If you are a pastor or lay person who wants to use this to preach in church – that is why I posted it. I don’t care about credit, I only care that God’s word is preached and Christ is glorified. I pray He uses this sermon in a mighty way through you. You have my permission to alter it (you’ll have to add your own illustrations) and use it however God leads you. God bless you in your ministry. You can listen to the actual sermon by clicking here or download it as an mp3 by right clicking and clicking “save as” here. It turned out very different than this written sermon. You can also bookmark this to check out the other free written sermons on my blog.
There’s a bargain bin book from Andy Stanley called, ‘The Principle of the Path’. His argument is that if we would be honest with ourselves, we would rarely be caught by surprise when most things happen. In other words, most things are predictable. Each of us makes daily decisions that are leading us down a path taking us to something or somewhere.
For example, when I discovered I had diabetes a couple of years ago, I knew if I kept eating like I had been that I would have problems with eyesight and blood circulation down the road, to the point that I could lose my vision or lose a foot. I could choose which path I wanted to take. I could stay on the path I was on that would surely take me to trouble, or change paths. The path I choose daily is the path that will give me a better chance of staying off insulin shots and give me a better chance of avoiding more serious problems.
For people who are seriously overweight – the path they’re on will most likely lead to a heart attack, diabetes, and machines to help them breathe while they sleep. It should not be a surprise when those things happen. For people who spend more money than they bring in, a day of reckoning WILL COME in their finances. How can they be surprised when it gets here? Drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling, pornography, and infidelity in marriage are all problems that lay in wait as the result of a path the people pondered and chose to travel. Or could be waiting for you and me should we choose a certain path. Or may be awaiting you based on the choices you are making right now. And you will act surprised when it happens.
On the other hand, we can make better decisions as well. Most of us have heard the commercials for gold – ‘Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.’ Good decisions don’t guarantee good results, but good decisions definitely improve our odds of obtaining more desirable results. And the decisions we make today will help us or hinder us when we get further down the road no matter what the results, no matter what the problems, no matter what the trials, and no matter what the valleys.
Over the next several weeks, we’re going to do a sermon series. It came about when I spoke with a friend several months ago about doing a series together. We got together about 6 weeks ago to see if God led us anywhere with it. What came out of that meeting was a topic boiled down to “Faith Anchors”. We talked about the challenges we face and how our faith has to be anchored so that when we face difficulties, whether by our own actions, by the actions of others, or when things just seem to happen, our faith remains strong. We decided to cover 4 areas. This week, it’s the church, next week, it’s our homes/families, week 3 will cover the stages of our lives, – youth, middle age, and senior, and finally week 4 will talk about leaving this life – about the end of life and death in this life.
More than just talking about a path of making good decisions to avoid problems, the path I want to be on, and the path I pray that you will choose, is the path that helps us in our faith, so that when the valleys do come, when the challenges arise, our faith remains strong.
This week we’re talking about the church. We’ve talked in the past and I hope I’ve made it clear to you the church is who? I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together.
As far as I can tell, the church from its inception really was formed to serve 2 purposes.
1. – Nurture the already churched.
2. – Reach the lost.
I see everything we do as falling under one of these two categories (and some things can fall under both.).
In John 21, after Peter and the other disciples have witnessed Jesus die on the cross, and rise from the dead, they’re having breakfast with him on the seashore. And Jesus asks Peter, ‘do you love me?’ And Peter says yes, and Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” Commentaries are pretty much in agreement that this is a call to take care of and look out for Jesus’ followers. The fact that Jesus asks Peter 3 times is another sermon. The point for this sermon is that this is one command of the church – to love each other.
Some churches are really good at this. Some are so good at this and so focused on each other in the church this that it’s hard to love anyone else. It can turn into an exclusive club, and no doubt in many churches that’s what it is. Some churches who have 10 people going to church are happy with those 10 and don’t want any more. Those 10 might want things their way and when you get more people, what happens? Other people see things differently. Some people may like one color of paint and some may like another color.
I’ve had a personal struggle with this over our Wednesday night dinners. We’ve been doing them for over 5 years. It’s sort of been like a small group of the church, over the years I’ve seen Wednesday nights as a ‘church peoples’ night’ and I’ve liked it that way. I sometimes talk about tougher subjects, sometimes it’s a little more mature subject matter, and I hadn’t really publicized it as a community dinner. Lately we’ve been getting more non-church people, or at least more people who aren’t from our church. Anyway, I don’t know if you can see the point I’m trying to make, but I’m not sure if Wednesday nights should be for nurturing the already churched or reaching the lost. Maybe it’s supposed to be both.
The command to Peter from Jesus to nurture Jesus’ followers is a mandate to each one of us. As a matter of fact, in Acts chapter 6, the twelve disciples who had been called to prayer and preaching the Gospel, were catching some flak because they weren’t taking care of the widows. They got people of the church to look out for the widows. It’s an example for the church to nurture each other. It flies in the face of ‘the preacher has to be the one to come and see me’. Ideally, the church is supposed to be a place where people get their faith nurtured and have relationships so that when trials come, when our faith gets tested, we have people to go to, and not just the pastor. There are people in the church who can relate to some of your trials and feel your pain in ways that I never could, because they have been there. The church exists to focus on nurturing the ‘already churched’. And when you disciple and nurture each other, it strengthens your faith – both in the times when you are nurturing and when you are being being nurtured.
Secondly, the church has a command to reach the lost. Acts 1:8 says, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
When we have discussions about helping people in other places, whether other parts of the state, country, or world, some people object. I’ve heard people say something like, “I think we need to help the people around us. first.” or “There are hungry and needy people right in our own back yard.” When it comes to helping people here or in a foreign land, it’s not an either/or and the purpose of the church is not an either/or. We don’t choose whether we nurture other people in the church or reach the lost. We, as the church, are called to nurture others in the church AND reach the lost. We, as the church, are not going to reach very many people by getting them to come to church. You are going to reach more people if you, as the church, are willing to meet them where they are.
When we step out of our comfort zones, and make efforts to meet and reach the unchurched, it strengthens our own faith. In what ways do you see reaching out to the unchurched, the lost, the outcast, the poor, etc. strengthen your own faith? (Allow congregation to answer)
Grateful to God for what He’s blessed you with.
- In witnessing and ministering to those outside the church, we have revolutionary encounters with God.
- See people change – see miracles.
- Find meaning and significance.
- God giving us abilities and courage we didn’t know we had. (There was a woman from audience on Dr. Oz who was willing to let this guy who ‘reads’ people read her. He tells her she’s creative. She said, “I always told myself I wasn’t creative, maybe I need to explore it and find the creativity in me.” When you are willing to reach for those outside the church, you will find the power of the Holy Spirit in you that you perhaps didn’t realize was there.
The church is a place to strengthen our faith. We do so by:
Nurturing one another
Reaching outside the walls of the church to the unchurched.
We find strength and courage and power that we didn’t know we had. And when we need an extra burst of faith, when our faith is challenged, we can look at what God has done in and through us, and see where He has been faithful, and we can know that he will be faithful even now. And this faith is available to all who call upon the Name of Jesus and desire to live for Him.