If you ask, "What Can You Do?" meaning what can you do to contribute and help the church you attend and love, our church, improve and accomplish what our church is here to accomplish: #1 "Connect in a Small Group" - Life Group; #2 is "Serve on a Team;" #3 is "Give a Percent;" and #4 is "INVITE A FRIEND."
One of the biggest concerns I've always had and struggle with is how church migrates to only focusing inward and loses its focus outward. What I mean is every church will migrate to primarily KEEPING people rather than REACHING people. Then the reaching accomplished is mostly when someone happens to come rather than by being purposefully reached. Which do you think we primarily focus on: (1) Reaching people, or (2) Keeping people? Jesus taught church is about making disciples after going into all the world reaching people (Mat 28:19-20). It's a balance "both and."
Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore GO and MAKE DISCIPLES of all nations, baptizing them... and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
We tend to migrate to a "church" environment conducive to Christians. Church people create their own language. It's "Church-ese" - "Amen," "Hallelujah," "Jezebel Spirit," "Righteousness," "Glory," "Let the Spirit move," etc and people who haven't attended church don't get it. We need our excitement and exuberance, but not at the expense of those Jesus wants us to reach.
Church people migrate to a praise and worship service focused on keeping people and forget about reaching people. Someone will say, "We need to sing more songs." Or, "Why can't we do more 'spiritual things?" "Why don't we let the Spirit move?" One thing I always notice is those who say we aren't reaching anyone. I want to help you. Imagine you (specifically you) finally get a person you've been inviting to come to church. They really need God. Their life is a mess. Maybe their marriage is a mess, or children, or finances. You look up one day and they're here. You're excited showing them around the facility. You suddenly notice the paper on the floor, doughnut crumbs, and children running. Your friend sits with you. We begin with our loudness. About the end of the second song, you notice your guest(s) is looking around and isn't into the singing like you. In fact you're not into it as usual. For some reason, you find yourself a little more sedated. Your guests don't know the words to the songs. They're in a new environment and a little uncomfortable. During the third song you can tell they're ready to sit. You begin thinking "This is going a little long here." Why do you feel this way today? You are experiencing church through different eyes - their eyes - the very eyes of those Jesus wants to reach. And, we all need to experience this a few times a year to help us stay balanced.
It's the same way with me preaching and teaching. If I'm not cautious, I'll migrate into going too long and talking about the 7 golden candlesticks, etc. I'll forget everyone isn't into the Word of God like me. I'll migrate to my need and leave out the need of relevance for those not so interested in study. I get focused on keeping, not reaching. I've focused on teaching all things whatsoever Jesus commanded and forget about the going part (Mat 28:19, 20). I need to continuously remind myself, "Work on your time. Work on relevance."
When you invite and bring someone, you experience church in a totally different way. Every little thing stands out: How long we stand becomes important. "Is the music too loud?" "Is it loud enough?" "Who's speaking today?" "I hope Pastor Delbert doesn't say something dumb." If your guests have children, you want the children to enjoy their classes. You think, "Who's back there this week?" The things you don't even think about any other time and maybe ever thought about, become important. Why? Because! They are important today.
We all have a network of people God's placed around us. Your friends should be able to come to our church any time and you have total confidence they will have the greatest experience possible. You should be confident they will not only sense the Spirit of God, but God will speak to them through his Spirit.
When you invite people and they say, "No, not this Sunday," that's ok. One Sunday they will come. At some point they will face a crisis. Life will happen and they will remember you. They will show up here. Their lives will be touched just as your life was touched. Then, one day, they will thank you for relentlessly inviting them.
Few people come to church the first time you invite them. People are, for some reason, programmed to say no when invited to church. Most of us said no the first time we were invited. So, realize you are beginning a process. Don't give up. Every time you see them, mention something about church. It could take years. Remember, one day they will need God. When that day comes, you want to be the first person who comes into their mind. Make sure they have your phone number and where you go to church. One day you will look and there they will be. They will go to church someplace. Make certain your church is at the top of the list. Hopefully they will see something special about your sincerity, a joy, a big smile, a changed happy life - and when their day comes they will go to church where you go.
The Bible tells us a great story about a friend inviting a friend. We can gain insight from it.
John 1:43-45 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. FINDING PHILIP, he said to him, "Follow me." ...PHILIP FOUND NATHANAEL and told him, "We have FOUND the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote -- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
There's a lot of finding going on purposefully. Jesus found Philip and invited Philip to follow him. Philip was good with it and wanted to invite his friend, Nathanael. Of course, Jesus was good with that. Philip excitedly purposefully found and told Nathanael they had found something special, something different. Church needs to be projected as something special. Philip didn't just say, "There's a Rabbi you might like." Philip was excited and went on and on... "We have found the one Moses wrote about. We have found the one the Law talks about. We have found the one the prophets also wrote about." Excitement is contagious, or at least causes curiosity. What can you use in your invitation to stimulate curiosity? Praise and worship? Hopefully, the preaching/teaching? Children's ministries? Student ministries? The love? The coffee and doughnuts? Go on and on.
Evidently, Nathanael was curious and asked, "Who is it?" Philip said, "His name is 'Jesus of Nazareth.'"
John 1:46 "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked...
What a downer. You should be prepared for the downer and a similar type response you might get when you invite people to Life Gate Church. See, Life Gate is not just another church. Inviting someone to Life Gate isn't like inviting them to First Baptist. "Life Gate! Can anything good come from Life Gate?"
Ever invite someone to church and get a negative response? If you haven't, you haven't invited enough. Most people you invite will try to be nice and respectful, but maybe you may know what they're thinking or, maybe they're just outright honest with their feeling like Nathanael. "Life Gate!" Let's be honest. They might say, "I heard that preacher said... I heard... Don't they believe...?" So you sort of think, "Sorry I brought it up. I wasn't expecting this much rejection." Here's what you've got to know. They're not rejecting you. They're your friend. They're really not rejecting God. They're rejecting church. Most people believe in God. It's church and what they've heard about church they have a problem with. No matter what they say, don't give up or give in.
Philip didn't back off, give up, or give in. He didn't say, "Sorry I asked." Philip didn't allow Nathanael to put out his enthusiasm, damage his faith, or cause him to go negative. He didn't allow Nathanael to put down Jesus or Nazareth. He just responded with something like, "Nathanael, I don't know how to answer your question. Just "come and see."
John 1:46 ..."Come and see," said Philip.
Philip didn't get into Nazareth. He said, "I don't know about all that. I don't know about Nazareth. 'Does anything good come from Nazareth?' I don't know. That may be a good question, but I don't know. What I do know is I found something special. Just come and see. Nathanael, if I can just get you there I don't think all those questions and what you've heard will be as important as what will happen in your life."
One thing we have is a "Come and see" church. Use it. Many of you did exactly what Nathanael did. You heard this and you heard that, but you came to see and something amazing happened. You came and you saw and it wasn't what you thought. It didn't look like you thought. You may have been critical and defensive, but something began to happen on the inside. It wasn't magic and it wasn't religion. It was God's love, God's presence, and God's word made sense.
The Bible says we are the body of Christ (1Co 12:27; Eph 4:12). I'm not the body of Christ and you individually are not, but together somehow we are. What this means is on this planet in this life, the closest we get to Christ is when we come together. So, when people come and see, they can't help but sense the presence of God. That's what happened to you and that's what happened to Nathanael.
John 1:47-51 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false." "How do you know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you." Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." Jesus said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that." He then added, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
Nathanael began a supernatural experience. When Nathanael came to see, Jesus spoke to him in a very personal way. Nathanael had questions Philip couldn't answer and maybe no one could answer, but when he got in the presence of Jesus, those questions didn't matter. Jesus spoke to Nathanael's heart. Philip got Nathanael to just come and see. Heaven began opening to Nathanael and life was never the same. Why? Philip didn't give up.
I need you to be bold with your invitations. Realize you're on a mission and the mission is a process. You don't need to defend me or our church. Just say, "I know you have questions, but I don't know about any of that. I do know if you'll come and see, I don't think your questions will be important." You be confident. You know how our church has helped you, improved your marriage, ministered to your children, and helped your decision making. The worst thing they can say is, "Church! No way! Yuck!" That's the worst they can say.
One day you will be bold and they will come, or you'll be here, look up and there they will stand. Something will happen to them exactly as it happened to you. That's what happens in church. One day you will see them, their spouse, or children baptized and serving the Lord. You will be a part of their story. I can't tell my story without telling the part about the man who invited me to church - a man named Billy Shirah. Nathanael couldn't tell his story without talking about Philip. You can't tell your story without telling about the person who invited you to church. I want that for you.
So, "WHAT CAN YOU DO?" (1) Connect in a small group; (2) Serve on a team; (3) Give a percentage; and (4) Invite a friend. We've taken six weeks to talk about this. I believe we've covered them all well. With each one we give to God and a special blessing is given to us by God adding richness and fulfillment to our lives.
The most important thing you can be a part of or do, other than your family, is church. Here's why. Church was here before you got here. It will be here after you're gone. Church has an eternal purpose.
Ephesians 3:10-11 His intent was that now, THROUGH THE CHURCH, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his ETERNAL PURPOSE which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It's through the church the things of God - God's wisdom - is made known and Jesus reaches into the very souls and hearts of people. Jesus is the hope of the world and the local church is the expression of his hope. Church is not an obligation. It's an opportunity. We have the opportunity to accomplish something huge and eternal in the lives of people.
Many of you didn't know Vi (Violet) Putnam. Years back, Willis Wilkey told Dr Roger Grimn I was preaching at First Assembly and asked him to come and see. Dr Grimn did. Eventually his entire family came including his mother-in-law, Vi Callison. Vi was one of the most faithful members I've ever had the joy to experience. A few years back, Vi suffered a stroke paralyzing one side of her body. Later, she had another stroke affecting her mind. Vi passed on a few weeks ago at age 94. Until the stroke, over all those years Vi was a part of everything. She was connected in a small group. She served in amazing ways especially for a person her age. She gave her percent. And, she invited her friends, so much so that after her husband passed, when a man asked to marry her she told him the conditions. He, Estress, would need to move here and go to church with her. A great part of what you and I enjoy today, and will be here after we're gone, is because of Vi. She understood church and the eternal affects of church. I pray I've been able to convey this to you.
© Life Gate Ministries