Becoming Vital at Church

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Becoming Vital at Church

Sr. Pastor Mark Stafford

Becoming Vital at Church

|Philippians 1:3-14, 2 Timothy 2:1-3, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Philippians 2:3-8, 1 Corinthians 8:1-4, Hebrews 13:17

 

Church isn’t something you go to, it’s something you belong to.  Going to church is not supposed to be like going to the movies.  A church service is not meant to be a morning of good entertainment.  Instead, a church gathering is supposed to be more like going to a family reunion.

  • We all have one Father.
  • We are all part of God’s family.
  • Church is a gathering of God’s family

Churches have a number of different ways that they express the family bond that exists between believers.  Some churches have a formal process involving class attendance and applying for membership in the local church.  One of the other Canyon campuses uses this approach and they do so for a good reason.

Every Christian in the church is a critical member of the body, but in order to avoid confusion about the terms, we use a little different language here at Canyon Verde.  In the Verde Valley, church membership has taken on an unintended meaning.  Some people see church membership like an American Express membership.  The slogan for American Express used to be “Membership has it’s privileges.”  In their ads, American Express would talk about all the benefits their members receive just for being members, like cash back, purchase protection, Car Rental insurance, and so-on.

That idea has spilled over into the church.  Some people will become a member of the church and think, “membership has its privileges.”  They expect the church to do favors for them.  Often these same people are shocked to discover that church membership is nothing like American Express membership.

When the Bible speaks of members in the church, it is referring to being a part of the body – like a limb.  Romans 12:4-5 says, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”  In order to avoid confusion, we talk about “Partners in the Gospel” rather than “church members” here at Canyon Verde.  We get that principle from scriptures like Philippians 1.  Let me give you a little bit of background on the book of Philippians.

Philippians was written when Paul was in jail for daring to preach that Jesus Christ was the true King and that Caesar was not the true king.  As he waited in custody, he was faced with the real possibility that he might be executed for his controversial stance on Caesar (among other things).  Paul didn’t have much to lose and he was not one for censoring his speech.  Listen to how Paul describes his interaction with the guards:

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”[1]

Paul’s stand for the gospel was controversial, socially awkward and downright dangerous.

  • He was fighting the culture.
  • He was standing up to false gods and false teachers.
  • He was confronting religious people who were ignoring Jesus.
  • He was taking on Caesar himself.

The Philippians embraced Paul in the midst of his radical ministry efforts.  They stood in solidarity with Paul.  Here is how Paul described the Philippians in verses 3-5 (and this is where we get our term), “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”  The word used for “Partnership” is the word koinōnia.  We often translate this same word as fellowship.

The Philippians didn’t abandon or disown their imprisoned leader.  Instead, they stood with him in koinōnia (partnership, fellowship).  The Philippians are an example for us to emulate!  Fellowship in the church is too often thought of as a potluck after services.  The New Testament has a bit more in mind.  Sharing a meal together after church is a good start, but Paul and the Philippians had a deeper and richer fellowship in view.  Listen to how Paul describes koinōnia in verses 6-7:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”

They are partakers of grace together through the person of Jesus Christ.

  • Together, they are united to Jesus.
  • Together, they would make a stand for Jesus.
  • Together, they have Jesus’ righteousness counted to their account
  • Together, they would die for the gospel if needed.

Although the Philippians church was young, they understood the concept of fellowship.  They did not just attend a meeting on Sunday, but they were connected together to each other as a body.

Romans 12:5 says, “…we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”  If you are a believer, you are a member of the body of Christ like an arm is a member of a physical body.  The way a believer best expresses that position is by belonging to and serving in a local church.

Today’s teaching is part of our “Vital Church” series and is directed at answering this question: “How do I best contribute as a vital part of the body?”

To answer that question, let’s begin with this initial step: Being a vital part of a church family begins by showing up.

A vital partner in the gospel places a high value on attendance – Hebrews 10:24-25, 2 Timothy 2:1-3

Becoming vital at church begins with walking through the door on a regular basis.  People who place a high value on their spiritual lives also place a high value on Sunday morning and mid-week gatherings of God’s family.  They are determined to show up.  Partners in the gospel don’t just come when they feel like it or when nothing better going on.  A partner in the gospel gathers with God’s people:

  • When the weather is bad
  • When they are tired
  • When they don’t feel like going
  • When they would like time for themselves

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “ 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Gospel partners know that they need to be in fellowship because they need encouragement to stay on track for the Lord during the week.  They also know that church is not only about them.  They need to be a support and encouragement to the other people in the fellowship:

  • They look for opportunities to pray and share scripture with others
  • They actively encourage other people in their struggles
  • They know they need to “stir up love and good works” with those who are disengaged or discouraged
  • They play a critical role in the training of new gospel partners – especially in children’s and youth ministry.

Paul encouraged his young apprentice Timothy to be training others to be carriers of the Word and to share in the suffering of other people.  2 Timothy 2:1-3 says:

“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”

Going to church is not all about us.  A significant part of church involves serving Jesus by serving others.  We know how to best serve the other parts of the body effectively by being at church and by building relationships there.

Each Sunday after church, there is a buzz of conversation here at Canyon.  That is a beautiful thing because the conversations you have after church are an important part of building relationships with other gospel partners.  At the most fundamental level, being a vital part of the church begins by being there, building relationships, and knowing what’s going on.  Those are the basic building blocks of fellowship.

There is no better way to know what is really happening in the lives of God’s people than through the church’s prayer ministry.

A vital partner in the gospel believes in the power of prayer – Romans 8:31-32, Matthew 7:11, 21:22, Eph. 3:20, 1 Thess. 5:16-18

Prayer prompts God to do things in the lives on His people that he may not have otherwise done.  The whole of Scripture tells us that He hears and answers the cries of His people.  One of the great purposes of the Bible is to stress the importance of asking God to fulfill our needs, both in this life and in the next.

God tells us that He will not withhold any good thing from us.  Romans 8:31b-32 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”  God turned over His own Son for our good.  Wouldn’t He be willing to give His people whatever they need?

In Matthew 7:11, Jesus says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

God encourages us to pray, especially for one another.  He gives us the certainty that He will answer our prayers in accordance with the generosity of His promises and the abundance that He possesses.

  • God will never run out of resources.
  • God does not have to be careful in what He gives to His people.
  • He always has more than enough.
  • He is never greedy or stingy. Instead, He is extravagant!

Matthew 21:22 Jesus says, “22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”  The “whatever” in that verse covers everything.  We are invited to ask God for anything and if He believes it is a good gift for us to have, He will grant it.

God invites us to ask for big things.  God seems more concerned that we will ask for too little than He is concerned that we will ask for too much.  If we make huge requests of God, it will never restrict His ability to provide.  (God never says, “that’s costs too much.  I can’t afford it!”)

According to Ephesians 3:20, God is able to do “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”  He almost paralyzes us with this complete freedom to ask for whatever we think is best.  Think of the power we have to minister to other people at church through prayer!

We have unlimited access to the God who runs this world.  We can ask anything of the very God who rules with infinite wisdom and power.  AND… He promises to consider every request of His people.

Dr. John Piper once said, “Prayer causes things to happen that wouldn’t happen if you didn’t pray.”  The Almighty God who rules and reigns in the universe is concerned with our praying.

  • He wills it.
  • He commands it.
  • He empowers it.

Prayer is at the very center of the heart and will of God as he relates to men and women.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  It is God’s will that we pray and He is honored by our prayers… especially when we pray for one another in the body.

If prayer is this important to God, then it should also be important to those who are partners in the gospel.  Prayer and fellowship are intermingled.  Here are a couple of ways that you can be a vital part of the prayer ministries at Canyon:

Mini Application

  1. From the very beginning of this church plant, we have had an intercessory prayer team that gathers every week to pray for you and your needs. When you pray for other people, you are more connected to them.  You are invited to join this group at any time.  (We meet Monday nights at 6pm.)
  2. Another great tool is our church directory. Some people take a directory and begin praying through the names listed there.  If they come to a person they don’t know, they seek that person out when they come to church the next week.
  3. In some of our small groups we share prayer requests. Some folks pray for those requests throughout the week, then ask their small group members at church about how the Lord is answering their requests.

Praying for our partners in the gospel not only helps us to feel more connected, it is a vital part of the spiritual growth in other people.  Your prayers have a real effect on the lives of other people in our church.  It is vital that we pray for one another!

It is all a part of putting the needs of others in the body before our own needs.  Prayer is one way to serve, but there are other ways to serve as well.

A vital partner in the gospel serves others in the body sacrificially – Philippians 2:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:7

A vital partner serves when they’re tired.  They serve when it’s hard.  They serve when they don’t feel like it anymore.  AND… they serve with JOY!  Paul said these words to the church in Philippi (Philippians 2:3-4), “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Paul then explains how our service to others is simply following the example of Jesus.  In Philippians 2, he continues by saying (in verse 5-8),

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

God has given gifts to every part of the body to serve the whole and to help to build it up.  In 1 Corinthians 12:7, Paul says the same concept this way, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

This verse means that each person has been given a gift to share with the body.  We all have the ability to be a blessing to others inside the church.  It is the job of each one of us to know our gifts and to find out the needs of the church so that we can best give away our gifts in the context of the body.

Mini Application

  • One great way to understand the needs here at Canyon is to sit down and meet with one of our elders. Have a discussion with us and let us work together to find out how you can be a blessing to others here.  There are a lot of holes in our ministry, but we don’t just want to plug holes.  We want to utilize the gifts within the body to best serve the needs of God’s people.

I hope it’s becoming clear that church is not just about what you might get out of it, it is more about what you can contribute to it.  As we are considering contributions, let me talk briefly about giving.

A vital partner in the gospel gives generously – Luke 12:34, Proverbs 11:4, 1 Corinthians 8:1

The movement of our money is an expression of what we value.  Jesus said in Luke 12:34, “34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  In other words, whatever you and I move our money towards indicates where our hearts are headed.  For most people, money itself is rarely the treasure.  The treasure lies in what money can be exchanged for.  You and I exchange money for what we desire.

  • If I desire a Porche, I move my money toward a car dealership.
  • If I desire global missions, I move my money toward a missions agency.

Proverbs 11:4 says, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” The way that we move our money indicates what we value most: God and His righteousness (which is extremely valuable) or things (which is spiritually deadly).

Canyon Bible Church of Verde Valley has the highest giving per person of any church that I’ve ever worked for.  I have been absolutely blown away by the generosity of the people in this local church.  It’s counter-cultural.  It reminds me of the generosity we see in the New Testament church.

Some of the New Testament believers were so excited about showing their love for the Lord Jesus and spreading the gospel that they gave sacrificially in the midst of their poverty.  In your notes, let’s read what Paul said about the Macedonians in 1 Corinthians 8:1,

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.”

Verse 2 says that the Macedonians gave out of their abundance of joy, a tithe wouldn’t constrain them.  {10%? Are you kidding? We’ll blow that out of the water!} Jesus was so valuable to them, they were willing to use their money as an expression of worship to show other people the infinite value of His worth.  Consider this implication:  When somebody can say, “A poor man paid for me to come tell you about Jesus…would you listen for a minute” then that sacrificial gift makes the message of Jesus appear even more valuable.

A tithe of 10% is a helpful place to start.  It’s a way to show, through the movement of your money, that the people of God are valuable to you.  Historically, a tithe has been a tool to get people started on a path of generosity.  If you imagine a racetrack, a tithe is the starting block, it’s not the finish line.  It is the training ground where we launch into the mindset, skills, and habits associated with using our money the way that God intended it to be used.

At Canyon, the care of God’s money and the budgeting of the church falls on the elder team.  The elder team is made up of men who have been proven to be diligent students of the Word, who have lived lives consistent with the teaching of scripture and who have a record of making wise decisions.

Part of God’s design for the church involves submitting to the leadership of those who must give an account for the church and for your spiritual growth.

A vital partner in the gospel respects authority – Heb. 13:17, 1 Tim 5:17

Hebrews 13:17 says, “17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Elders are stewards of God’s household, the local church.  In the Bible, elders are sometimes called “overseers.”  That is a fitting description because they serve as supervisors and managers of the church.  “Directing the church” means that the men serving as elders are diligently working to understand the instructions of Jesus, our Chief Shepherd, and they are putting His instructions into practice around the church.

At Canyon, we believe that the highest authority in the local church is the elder team.  We do not have a denomination, an upper leadership structure, or any other authority that supersedes the authority of our local elder team.  We believe that is the best way to apply Paul’s instructions when he said in 1 Timothy 5:17, “ Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor…”  Elders are charged to rule (oversee, govern) the church and to rule well.  That means they lead, direct, manage, govern and care for the local church.

This scripture doesn’t mean that you’ll always agree with what the elders say or do, but as long as the elders are not contradicting the scriptures, you and I should joyfully submit to the policies of the church.  Notice that I included myself as well!  Even though I’m an elder, I don’t act alone, but with the guidance of the other elders on the team.

Our respectful submission makes the work of the elders enjoyable and not burdensome.  The work of the pastor and elders is difficult, so we are all called to pray for those in authority over the church and encourage them often.  They, too, are part of the body and are subject to many difficulties and trials.

In a word….I would sum up the role of a partner of the gospel with the word “Devoted.”

Application: A vital partner in the gospel is devoted – Acts 2:42

We see that word used in Acts 2:42 when Luke describes the early church this way:

“…they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Prayer, Biblical teaching and fellowship are all matters of the heart.  The early church was devoted to real fellowship and it’s my desire to emulate that kind of devotion in those who gather here at Canyon Bible.

[1] Phil. 1:12-14

 

By | 2017-11-20T13:06:26+00:00 April 15th, 2018|Acts, New Testament, Sermons, Special Messages|0 Comments

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