Reaching people and making them devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
I LOVE MY CHURCH Christ Also Loved The Church
Thanks for being here today as we begin our new series called I LOVE MY CHURCH. It’s been a tough year for many of us in many different ways. It can’t be a tough year for us and not be a tough year for Life Gate. I want us to get a FRESH pride for our church. I want us to re-realize, so we can better verbalize, what we have here at Life Gate. I want us to get on the ball again inviting, bringing people to church, and be desperately concerned for souls. With that said, I want to ask you a question. What’s the first thing you could say when people ask you ANYTHING about Life Gate Church? Answer: I LOVE MY CHURCH. Should we love our church? Well, Jesus certainly does.
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as CHRIST ALSO LOVED THE CHURCH, and gave himself for it
Jesus loved the church the way a man should love his wife. In fact, Jesus died – sacrificed himself – for the church. We too, should love the church. However, sadly, too frequently, we “beat” the wife of Christ, the church, instead of loving her. We ignore the church sometimes as spouses ignore one another even though they love each other. We become complacent, commonplace, and unappreciative with church too often the way a man, or wife, becomes unappreciative of one another even though they love each other. So, in our series, I’m not saying you don’t love your church. On the contrary. I know you do, but I do think we need to get a FRESH appreciation and pride for what God has given us through Life Gate.
A couple weeks ago, a man who once attended Life Gate, but now attends a different church, needed me to do a favor for him that only I could do. He came by the building with someone who attends with him now. When he came in, they both were awed by our facility. I was taken back a little for it had only been about 18 months since he was here, but his first words were, “Wow! You have done a lot since I was here.” The person with him began asking questions about everything, so I decided to show off a little. I turned on the whole lot – sound system, all five projectors/screens, the lighting, etc – and ran some video. I must admit, it is pretty impressive. They were saying things like, “We need to get our pastor down here to see this.” The man who once attended here told his friend, “Delbert is the best teacher I ever heard. I wish I could get our pastor to ask Delbert to come do some teaching for us.” The encounter went on like that for at least thirty minutes. After they left, a young man working here who also does church here looked at me and smiled. We began talking about how cool it is here and how, because we are so used to what we have, we lose the “awe” of Life Gate. I don’t think we appreciate (including me) all that God has done here.
I spoke on the phone this week with a woman who now lives in Dalton, but is trying to move to LaFayette. Because of complicated reasons, she gets to come to church about once a month. She told me, “I can’t tell you how excited I am about getting to come to church every Sunday.” I called another person who was here on my first day in LaFayette. Because of personal illness, she had to leave our area and lives in a nursing home close to her daughter. She said, “Delbert, there is nothing like Life Gate.” (She said many other sweet things about me too, but all that is about Life Gate.)
Honestly, in my opinion, there really isn’t anything around here like Life Gate and I don’t only mean churches. I mean ANYTHING! Even the Civic Center doesn’t compare. Think about that and tell me if I am wrong. Is Life Gate perfect? If I were writing an e-mail, I would type LOL, meaning “Laugh Out Loud.” Of course, Life Gate is not perfect, but what church is?
Ephesians 5:27 That he might present it to himself a GLORIOUS CHURCH, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and WITHOUT BLEMISH.
The church is glorious. It brings glory to God like nothing else ever has because through the church, lives are transformed daily. Every life here has been impacted/transformed through the church. The church is the hope of the world. There is not one nation in the world where the church has not transformed lives. Racial barriers, ethnic divisions, language walls, political beliefs, NOTHING can stop the church! To Jesus, the church is glorious, but does it have spots and wrinkles, i.e. imperfections and blemishes? Of course, it has imperfections and will as long as there are people. Someone once told a person, “I am looking for the perfect church.” The person responded with, “If you find it, please don’t go there because you will mess it up.”
My point is Jesus sees beyond the spots, wrinkles and imperfections of the church, his wife, just as a man or woman must see beyond the imperfections of their spouse. Jesus loves his church and, you know the saying, “Love is blind,” even for Jesus.
It’s a little difficult for us to “love” the church “universal.” What I mean is it’s difficult for us to get our heads wrapped around the massiveness of “the universal church,” (meaning all churches who name the name of Jesus and all Christ followers alive and those gone on), but it’s not difficult to Love My Church. The my church thought is usually what scriptures intend when speaking of church. The word translated church is the Greek word ekklesia which means a calling out of a congregation; a COMMUNITY of members on earth or saints in heaven or both. The word ekklesia is found about 114 times in the New Testament, but theologians say only about 3 of those 114 uses reference the “universal” church. My point is I have asked (and most likely you have too) people, “Where do you go to church?” I’ve been told something like, “I don’t believe I need to go to and be a part of “a” specific church. I can worship God anywhere.” Yes, they can “worship God anywhere,” but that is not what Jesus loves! It’s definitely not what he wants us to do. Jesus loves “his church” and if a person is not a part of “a” church – a congregation; a COMMUNITY of members, then he or she is a part of nothing and frightfully deceived by the devil. Over and over again, the Lord talks to his loving local church.
Colossians 4:16 …the church of the Laodiceans
1 Thessalonians 1:1 church of the Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians 1:1 unto the church of the Thessalonians
Revelation 2:1 the church of Ephesus
Over and over we find the church is referencing a community and congregation of believers. That’s what Jesus loves. The church universal is the hope of the world because the local loving church is the hope of the community, which makes up the “universal” church.
It’s easy to acknowledge, “I love my wife/husband,” “I love my children,” “I love my job,” “I love my truck,” “I love my dog/cat…” But, have you ever said, “I LOVE MY CHURCH.” How many of you could honestly, from your heart, say, “I Love My Church”? Let’s say that and see how it feels and sounds when we all say it together. (This should be a wonderful experience!) That’s what Jesus wants to hear.
When we love something, we love it! We love hanging with it. We love serving it. We love sacrificing for it… money, time, care, emotions, etc. We fight for it. We debate and even argue/angry for it. We stay with it. For example, we love our children. I have a sister-in-law who loves her un-loveable children. In my mind, I question, “Why?” However, her obvious simple answer is, “I love my children.” So, if I say, I Love My Church, I mean I will hang in there with it through good and bad times. I will serve it. I will sacrifice for it. I will fight for it. I will debate and argue for it. I will stay with it.
Most of you truly love Life Gate. You smile inside when you think about church. Also, you literally lose sleep when something is happening negatively that concerns Life Gate. A lady once during a difficult time for me and our church, spoke to me saying, “I have lost sleep about this it’s worried me so much.” Of course, I had lost sleep, but to hear of her concern and how she had come to love Life Gate, somehow gave me more strength to make it through that time.
We love what we learn about life here at Life Gate. That’s what the name implies – LIFE GATE. A GATE that opens LIFE. We learn about life here. Isn’t that what Jesus came to teach us – “LIFE and that more abundantly” (Joh 10:10)? You love what you learn about God and his word here. That’s a Gate to Life. You love what you learn about spiritual things here. That’s a Gate to Life. Life Gate is where we learn about life God’s way, the way that works abundantly.
Some of us could actually say and mean, “I love my church” the way Jesus loves the church. You are not here only because you love me, or only love “your ministry.” We literally can say, “I LOVE MY CHURCH” unconditionally with all the spots and wrinkles and blemishes. Some of you, like me, will love Life Gate eternally. That’s how Jesus loves church. That’s how a man is to love his wife, right? I will die loving this church just as I will die loving my wife. Has she ever upset me? Has she ever disappointed me? Well, DAAAAAAA… come on! 41 years of marriage? Has the church ever disappointed or upset Christ after 2000 years of marriage?
I have watched you “stick with Life Gate” through good times and bad times. You are obviously not fair weather “Life Gaters.” Most of you will be here until death do you part.
So, let’s get down to some “nitty gritty.” What are we going to be talking about over the next weeks? Some of the life questions we want to deal with are why aren’t we inviting people to come learn and experience God with us at Life Gate? Why don’t people respond positively and come when invited? And, maybe even a better question I have is, “Why do some people who come, connect, love it, enjoy, get saved, transformed, love God, etc, and then leave?” There are many answers to all those questions, so let’s talk about this for the next few weeks. How many think this will be a good subject to look into? I will throw out some “fast answers.” We could say trite answers. What I mean is an answer that really doesn’t bring a solution, so is it even an answer? I personally want to find some real answers. Here are some “fast answers,” then we will look at scriptures over the next few weeks to see if we can get some real answers.
Why aren’t we inviting people to come learn and experience church with us? Some answers we will look into are:
“I didn’t think about asking them.”
“I don’t want to put people on the spot.”
“I don’t want to be told no.”
“I don’t want them to ask me questions about the church and pastor.”
Why don’t people come when we invite them?
“They have heard negative comments about Life Gate.”
“They have never found church fulfilling and think all churches are dull.”
“They were hurt in church by church people, so now all church people are hypocrites.”
“They would rather do something else on Sunday.”
“They are atheistic and don’t believe in God.”
Why do people who come, connect, love it, enjoy, get saved, etc, and then leave?”
“They were wounded by people here.”
“They heard negative things from people.”
“They didn’t agree with the teachings.”
“They didn’t want the constant weekly challenge of righteousness” (This includes many things, i.e. tithing, forgiving, marriage, family, finances, praise, worship, on and on. It’s much larger a situation than people admit).
We have lots to sift through and I am finding myself becoming interested in seeing my personal research on these questions and answers. This series may well last longer than I anticipated. We will see, but I know we need to solidify a FRESH appreciation for Life Gate and what Life Gate means to God the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, to the kingdom of God, to the community, to us individually, and to our children and grandchildren. If you are like me, you can easily say, “I LOVE MY CHURCH.”