RELEVATE YOUR CHURCH

Please find below my teaching notes for Pt. 4 of “Relevate- Re-Elevate Your Church!”  For personal use only.  All other uses contact info@gccnetwork.org.  

In this series we’ve gone back to our 2012 theme, “Elevate”, and have taken the opportunity to re-focus on the things we say matter the most: The “team/Life Group” we’re going to do life with, The mission we all have to represent Christ, and what it really means to serve, make an investment, etc.

We want to close out this series by talking about why we need to take the importance of church and a faith community; specifically this GCC family, to a new level!  So, I could speak about our “Learn, Live, and Serve” vision strategy, but you can get that on our website.

Instead, what I’m about to do goes against everything you learn in marketing 101.  I’m supposed to stand up here and tell you how awesome, how incredible, how we have our act together, and how real GCC is… and we are!  That’s why I’ve got to be very real with you and tell you that if we want to elevate as a church then we’ve got to be willing to BLEED for it, to SWEAT for it, and to SPIT for it!

I’m reading a book right now by Heather Zempel, who’s part of my friend Mark Batterson’s church, NCC in DC, called “Community is Messy: The Perils and Promise of Small Group Ministry” and I love it because it’s so real!  And for this teaching today, I’ve adapted some things she says because I believe they are all about next level, or for our purposes, re-elevating at GCC as we move into this last part of 2012.

I want you to know that if you really want to grow to a level of true biblical community and discipleship there’s a significant price.  I’m not going to lie to you- to be a part of, and become a church of true kingdom impact, growing people spiritually, growing physically, developing emerging gen leaders, perhaps expanding through multi-sites, reaching hundreds even thousands of unchurched people, seeing by faith what God sees as our potential, and going to that level is about much more than a “show up, soak it in, and somehow it happens” thing.

I need to tell you that the level of impact and kingdom influence that God wants us to experience will take a lot of blood, sweat, and spit!  Let me explain…

IT TAKES SOME BLOOD!  We’ve got to be willing to bleed for community!

Look at this: 2 Cor. 11:23-28 23 “I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more!  I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again.  24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes.  25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned.  Three times I was shipwrecked.  Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.  26 I have traveled on many long journeys.  I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers.  I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles.  I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas.  And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.   27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights.  I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food.  I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.  28 Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.”

Regretfully we forget the price that has been paid for us to be able to meet together like this, to have, to be church.  Many people in places around the world still pay that price dearly on a daily basis.  They are very willing to bleed, even die for the privilege of community with people of faith in Jesus Christ!

Certainly, the church has its existence all because Jesus was willing to bleed for it!!  Every time we receive Communion we’re reminded of the price that Jesus paid- his very blood, so we can have this great privilege of “belonging” to God’s community, his family!  Jesus bled for community!

Paul was committed to the community of faith to the point of death- he literally was bleeding for it.  If all the beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonment, and danger weren’t enough, he carried this tremendous burden of concern for all the churches! 

Aren’t you glad someone does?  Aren’t you glad people feel and carry that burden for the church?  I’m not suggesting leadership here at all.  I’m talking about people who understand the price, and are willing to pay it for true community.

Not to sound weird (too late I know) but church, a community of faith, is a bloody thing!  It is born out of the blood of Jesus and it is built up through the blood of the saints of God before us!  And now it’s our turn- are we willing to bleed for community?

Not in the literal sense- few, if any of us will ever have to do that, to join the long list of martyrs.  BUT CAN WE BLEED FOR IT IN THE SENSE OF…

“I’M COMMITTED TO WHATEVER IT TAKES OR COSTS TO BE COMPLETELY INVESTED IN THIS COMMUNITY OF FAITH AND INVITE OTHERS TO JOIN ME BECAUSE I BLEED COMMUNITY!”

IT TAKES SOME SWEAT!  We’ve got to be willing to sweat for community!

Let’s get very real here- sweat is sweat, it’s perspiration, it’s rolling up your sleeves and getting serious, if not crazy, about getting something done!

To go to the next level at GCC, let’s get sweaty!!  And I mean exert some energy and effort because we’re not willing to leave anyone out or leave them behind- we want as many people as possible as soon as possible to experience the transforming power of Jesus Christ!  Amen??

This story in the Bible illustrates just that.  Mark 2:1-5 When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home.  Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door.  While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat.  They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head.  Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.  Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

Let’s not miss the point here!!  These four guys were willing to sweat to see their friend’s life changed!  That’s what they next level requires- that we sweat for our family and friends to be brought into the “house!”

Think about what they did.  They could’ve left their friend behind!  “We’ve got to get to church, we don’t have time for him; it’ll be too much work to get him there!”

Instead they load him up on a mat and CARRY him!  Not only that, because it’s standing room only at church, they don’t wait outside hoping Jesus walks by!  NO!! They carry this dude up to the roof, cut a hole in it, and lower him down onto the platform right in front of Jesus!!

What kind of effort am I putting into getting people here and ultimately into the kingdom, the family of God?  Am I sweating because I’m working so hard at it, doing whatever it takes??

Hey, I don’t need you to carry a family up to the roof, cut a hole in it, and lower them down here right in front of me- just bring them in, to the TOG Coffee bar, or connect with us in the back, or to your Life Group!

Many times spiritual maturity, expanding the Kingdom, seeing people come into a community of faith is measured in the sweat we expel in carrying the burden for others!  Think about it… because of the faith of four guys, a paralyzed man (there’s tons of symbolism here) finds forgiveness, salvation, and healing!  He WALKS away with new faith on new legs because of the effort, the commitment of some “friends” who were willing to make the extra effort!

Who is being transformed because of your faith and the “work” of your faith? 

Think about this too… Another takeaway from this story is that it also takes community, a brotherhood, some girlfriends of Grace, a Life Group, a church like GCC, to CARRY THE MAT!

Think about how you got here.  For most of us it’s because there were some people who carried us, took us on as a burden, and went the extra steps to see us land right in front of Jesus!!  Think about how you and US- as GCC, or your Life Group, can go the extra step, elevate to the next level of making sure no one get’s left out or left behind when it comes to finding forgiveness, salvation, and new life in Jesus Christ!

So, let’s not wait for the next Friend Day, let’s put in the effort, sweat, get someone, a family, your friends here, in front of Jesus, and watch what happens!

IT TAKES SOME SPIT!  We’ve got to be willing to get messy for community!

Anytime we expect to elevate our lives to a new level, make a greater commitment to something, “raise the bar”, etc. isn’t going to happen without “counting the cost” and being willing to pay the price!  And it’s the same for our church family.  We’ve got to ask the question: “How significant and how substantial to we want to make this?”

Or this question: “AM I WILLING TO SPIT IN THE DIRT AND MAKE SOME MUD IF THAT’S WHAT IT TAKES??”

Let me explain.  We know Jesus was willing to get down into the mess of life to restore broken, damaged, misinformed, downcast people to relationship and membership in the family of God.  He touched lepers, befriended despised people, and hung out with notorious sinners!

Think about it… Jesus’ miracles of healing were as much about social reconciliation as they were about physical restoration!  He heals lepers then sends them back to the priest because only the priest had the authority to pronounce them clean and restore them to society!

Look at John 9:1-7 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.  “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind?  Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”  “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered.  “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.  We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.  The night is coming, and then no one can work.  But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”  Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes.  He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!

Here’s a blind man, desperately in need, and all anyone can talk about is why he is in this condition in the first place and its most likely because he or his parents violated and broke some spiritual law or sinned.  We tend to avoid other people’s messes by spiritualizing them!

Jesus says the man was born blind to display the “glory of God” and then that “glory” get’s displayed by the King and Savior of the Universe stooping down and spitting into that Palestinian dirt to make mud!!  I don’t know about you but I’d like to know how many times Jesus had to spit into that dirt to make enough mud to cover this man’s eyes??

What’s the point?  If Jesus is willing to stoop down and spit into the dirt, get into the mess for the sake of restoring people to community, then if you, me, GCC expects to elevate to a new level of greater effectiveness and impact for the Kingdom of God, for God’s glory, to see people restored, then how much are we willing to “stoop down” to reach people and how much “spitting into the dirt” are we willing to do to see blinded eyes opened??

Whether it’s personally, or in one of our Life Groups, or as a church collectively, we come across people, “spiritually blind people” every day, and IF community really matters that much to us and we know that God’s ultimate mission for us is to see people restored to community with God and the family of God, then we’re going to have to accept that the next level will be messy!

This is so important to God, if not the #1 priority of the Kingdom, that we see that one of Jesus last acts on the cross was to make sure John would care for Mary and take her into his home!! 

Close

I close with something Zempel writes in here book: “Even in the last moments of his life, Jesus was concerned about community.  In fact, community is the very essence of his character.  The complex doctrine of the Trinity demonstrates to us that God exists in community with himself.  Scripture proclaims that God is love because he is inherently relational.  And ultimately that’s what he was dying for.  To restore community.  Between humankind and God.  And within the mess of humankind itself.  He has now invited us into the mess!

Raising the bar of relational community, re-elevating the church in your life and that others may experience what an awesome family of God like GCC can mean for people, doesn’t happen passively or instinctively or by accident. ..

We’ve got to BLEED community.  We’ve got to SWEAT for it.  We’ve got to be willing to get MESSY!

We elevate and build the community of God by our blood, sweat, and spit!

So what now??

  • Ask yourself, “Will I be a part of elevating this Grace Community by bleeding, sweating, and getting into the mess for it?”
  • Many times it’s as easy as INVITING people into the community experience here on the weekends or in your Life Group at GCC!

Next weekend we kick off a new 9-part series called “BE” based on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount.  Simply make the invitations and watch what God will do!

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