|Bring It! | Bring It Loud!|
|March 3, 2012|
Part 2 of 5 | March 03, 2012
Welcome to week #2 of our series called Bring It! This is one of the most important series we’ll have all year because God is showing us who He wants us to be. He is clarifying the specific vision and mission that He has given us.
Last week, we kicked off the series by exploring our vision of Connecting, Growing, and Serving. It’s purposefully simple. In fact, it’s just three words. But those three words make up our God-given vision. We are here to connect people to God, help them grow in God, and equip them to serve God. God has brought us this vision, and we will bring everything we are to turn that vision into a reality.
Last week was kind of a 30,000 foot flight over our church. From 30,000 feet, you see everything in a panoramic view. And we need those times. We need those times when we look at the whole picture from 30,000 feet.
But there are other times when you have to land. Yes, you can see everything at 30,000 feet. But you also don’t see anything in clear detail. So here’s what we’re going to do for the rest of this series. We’ve taken the flight, looked at everything from 30,000 feet. We’ve seen the big picture. We see the big vision. Now we’re going to land the plane. Now we’re going to explore specifics. Now let’s talk about specific things that God is calling our church to do.
God is calling us to Bring It! He’s given us the vision. And we’re going to bring everything we are to that vision.
Today, we’re going to talk about a specific part of that package. Today, God is calling us to Bring It Loud!
In the book of Revelation, there are several letters written to different churches. In Revelation 2, we find the letter that God wrote to the church in the city of Ephesus.
Here’s what He said to this church. “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.” (Revelation 2:2-3, NIV 1984)
This is pretty high praise. God was pretty complimentary to this church. He tells them, “I know your deeds, your hard work, and your perseverance.”
In other words, God said, “You’ve been doing a lot of good stuff.” But now, look at the very next thing that God tells this church.
“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” (Revelation 2:4-5, NIV 1984)
God tells this church, “Look, you’ve been busy doing a lot of good things. But you have forsaken your first love.”
The first love of the church is Jesus. But a lot of times, the church can be so busy doing other things that their first love gets left behind.
I want to say this as loudly and clearly as I possibly can. Our church is about Jesus. Our first love is Jesus. Our salvation is Jesus. And our mission is bringing more people to Jesus.
The reason we keep things simple in our church is because we don’t want anyone to mistake what we’re all about. We are about Jesus.
Anytime a church is about anything other than Jesus, that church has bastardized the gospel. Is that strong? You bet it’s strong. But look at what God said to the church at Ephesus.
God said that if things didn’t change, He was going to remove their lampstand from its place. In other words, they would lose their place in the Kingdom of God. That is as strong as it gets.
God said that they were doing a lot of good stuff. But they had forsaken their first love. In other words, they stopped being a church that is all about Jesus. And God told them, “Remember the height from which you have fallen!”
There is no way that our church sail any higher than when we are all about Jesus. But any time the church focuses on programs and events instead of Jesus, that church plummets. God told this church, “Remember how high you used to fly.”
And then he said, “Repent and do the things you did at first.”
When a church stops being all about Jesus, God’s call for that church is simple. Repent. When we are about anything other than Jesus, God’s command is that we repent.
To repent simply means to turn around. Repentance means I was going that way, now I’m going this way. To repent is to do a 180 ° turn.
God told the church at Ephesus, “Repent and do the things you did at first. Turn around. Go back to who you used to be. You’ve become so busy doing good things that you have forsaken your first love. You’re so busy that you forgot about Jesus.”
You want to know why we keep things simple? That’s why. Because there is a very real danger that we can become so busy doing good things that we lose sight of Jesus. Jesus is our first love. Jesus is the one who rescued us. We weren’t rescued by softball teams or spaghetti suppers. We were rescued by Jesus, so that’s where all our attention and effort is going to be.
We are not going to forsake our first love at ACC. Our first love is Jesus. That’s why we are absolutely committed to evangelism. Jesus rescued us. And through us, He will rescue others.
That’s why our church focuses on the outsider, not the insider. Let’s go back to a verse that we used to kick off the series last week. In Colossians 4, the Bible says, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5, NIV)
We focus on the outsider, not the insider. We want to be wise in the way we approach those outside of Christ. Every time God gives us an opportunity to impact someone with the gospel, we’re going to take it.
I mentioned softball teams and spaghetti suppers a minute ago. Some churches choose to do these things, and I’m not condemning them for it. We don’t run down other churches at ACC. But can we at least admit that this is insider stuff? Outsiders don’t come in wondering if a church needs a shortstop. And they don’t wonder who makes the best marinara in the church. They come in wondering if all this Jesus stuff is even true. And if it is, what difference does it make in their lives? Those are the questions they’re asking. And those are the questions we are committed to answering.
But if our church is really going to make this mission a reality, we have to adopt a tag-team mentality. For far too long, the church has looked at pastors and staff as professional Christians.
“They are the ones that tell people about Jesus. They are the ones that grow the church. They are the ones who bring people to Christ. I’m just here to make sure they’re doing it right.”
That kind of arrogant, lazy baloney has no place in the church. In the New Testament book of Philemon, the Apostle Paul told Philemon, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” (Philemon 6, NIV 1984)
If we are not sharing our faith, we don’t fully understand our faith. And that goes for all of us. That’s not just for me, as the pastor. That’s not just for our staff or our leaders. This is a Biblical principle that applies to every believer. If we are not sharing our faith, then that fact alone proves that we don’t really understand our faith.
Jesus is meant to be shared. That is what our church is all about. When I say that we focus on the outsider instead of the insider, this is why. Because we want outsiders to become insiders. We want people outside of Christ to come to know Christ.
That’s why we structure our services the way we do. That’s why we keep our vision simple and on point. That’s why we don’t get so busy doing things that we forget about our first love. It’s all because we want lost people to become found people.
But the problem a lot of churches run into is that the people of the church believe this is the pastor’s job. Evangelism is my job. But it is also your job. It is OUR job.
That’s why our church has to adopt a tag-team mentality. I got this from Mark Batterson at National Community Church in Washington DC. I love this.
When you walk in on Sunday, you tag me and say, “Go for it!” You tag our worship band and say, “Go for it!” You tag our children’s ministry and say, “Go for it!” You come expecting us to give our best. You come expecting us to bring it…and you should. You walk in, tag us, and say, “Go for it!”
But when you leave this building, here’s what happens. We tag you and say, “Go for it!”
Everyone at ACC is responsible for sharing their faith with people in their unique circle of influence. This week, I read that the average person has 68 people in their circle of influence–family, friends, colleagues, etc.
When I think about our potential impact as a church, I don’t think in terms of the people who actually attend. I think of our collective circles of influence.
Every person in this room represents a unique circle of influence. According to this study, that means that every person in this room actually represents 68 people.
I said last week that when we’re done, our community isn’t going to know what hit it. This is where it starts. It starts with a decision from every person at ACC to obey God’s command to share their faith with those in their circle of influence.
When you walk out today, we’re looking at you and saying, “Tag! You’re it! Go for it!” Because you have a circle of influence that I could never have. You can impact people that I never could. Your workplace is your pulpit. Your colleagues are your congregation.
But there are some people in this room who can’t remember the last time they had an evangelistic conversation.
Maybe you don’t want to be labeled as a religious wingnut. Maybe you’re afraid you don’t know enough Bible. There are a million excuses, but let me disarm them all with one phrase.
“Would you come to church with me?”
Do you realize that this is one of the most powerful evangelistic things you could possibly say? Do you realize how many people have come to know Jesus simply because someone invited them to church?
This is so simple. And this disarms every excuse that you could possibly come up with. The plain truth is you can do this. You CAN do this. You can invite someone to come to church with you.
“I don’t know enough Bible.”
“What if they ask me a question I can’t answer?”
Take all those excuses off the table. Here’s where it starts: will you come to church with me? It doesn’t get simpler than that. And it doesn’t get more effective than that.
I have read study after study after study about this. Those studies say that somewhere between 70-90% of people would probably come to church if somebody just invited them.
I don’t know how an exact statistic, but here’s something that I do know for sure: if we love something, we want other people to be included.
For example…The Hunger Games. Everyone I know who has read it tells me the same thing. “You have to read it!”
And I tell them, “You know, I really don’t read fiction.”
But I get the same response. “No, you don’t understand. You HAVE to read it!”
And I’m sure when the movie comes out, it will be the same thing. “You have to see it!”
There’s something inside us that wants to include other people in the things that we love. Here’s what I’ve learned…if you don’t invite people to your church, you don’t love your church. And if you don’t love your church, you’re in the wrong church.
If you love something, you want to include other people. If you love your church, you’re going to invite people to your church.
Is our church perfect? No. But our church is remarkable. Seth Godin said, “[Remarkable] doesn’t mean beautiful or ideal or perfect. It only means one thing: Worth making a remark about.”
Is your church remarkable? Mine is. Is your church worth making a remark about? Mine is.
Our church is remarkable. We are worth making a remark about. Not because we’re beautiful or ideal or perfect. But because we are laser focused on Jesus. And we are laser focused on reaching lost people for Jesus.
When you leave today, we are tagging you. You’re it! Go for it!
As a church, we are going for it. We are going to bring it, and we are going to bring it loud. We are going to bring the gospel to loud and clear that it will be impossible for anyone to miss what we’re all about. We are all about people meeting Jesus. We are all turning lost people into found people.
That’s why we do things like Sports Camp. If you’re new to ACC, then let me introduce you to this concept.
Each summer we host a free sports camp for elementary age children. We offer several different sports for kids to choose from. We also have a time of worship and Bible teaching and small group discussions with the kids every night.
Sports Camp is the single biggest outreach we have all year. There are a lot of people in this room today who would not be here if it weren’t for Sports Camp. And it is catching traction in our community. I heard just a couple of weeks ago that some local schools are now planning events around our sports camp! That is serious evidence that what we’re doing is working.
This year, Julie Bach is going to be our Sports Camp Director. Julie is going to do an amazing job. She is bringing a ton of passion and energy to Sports Camp this year.
Our Sports Camp team is busy getting stuff ready. And pretty soon, you’ll be able to sign up to volunteer. If you’ve ever been a part of this week, you know it’s absolutely amazing. And that’s not overstating it. It really is amazing!
But you’ve got to understand the reason we do all this. There is a reason that we put so much time and effort and money and resources into Sports Camp. You know why we do it? Because we’re focused on the outsider instead of the insider.
We used to do the traditional Vacation Bible School. But it just wasn’t working. Again, I’m not criticizing churches that do VBS. I know churches where VBS is working in huge ways. It just wasn’t working for us anymore. We weren’t seeing much return on the investment.
So several years ago, we dropped VBS in favor of Sports Camp. And the results have been unbelievable! Sports Camp has put our church in a highly visible position in our community. It has allowed us to connect with a lot of unchurched people. But here’s the ultimate barometer of success. We have seen people come to Christ at ACC, and it all started at Sports Camp. Why do we do it? That’s why.
This is also why we’re pursuing a relocation. We are focused on the outsider, not the insider. We’re not looking to relocate just because we’re sick of this building. This building has served us well. It does have its fair share of problems, but that’s not why we’re relocating. We’re relocating because a new facility is going to be a springboard to help us reach a lot more people for Christ.
At this moment, we’re considering a ton of different options. Some of them are temporary. Others are more permanent. We don’t know where God is going to lead us, but we know that He is leading us. We’ll talk more about it throughout this series.
Here’s what we’ve got to understand in all this. God wants His church to grow more than we do. In 2 Peter 3, the Bible says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV)
The promise that Peter is talking about in this verse is the promise that Jesus will return one day. He’s coming back, and He’s going to take His church to be with Him for all eternity.
Peter said there’s only one reason why this promise hasn’t been fulfilled yet. God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. God wants every lost person to become a found person. The only reason Jesus hasn’t returned yet is because heaven isn’t crowded enough.
Our church is all about speeding up His return. We are all about turning lost people into found people. That’s why we do things like Sports Camp. That’s why our church is in a relocation process. That’s why we structure and program our church the way we do. And that’s why we’re challenging every person at ACC to step up to the plate and realize the vital role that you play in our mission.
Other than God, our church’s biggest strength is you. Our biggest strength is not what happens on the stage. It’s what happens in the seats. Our biggest strength is not our pastor. It’s our people.
Are you living out your role? Are you impacting your unique circle of influence? Whether you have 8 or 68 or 108 people in your circle of influence, the question is the same. Are you seizing the opportunities God gives you to invite people to church? To take that first step to open the door for the gospel in their lives?
In Acts 5, the Bible tells about a time when the religious leaders felt so threatened by the gospel that they had the apostles arrested. But check out what happened after that.
Starting in verse 17, the Bible says, “Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.
But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. [Now, look at what the apostles were told after they were freed from prison.] “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” (Acts 5:17-20, NIV)
When God busts you out of prison, He expects you to tell others about the prison break.
The apostles were in prison. God busted them out. Then He told them, “Now go tell people about it.”
We were also in prison. We were imprisoned by our brokenness and our failures and our sins. But through Jesus, God busted us out of prison. Now He expects us to tell people about it.
If Jesus has set you free…if you have been rescued…if God has busted you out of prison, raise your hand.
Everyone with their hand up has a responsibility. God has busted us out of prison. Now He expects us to go to others and tell them about the prison break.
In John 14, we find what is probably the most politically incorrect thing that Jesus ever said. In verse 6, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)
A lot of people today want to believe that Jesus was this super nice, totally accepting, absolutely tolerant guy. He just walked around in sandals, drinking decaf, strumming his guitar and singing, “All you need is love.”
When you read the Bible, you see who Jesus actually was. By today’s standards, Jesus was incredibly rigid and intolerant. Jesus had the audacity to say, “I’m the way to heaven. The only way. The road to God travels through me. And there is no other road.”
Here’s the thing…we actually believe that. I realize that makes us horribly intolerant in today’s politically correct culture, but truth is not based on whatever way the political wind is blowing. Truth is truth, and the truth is that Jesus died to pay the price for our sins. He rose again to give us a new life. And He is the only way we can be saved.
We believe that. That’s why our church is committed to focusing on the outsider instead of the insider. That’s why when you leave today, we’re tagging you and saying, “Go for it!” And that’s why we offer a chance to respond to the gospel each week.
If you have not yet been rescued by Jesus, today can be your day. He did die for you. He did rise for you. He is your only hope of salvation. And we want you to meet Him today.
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