Jesus and We - Week 2: "Spiritual Contributor"
This past week we launched a brand new sermon series for the moth of May, entitled Jesus and We. The basic idea behind this series is pretty simple. We're wrestling with what it means to be a community of faith that lives into the hope of the Resurrection.
Christianity in America has become decidedly self-centered. Christian book stores are filled with all kinds of self-help books on all of the things you can do to become a better Christian. Far too many churches in America espouse a Jesus and Me kind of theology.
But what we know from Scripture, from the teachings of Jesus and from experience itself is that it's not all about Jesus and Me. The Church is about Jesus and We. Church is more than just a place you go, it's who we are. When we fall prey to "me-centered" theology, its easy to begin to worship something that isn't Jesus at all.
Here's a quick video that gives us an idea of what singing praise songs in a "me-centered" church probably ought to look like:
Why don't we try to come up with some hymn titles from a me-centered church:
Eight years ago, our church leaders asked a very important question: If we ceased to exist tomorrow, who would miss us? If we closed our doors, would anyone care? That question haunted us, and drove us to become the kind of church that would be missed.
Throughout that process, we have grown, we have added members, but more importantly we have expanded our influence and our light into the community around us. It hasn't always been easy, but I can tell you right now that if our doors closed tomorrow--we would most assuredly be missed.
What we discovered is that our church doesn't exist for itself. Our church doesn't exist to provide solace and pleasure for "us four and no more." Our church isn't a country club. Our church isn't a museum. Our church is alive, moving, and full of people who want to know and show Jesus to the world.
I want you to remember one very important thing today: The church does not exist for us, but we are the church and we exist for the world. At our church we say, when you KNOW JESUS YOU SHOW JESUS. That's been our vision for the past seven years and it's driven us to do and to be far more than we ever thought possible.
But we can constantly be doing better, and one way we can do better is to keep realizing something very important. We are not here to consume, we are here to contribute.
In John 4:31-34 we have a fascinating exchange between Jesus and his disciples:
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work."
Sounds kind of odd doesn't it? But what Jesus was trying to get his disciples to learn in this moment was that there was so much more to their life than their immediate needs. He wanted them to focus on what really mattered. They were concerned, as they often were, with their immediate needs--hunger, thirst, etc. Jesus' turns the tables a bit on them and teaches them about denying their own of selfish interests over the interests of God. The approach they were taking was to consume--to learn everything they could from Jesus to just soak it all in... But Jesus was about contributing.
We've been trained to expect to be served. When I was a kid Burger King had a tagline for all of their ads, "Have it your way." This mentality is so pervasive in our culture, isn't it? We want what we want, and if we can't get it--we pout, go elsewhere, complain, try to get something for free... the list goes on and on.
Craig Groeschel says it looks something like this:
Quality, value, style, service, selection, convenience, savings, performance, experience, low rates, friendly service, name brands, easy terms, affordable prices, money back guarantee. Free installation, free admission, free appraisal, free alterations, free delivery, free estimates, free home trial and free parking. No cash? No problem! No kidding! No fuss, no muss, no risk, no obligation, no red tape, no down payment, no entry fee, no hidden charges, no purchase necessary, no one will call on you, no payments or interest ‘til September. Don’t forget to pick up your free gift! A classic, deluxe, custom- designer, luxury, prestige, high quality, premium, one of a kind, pencil holder! Yours for the asking, no purchase necessary. Our way of saying thank you.
I talk to lots of folks who visit our church and they'll tell me they are "church shopping." There's nothing wrong with the way they are describing their quest for a new church home, but isn't interesting that we use those kinds of words when we do? Listen, sometimes people have a darn good reason why they are church shopping--as we've outlined some churches are just not the kind of place you want to hang out on a Sunday or any day.
But what this supposes is that church is a destination--I can just go somewhere to fiind a church and eventually will find the right church to go to.
Church is not meant to be static. God never intended that. We are not a building, we are a people. We are not a destination, we are a launching pad.
And even more to the point--We are not Spiritual Consumers, we are Spiritual Contributors. And at our church we want people to use their gifts for the glory of God, to serve, teach, encourage, give, lead, show hospitality...
There are so many of our folks who do amazing things that no one ever really sees. People that serve--sometimes behind the scenes--in order for our church to grow and to thrive and for others to experience Jesus.
I'm thinking of Sassy Meadows, who not only sings in the choir, but is also a soloist who can melt you heart, she bakes cookies and makes deviled eggs to die for for our Bell Choir and Resounding Brass players---plus most Sundays she babysits little Lydia Rath so Lydia's mom and dad can rehearse because they are also serving in our music ministries, and wouldn't be able to do so without people like Sassy who just want to serve.
I am also thinking of Lou White who you will find in our office answering phones and making CDs on Mondays, but who also volunteers to care for kids at MOPS, makes goodies for our memorial receptions group and volunteers with the fellowship team and the VBS food crew--plus she volunteers her time all over town, quietly serving not only our church but our community.
Or Peggy Berutich who serves in just about every ministry you can think of--Center Street Kids, Be A Player, Partners for Success, children's ministries, and now as an elder has taken on organizing all of the volunteers for the Crossing for setup, food, etc. Peggy won't brag on herself for a moment, but she was named Volunteer of the Year for Eustis Elementary school because of her efforts with our Partners for Success tutoring program.
Or Ken Nickeson, Ken Nickwson- Chancel Choir, Gold Handbell Choir, Resounding Brass, CSK, Be A Player, Fellowship Comm. Creates posters for fellowship dinners, Christmas Concerts, handbell concerts. Engineers/records demo/study recordings for choir, bells, brass. Found at midnight many nights helping Marvin and me move/ser up bells.
I also think about Phil Mastrosimone Phil Mastrosimone .......Resounding Brass Plus.
Builds stuff.....without charge.........like the boxes Children's Choir stood on to sing for Christmas concerts. (We might be using the boxes for the kids on Sunday too.)
He also built a filler for the choir loft so Brass could be on same floor level as everyone else. Built box for Jan Ludwig's cello peg. Built our kiosk outside the Crossing.
And Ken Crouch, who faithfully arrives early every Sunday morning and has been doing so for the past I don't know how many years now--so he can stand at the door to open it and greet every single person who comes in. When he missed a Sunday recently, everyone asked "Where's Ken?"
I could sit here all day and tell these stories. People who decided a long time ago that they were going to be Spiritual Contributors, not Consumers.
Brother and Sisters, when you know Jesus, you show Jesus. It's what you do.
And you and I are called to serve in the Church--we are called to use our gifts in our particular community of faith for the glory of God and to show Jesus to the world.
And you and I are called to serve as the Church--because the church isn't a destination, it's a people. It's not where we go, it's who we are.
The Church does not exist for us, but we are the church and we exist for the world.