their eyes.  This man has been healed but they don’t care.  Can you imagine anything so ridiculous!  This reminds me of all the times in church as a child that I heard, “Sit up straight.  Be quiet.  Be still.  Don’t chew gum in church.”  These are all valuable lessons on some level.  But in the encounter with the paralytic who was healed, these leaders are acting as if, “Sit up straight.  Be quiet…. Don’t carry your bed on Sabbath.” are more important than God’s gift of new life. Tragic.

This is exactly where God wants us to focus, his gift of new life, transformation.  Jesus won’t let us in a stale religious condition that does nothing to transform our lives.  He also makes it clear that being self-serving in our religion is not living life his way. Transformed people want others to experience transformation through Christ. Transformed people cannot just pass others by and not desire to help them move closer to God. Transformed people celebrate when others make even small steps to receive God’s gift of new life. Transformed people live with an overarching passion to see others transformed through Christ, one relationship at a time!

Take a few minutes to read the following questions and reflect on them or discuss them with a friend or a small group.

  1. Do you invite God to be part of your life or do you give your life to God and live to love and serve him?  What is the difference?  Think of specific ways you live out one way or the other.
  2. What specific ways have you experienced transformation in your life through God’s grace?
  3. What specific ways do you wish you could experience transformation in your life?
  4. What specific ways do you wish you could see someone else (think of someone specific) experience transformation through Christ?
  5. How are you seeking to help that person(s) move closer to God?